O-1 status can be requested for an initial period of three years and extended in one year increments thereafter. O-1 non-immigrant employees should notify their departments at least 6 months prior to the expiration date of their current O-1 status to begin the extension process. The extension request must come from the department and must follow Emory protocol for initiating such requests.
O-1 is a temporary non-immigrant status, and, as such, should not be relied upon for an indefinite period of time. Each time an extension is requested, the department must demonstrate that the position requires a person of extraordinary ability and we must document any new work that qualifies you, as an O-1 status holder, as a person of extraordinary ability. As a generally rule, applicants should be cautious about extending this status past the 6 year mark. Although USCIS does not have a benchmark for length of time permitted in O-1 status, it is our experience that lengths of stay beyond 6 years receive greater scrutiny.
Extension of your status is your responsibility. If you forget the deadline and apply late, you risk denial. If you are employed and overlook the date, you will be working illegally. Since such mistakes can have serious consequences, you should make certain that you apply well in advance if you need to extend your stay.