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Can A Self-Incorporated Person Petition for O1 Visa?

Hi William,

Can I start my own business and petition for an O-1 Visa?


The USCIS regulations require that an O-1 Visa petition be filed by a U.S. employer, a U.S. agent, or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent. The regulations also state that an O-1 alien may not petition for himself or herself.

The Immigration and Nationality Act requires that an O-1 petition be filed by an importing employer or agent. The documentation of ownership and control of the business may be requested to verify that the petitioning entity is a real  employer in the United States, and the petition is not based on speculative employment. The terms and conditions of actual employment should qualify for O-1 visa.   

In most cases O-1 visas are filed by an employer, as federal regulations do not allow for O aliens to petition for themselves. However, the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) was amended in September 2016 to allow for a legal entity owned by an alien to file an O-1 petition on his/her behalf. This amended FAM guidance opens new doors for O-1 visa applicants, who may use legal entities that they own as their agent petitioners, as long as they can satisfy the fundamental requirements of the O-1.

In short, the FAM guidance specifically allows an O-1 visa applicant to “self-petition” visa an entity wholly owned by him or her for work to be performed in the U.S. for other employers, then take on any additional O-1 caliber engagements in the U.S.

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