O-3 visas are issued to the spouse and unmarried children (under 21) of holders of O-1A and O-1B visas (granted to people with extraordinary ability in business, education, science, arts or athletics), and to holders of O-2 visas (support personnel for O-1 visa holders). Typically, an O-3 visas holder may stay in the United States as long as the O-1 or O-2 visa holder does — an initial term of up to three years, followed by an indefinite number of extensions of up to one year.

The O-3 visa has its limitations. Parents and other close relatives are not eligible, for example. O-3 visa holders may not work in the US, but they may study full-time or part-time. A further limitation is that the O-3 visa, unlike the O-1 visa, is not a “dual intent” visa — you cannot use it as a stepping stone to permanent immigration. Finally, your O-3 status will expire when your O-1 or O-2 sponsor’s status expires.  

Application Process

The application process for an O-3 visa differs, depending on whether you are in the US (in legal status) or outside of the US:

If You are Inside the US: Adjustment of Status

Mexico City

Mexico City

If you are already in the US at the time that your O sponsor’s employer files Form I-129, your O sponsor can have the employer include your name on the I-129, asking that your status be adjusted to O-3 at the time that your O sponsor’s petition is approved.

If You are Outside the US: Applying for a Visa to Enter the US

If you are not in the US at the time that your O sponsor’s employer submits Form I-129, you will have to wait until your sponsor’s application is approved before you can begin the application process, and you will have to apply for an O-3  visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad. Your sponsor is free to wait until you receive your O-3 approval before applying for his own O visa (since he may decide not to come to the US if you cannot accompany him).

Consular Processing (If You are Outside the US)

U.S. Embassy Sign

U.S. Embassy Sign

If you are outside the US, you will need to complete the following activities to apply for an O-3 visa at a US embassy or consulate in your country of residence:

  • Complete Form DS-160 online, and print out the web page proving that you completed it.
  • Obtain a copy of the approval notice for Form I-129 that was issued to your O sponsor (your parent or your spouse).
  • Obtain a certified copy of your birth or marriage certificate, to prove your relationship with your O sponsor.
  • Obtain a color, passport-style photo of yourself, taken by a professional photographer.
  • Make an appointment for a visa interview with the appropriate US embassy or consulate.
  • Come to the appointment and bring all of the foregoing documentation, along with your passport valid for at least six months after your applied-for visa status is set to expire.
  • If your interview is successful, your O-3 visa will be stamped onto your passport.

The Consequences of Working on an O-3 Visa

If you receive an O-3 visa, you will not be eligible for a Social Security number and you will not be allowed to work. If you work anyway, you could subject not only yourself but also your sponsor and your other family members to deportation proceedings.