O-3 Visas for the Family of O-1 and O-2 Work Visa Holders

The O-3 visa is designed to allow spouses and children to accompany a family member who holds an O-1 or O-2 visa to the United States.

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The O-3 visa is designed to allow the spouses and children (unmarried, under the age of 21) to accompany a family member who holds an O-1 or O-2 visa to the United States. The length of time the O-3 visa holder can spend in the United States is the same as allowed to the O-1 or O-2 visa holder on this nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, which can be for up to three years at a stretch, with unlimited extensions. (See the relevant U.S. government regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o).)

However, O-3 visa holders will not be permitted to work while in the United States.

There are no limits on the numbers of O-3 visas that are given out each year.

Eligibility Criteria for an O-3 Visa

In order to qualify for an O-3 visa, the applicant must qualify as the immediate family member of an O-1 or O-2 visa applicant or visa holder—and be able to prove that fact. Also, as with every visa applicant, the person can be refused for being "inadmissible" to the U.S., most likely based on a criminal record. For more on this, see Who Can't Get Into The United States—Inadmissibility Laws.

To get the primary, O-1 visa, the main applicant must have extraordinary abilities in the sciences, education, business, athletics, or the arts (which include the television/motion picture industry).

To get an O-2 visa, the person must have a job as a support person to an O-1 athlete or entertainer, and possess the essential skills to assist that person in activities and/or events. Note that O-2 visas are not available to support personnel of O-1 visa holders who are in the fields of science, business, or education.

O-3 Visa Application Process

In order to apply for an O-3 visa, you will first need to wait until the U.S. employer of your spouse or parent (the O-1 or O-2 visa applicant) submits a petition on Form I-129 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you and your spouse/parent are already in the U.S. (lawfully), there is a separate application (Form I-539) that can be submitted with the I-129 in order to simultaneously ask that your status be changed to O visa holder.

If you're overseas, then you'll next need to wait until the I-129 petition that your employer files is approved. At that point, you'll need to take the approval to your nearest U.S. consulate and apply for the O visa.

You can either let your spouse or parent submit the visa application ahead of you, and wait to make sure it's approved before filing for your O-3; or the whole family can file their visa applications all at once.

The costs of applying for an O-3 visa include a petition fee to USCIS (which the employer should pay for your family member's O-1 visa), the I-539 fee to USCIS is you're changing status, and if you're going through a consulate, a machine-readable visa (MRV) processing fee (paid at the consulate). All fees are nonrefundable. You might also need to pay a visa reciprocity fee, depending on agreements between your country and the United States.

To check on the required fee(s) at the consulate, see the Fees for Visa Services page of the U.S. State Department's website.

O-3 Visa Documents Needed

The documents you'll need to show in applying for an O-3 visa include:

  • copy of USCIS's I-797 Approval Notice from O-1 or O-2 spouse or parent's Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • birth or marriage certificate proving family relationship, with full English-language translation if the consulate won't accept documents in that language
  • one color photo, U.S. passport-style (use a professional photographer)
  • proof of having completed State Department Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, online and paid the visa fee.

O-3 Visa Extension Rules

An O-3 visa is initially granted for a period of up to three years, or the same time period for which the corresponding O-1 or O-2 visa is granted. USCIS may grant extensions of the O-1 or O-2 visa in increments of one year, depending on the time needed to complete the specified events and/or activities. It will typically issue corresponding time extensions to the O-3 visa holder as well.

Can O-3 Visa Holders Convert to U.S. Permanent Residents?

Holding an O-3 visa does not in any way lead to a green card. However, being in the U.S. could give your spouse or parent, or you, a chance at making the connections that will help you qualify for a U.S. green card at some point, perhaps based on employment. For further information on who is eligible for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence), see U.S. Green Card Eligibility Quiz.

An experienced immigration lawyer can help you in achieving a quick and easy resolution to your visa application process. As visa procedures and required documentation can be complicated, it is wise to contact an immigration attorney for assistance.

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