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The Qualification Requirements for O-1 Visa or Status Application

1. The Eligibility Criteria for O-1 Via

O-1 visas are available to people who have not only a job offer in the U.S., but proven extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. What does it mean to be considered a person of extraordinary ability? In general, the person must have received national or international acclaim in a particular field, or, if working in motion pictures or television productions, have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, athletics, television, and motion picture industry. O-1 visas can be given only on the basis of a person's individual qualifications. Being a members of a group or team will not, by itself, qualify someone for an O-1 visa. In addition, the person must be coming to the U.S. work or perform at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term "event" is interpreted liberally outside the fields of athletics and arts and can include, for example, an ongoing research project for a private company.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. 

Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidence by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above the ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. 

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

2. The O-1 Visa Is a Good Alternative to an H-1B Visa

O-1 visas are available to alien applicants who have job offer in the United States, but also have proven extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. In general, the alien applicants should have national or international acclaim in a field, and have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.

The O-1 visa application is based on a person’s individual qualifications, and the person should come to the United States to work or perform at an event or a series of events in the area of extraordinary ability. The term event can include an ongoing research project for a private company.

For many people, an O-1 visa is a good alternative to an H-1B visa. O-1 applicants need to prove their extraordinary ability through their past accomplishments and letters of recommendation from experts in their field.

In the sciences, education, business, or athletics, applicants must prove they are at the top of their fields with their professional accomplishments, such as publications, awards, or experience judging the work of others in the field. Applicants in the arts, film, or TV must prove they have acquired “distinction”, through their professional accomplishments.

3. The General Requirements of O-1 Visa or Status Application

The O-1 visa/status application must be submitted along with the consultation opinion, evidence documenting the alien's extraordinary ability, and details of the proposed work in the US. The petition is to be approved for the duration of the event in which the alien will participate, for a maximum of three years. One year extensions are permitted thereafter with no maximum cumulative duration.

To prove the alien's Extraordinary Ability, documentation must be adequate to support Extraordinary Ability as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim; substantial documentation in at least 3 of the acceptable evidence categories defined by statute; a written advisory opinion from a peer group; the employer petition on behalf of the employee; and an offer of employment.

A U. S. employer should file the petition. The petition must be filed with a copy of written contract between employer and the alien, or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed. 

The copies of evidence that the services to be performed should either: 

  • primarily involve a specific scientific or educational project, conference, convention, lecture, or

  • exhibit sponsored by scientific or educational organizations or establishments, or consist of a specific business project that requires an extraordinary executive, manager, or highly technical person due to the complexity of the project;

4. The O-1 Visa Application Requirements for Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa/status for aliens with the extraordinary ability is reserved specifically for foreign nationals who exhibit sustained national or international acclaim in their field of endeavor. The Extraordinary Ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics must be demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, and evidenced by either (1) the receipt of a major, internationally recognized award or (2) the fulfillment of at least three of eight criteria set forth in the regulations. These criteria are: 

(1) Documentation of the alien's receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor; 

(2) Documentation of the alien's membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;

(3) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien's work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation; 

(4) Evidence of the alien's participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization; 

(5) Evidence of the alien's original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field; 

(6) Evidence of the alien's authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media; 

(7) Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or

(8) Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence. 

If the above criteria do not readily apply to the applicant's occupation, the company filing the immigration petition may submit comparable evidence to show how "extraordinary" the person really is. The company should take care to explain exactly why the above criteria do not apply to the applicant.

5. The Analysis of O-1 Visa Application Requirements for Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics

The basic requirement for EB1 Extraordinary Ability application is that you must be able to establish that you have extraordinary ability in your field. The O-1 visa is for alien applicants who are recognized as extraordinary in a field, and who are coming to U.S. to continue their work in the field. 

To establish the eligibility of O-1 application, the alien applicant must demonstrate national or international acclaim, and that the alien applicant's achievements have been recognized in the field. The 8 criteria for O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa category are as follows:

1) Documentation of the alien's receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor 

The receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes may include internationally recognized award such as a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize, or other less important but nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.

This O-1 visa criterion is intended for the prestigious awards. It is important to include not just proof of the award, but proof that the award is important in the field. This may include the judging criteria or evidence of media coverage, and some degree of prestige must attach to the given award.

To meet this criterion, the petitioner should establish that the prizes or awards are given for excellence in the beneficiary’s field of endeavor, or that the primary purpose of the prizes or awards was to recognize excellence in the beneficiary’s field. To demonstrate excellence in the field is the basis for the prizes or awards, the petitioner may submit:

  • Documentary evidence describing how the prizes or awards relates to excellence in the beneficiary’s field.

  • Documentary evidence of the criteria used to grant the prizes or awards, including evidence that a criterion for winning the prizes or awards was excellence in the field.

2) Documentation of the alien's membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields

Associations that are open to all members of a given profession may be considered, but associations that limit membership to only the most accomplished members of the profession are certainly more valuable. 

Specialized scholars frequently belong to associations. However, most scholars with the appropriate degree are eligible for such associations upon payment of a membership fee. For a membership to have weight in this category, there must be a higher selective standard for admission to the association. The alien applicant should submit evidence of selective membership criteria along with evidence of membership in the association.

Also, to meet this criterion, the petitioner should provide evidence to confirms that the association requires outstanding achievements of its members. To assist the USCIS in determining that the beneficiary’s membership satisfy this criterion, the petitioner may submit the section of the association’s constitution or bylaws which discuss the criteria for membership for the beneficiary’s level of membership in the association. 

And, the submitted evidence should show that the basis for granting memberships in the submitted association is the beneficiary’s outstanding achievements in the field of endeavor as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field. To assist in determining that the beneficiary’s membership satisfy this criterion, the petitioner may submit:

  • Information to establish that the individual who review prospective member’s applications are recognized as national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.
  • The section of the association’s constitution or bylaws which discuss the qualifications required of the reviewers on the review panel of the association.

3) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien's work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation

The published material must concern the alien's work in the field. Publications could range from journals specific to the field to major newspapers. 

To satisfy this O-1 visa criterion, the published material should be at the national or international level. Articles in local newspapers or internal company reports do not qualify. Moreover, standard academic citations do not count as published material about the alien beneficiary. 

4) Evidence of the alien's participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization

Participating in the peer review process of a scientific article or acting as a member of a thesis review committee may fulfill this requirement.

Reviewing grants or articles can also satisfy this criterion, if the review request is directed particularly to the alien beneficiary. Generic letters or requests passed down from an advisor or mentor can not be accounted. 

5) Evidence of the alien's original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field

This O-1 visa standard is wide open. Basically, the USCIS will base its judgment of the contribution of the applicant on the letters of support that others in the field submit. 

Evidence submitted in this category must address the international reputation standard. Simply publishing or presenting an alien’s work or receiving grant funding is common in research, and does not indicate that the academic community has taken notice of his or her work. Patents or patent applications carry little weight unless they demonstrate an international reputation in the field, and petitioner should document the widespread use or application of the patent.

To meet this criterion, the submitted evidence should show that the beneficiary’s contributions are considered to be original in the field of endeavor. To assist in determining whether the beneficiary’s contributions are original in the field, the petitioner may submit:

  • Objective documentary evidence of the beneficiary’s contribution to the field.
  • Documentary evidence that people throughout the field currently consider the beneficiary’s work important.
  • Testimony and/or support letters from experts which discuss the beneficiary’s contribution.
  • Evidence that the beneficiary’s contribution has provoked widespread public commentary in the field, or has been widely cited.
  • Evidence of the beneficiary’s work being implemented by others. 

6) Evidence of the alien's authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media

This O-1 visa criterion refers to articles that the alien wrote concerning his or her work. The publications can range from major trade journals to mass media. Although the regulations refer specifically to "articles," other forms of publication such as visual media may fulfill this requirement. 

The publications must be in peer-reviewed academic journals, preferably those with international circulation. When submitting evidence under this category, the petitioner must demonstrate that the publication record rises above that of the average scholar. One method of doing so is showing that the alien beneficiary’s papers have been widely cited by independent researchers in the field. 

7) Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation

This could be performing a critical or leading role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation, or serving as an essential researcher for an important laboratory. 

8) Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

The regulation requires that the salary or remuneration be high in relation to others in the field, so an post-doctor needs not make as much as a professional engineer. 

The submitted evidence for O-1 visa application should meet the following requirements:

  • The O-1 visa application should determine which of the 8 criteria the alien beneficiary is attempting to satisfy, and provide the relevant evidence for the individual criterion.
  • The extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics must be demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim

6. The O-1 Visa Application Requirements for Extraordinary Ability in the Arts, Entertainment, Motion Picture or Television

When applying for an O-1 visa as an alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the alien applicants should make sure that their work fits the immigration law’s definition of art. The USCIS regulations define the art very broadly, which includes:

"any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Aliens engaged in the field of arts include not only the principal creators and performers but other essential persons such as, but not limited to, directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, choreologists, conductors, orchestrators, coaches, arrangers, musical supervisors, costume designers, makeup artists, flight masters, stage technicians, and animal trainers."

The applicant must also be coming to the U.S. to perform in the area of extraordinary ability. He or she must be recognized as prominent in the field of endeavor. Extraordinary ability in the arts means that the applicant has attained "distinction." Distinction is defined as "a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered." Distinction has also been defined as prominence in the field of endeavor. 

To demonstrate such recognition, the applicant will need to supply documents showing that he or she has been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director's Guild Award. Alternately, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three of the following forms of documentation:

(1) Has performed services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contract or endorsements; 

(2) National or international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major trade papers, trade journals, magazines, and so forth; 

(3) Has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, and similar write-ups; 

(4) Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success; 

(5) Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies and recognized experts;

(6) Has commanded or will command a high salary or other remuneration in comparison to others in the field.

For Extraordinary Ability in motion picture or television, the definition of "extraordinary" is different. For these individuals, "extraordinary achievement" is defined as "a very high level of accomplishment in the motion picture or television industry evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the person is recognized as outstanding, leading, or well-known in the motion picture or television field." 

7. How to Submit Evidence to Present a Strong Case that an Alien Applicant Can Be Considered Extraordinary

According to USCIS, the following evidence may present a strong case that an alien applicant is considered extraordinary for an O-1 visa application:

1) peer-reviewed presentations at academic symposia;

2) peer-reviewed articles in journals;

3) testimony from other scholars on the alien beneficiary's contribution to the field;

4) a number of entries in a citation index citing the alien beneficiary's work as authoritative; or

5) participation by the alien beneficiary as a reviewer for a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

All non-English language documents must have an English translation for the pertinent parts of the documents that help to establish eligibility. If you would like USCIS to consider evidence that is written in a foreign language, you must submit English language translation for the parts of the document that could help to establish eligibility for the requested benefit. The translator must certify that:

  • The translation are accurate and complete, and
  • The translator is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.

8. How to Organize the Evidence Accompanied with the O-1 Visa Application

Follow the tips below for how to organize the evidence accompanied with the O-1 visa application:

1) Provide all required documentation and evidence with the O-1 visa application when filed. O-1 visa application may be denied, or may be issued a Request For Evidence (RFE) in the instances where the required evidence described in the instructions and regulations are not initially provided. If providing photocopies of documents, provide clear legible copies.

2) All foreign language documents must be submitted with a corresponding English translation. The English translation must be certified by a translator who is competent to translate and must verify in writing that “the translation is true and accurate to the best of the translator's abilities.“ It is helpful if the English translation is stapled to the foreign language document.

3) If documenting the alien's publications or citations of the alien beneficiary's work, highlight the alien's name in the relevant articles. It is not necessary to send the full copy of a dissertation, thesis, or research paper written by the alien beneficiary, or one in which the alien beneficiary's work has been cited. Include the title page and the portions that cite the alien's work. 

4) Tab and label the evidentiary exhibits at the bottom of the first page of each exhibit, and provide a list of the evidentiary exhibits and the eligibility criteria that each exhibit is submitted to establish for petitions supported by a substantial amount of documentation. An exhibit that is being provided to meet multiple eligibility criteria should be so identified in the exhibit list.

 

 

 


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