Extraordinary Aliens (Nonimmigrant): O-1 Visas

January 2009

-Palma R. Yanni, Esq.

This memorandum is not intended to provide legal advice on individual cases, each of which presents specific problems. Rather, it is intended as an overview of the general process, and the steps necessary to be classified as an extraordinary alien. Due to the complexities of the immigration process, it is recommended that you seek specific advice from an experienced immigration attorney.

In the immigration act of 1990, Congress created a special visa category for "Aliens of extraordinary ability". Persons who have risen to the top of their field may enter the U.S. as O-1 nonimmigrants for up to three years. Thereafter, their visas may be extended annually. In order to support an application for an O-1, alien of extraordinary ability, you must prove that you have achieved international or national acclaim, and that your achievements have been recognized in your field of expertise. The following types of evidence must be presented:

i. documentation of the receipt of nationally or internationally-recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field;

ii. documentation of membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts;

iii. published material in professional publications or major media about the alien and the alien's work;

iv. evidence of participation as the judge of the work of others, either individually or on a panel;

v. evidence of an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance in the field;

vi. evidence of the authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media;

vii. evidence of performance in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation; or

viii. evidence that you have commanded a significantly high salary or other remuneration in relation to others in the field.

The regulations also permit the submission of comparable evidence.

In addition to the above evidence, there must also be an offer of employment. The employment offer should describe in detail the nature of the job including the primary responsibilities. The petition must include an "advisory opinion" from a peer group. This opinion must contain a detailed description of the beneficiary's achievements and explain why the individual qualifies as an alien of extraordinary ability. O petitions may be approved for an initial period of up to three years, and then extended annually for the same position. Extensions of three years may be granted for "new events".

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