The purpose of this study is to investigate the dynamic stability of heterogeneous orthotropic visco-elastic cylindrical shells (HTOVECSs) under an axial load. The hereditary theory is used for heterogeneous (HT) orthotropic cylindrical shells over the entire thickness. The behavior of HTOVECSs is described by integro-differential equations with heterogeneous elastic parameters. The method is proposed for calculating the critical time parameter (CTP) of HTOVECSs by using the linear visco-elasticity theory. Finally, the influences of heterogeneity, rheological parameter and shell characteristics on the critical time parameter of the orthotropic visco-elastic cylindrical shells (OVECSs) are discussed in detail.