Extraordinary Ability? How to be approved in 15 days for a US visa

Getting a work visa through employment is tough these days. Ask anyone in any industry. If you are a highly skilled foreign professional, athlete, or artist – who is not currently seeking a job change – you may want to consider applying for an “extraordinary ability” visa to get into the United States.

This visa can allow you and immediate family, as well as your assistants or essential trainers etc… and their immediate families into the United States in as little as 15 days.

While this visa category is reserved for those foreign nationals with top credentials, these visas are immediately available – there is no backlog for almost any country. Just as importantly individuals can self-petition – they do not need an offer of employment.

Moreover, these cases can be processed under “premium processing.” For an additional $1225 filing fee, USCIS will adjudicate the case within 15 calendar days.

What is the O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability?

The O-1 Visa for extraordinary ability is a special visa that allows highly skilled foreign immigrants to have fast easy entry into the United States. There are four different classifications in the O-1 Visa:

O-1A: this is for people who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics

O-1B: for people who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in arts, motion pictures or television industry

O-2: for any essential personnel, assistants, trainers etc…For those applying in the arts, this would be for anyone who was essential to the production of said art.

O-3: For the spouses and children of the first three categories.

What is Extraordinary Ability?

Unless my client has a Nobel, Oscar or Olympic Gold Medal lying around, none of which are given for business achievement, she’d better have at least 3 of the following things to get an O-1 visa:

  1. Nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in her field
  2. Membership in associations which require outstanding achievements, as judged by experts
  3. Published material in professional or major trade media about my client and her work
  4. Original contributions of major significance
  5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major media in her field
  6. High salary as compared to her peers
  7. Participation as a judge of the work of others in her field; and/or
  8. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

Look at that list.  4 and 5 are kind of the same thing.  6 and 8 generally go together.  So do 1 and 3.

SO WHY IS IT SO TOUGH TO GET AN O-1?

Because you need at least three out of eight?  Does Immigration truly want my client to have more than three?  The answer is not found in some formula that immigration attorneys all keep in the visa laboratory.  Each case must be evaluated on its own merits.

For business-based O-1’s, the slamdunk has to be work on a major, original  project. Something that nobody else is doing and that people are buying.  Lots of people.  If you are reading this and think you might have an O-1 visa up your sleeve, but your efforts have not yet yielded a big return, reread that list. Don’t abandon the notion that you might have a potential O-1.  Sit down and make a list of everything that you’ve ever done that makes you proud, each achievement that you think is art, even if it has nothing to do with your current business.  Then call an immigration lawyer.

But not just any immigration attorney. Call one who would also meet the criteria for an O-1.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

Do you have a question about Immigration in General?

Call us anytime at 973.642.1111 or email us using the form below.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.