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Who Can Serve as Petitioner or Sponsor of O-1B and O-1A Visas?

About Being an O1 Visa Sponsor Agent

In general, USCIS regulations allow for United States employers, United States-based agents, and foreign employers to use a United States-based agent. In practice, really any United States citizen or company can serve as the petitioner for an O-1 visa but the structure of the visa relies on careful articulation of the relationship between the parties to USCIS in order to avoid requests for evidence and denials. It is not possible for an O-1 beneficiary to petition for themselves and it is generally not permitted for a beneficiary to petition for an O-1 visa through an entity in which they have ownership.

U.S. Employer

The term "U.S. Employer" refers to the direct employer of the beneficiary that will be benefited from the work of the beneficiary and control their day-to-day activities.

U.S. Agent

For "U.S. Agent" this usually means someone who is in the business industry of the beneficiary, especially in the motion picture and television industry and facilities work with third parties for the beneficiary. This is also common in athletics and other industries that require nationals with extraordinary abilities. The U.S. Agent must be authorized to act as an agent with all of the petition employers or opportunities listed in the petitioner’s itinerary.

Foreign Employers Using U.S. Agents

In this case, the day-to-day activities are controlled and managed by a company or person outside of the United States, and the U.S. agent is primarily serving just as the petitioner. As such, the petitioner must state that they are serving as a petitioner for the purpose of applying for a visa, and are responsible for travel out of the country if the employment relationship ends, and must accept service of process on behalf of the beneficiary.

Who May Be an O-1 Visa Sponsor or Agent?

U.S. managers, sponsors, agents, and direct employers can all serve as petitioners in the arts, motion picture, television, radio broadcasting, content production, and athletic industries. Petitioners are responsible for declaring to USCIS that the contents of a petition are true (provided they know), signing the petition(s), and are liable for the cost of travel for the beneficiary if the contract or relationship that the petition is based on ends early. Petitioners will have to submit information about the details of their relationship with the beneficiary and any third parties, the years they have been in business, either social security or tax identification number, and the number of employees. In the O-1 visa category, serving as a petitioner does not create a financial obligation or liability exposure other than what has already been mentioned in this paragraph.

In industries that require flexibility such as television, the arts, motion picture, radio, and other creative industries, it is recommended that agents and managers serve as the petitioner for extraordinary ability visas. O-1 visa petitions with agents allow the beneficiary to pursue work with multiple employers and projects using the same O-1 visa approval. They can even support additional work that is not included but is contemplated in the original petition.

In athletics, sciences, and business, it is more common for direct employers to serve as petitioners for the O-1 visa because the employment contracts are exclusive and do not support other work anyway. O-1 applications where a direct employer is serving as the petitioner do not support employment with other opportunities using the same employment. In these circumstances, the beneficiary might need to obtain another concurrent O-1 visa approval and include permission from the original O-1 petitioner in order to pursue the extra activities.

What Happens After Employment is Terminated?

If a beneficiary and petitioner end their relationship, the O-1 visa is no longer valid after a thirty-day period following the termination. If the beneficiary continues to work after this period, the work is unauthorized and there is a risk of having their visa terminated and being deported. Therefore, if there is a change in management, agent, or employer, it is very important that the beneficiary file another O-1 petition with another sponsor and must prove extraordinary ability and achievements again.

Notes on O-1 Petitioners

  • The petitioner can be a U.S. agent, manager, direct employer, or foreign employer using a U.S. agent.
  • Direct employer petitions where the beneficiary is working full-time with the employer may not need an itinerary.
  • It is possible and sometimes necessary for beneficiaries to have multiple, concurrent O-1 visas to support employment for various purposes but sometimes require permission from the other employers.
  • Agents and managers serving as petitioners can support approvals for multiple employers. These petitions require a clear contract or deal memo that provides details of wages, schedule, and work benefits.
  • Resource for O-1 Sponsors 

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If you have questions about the O-1 visa process or you need help with being a sponsor or agent, contact Oakhurst Legal Group online or call (704) 288-1003.

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