Outstanding Researchers and Extraordinary Ability

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The O visa is for those with extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business or athletics, outstanding researchers and those accompanying them. Researchers gain this visa more easily.

The O visa is for aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or outstanding researchers and those accompanying them.  Outstanding researchers have an easier time obtaining this visa than extraordinary ability applicants.  The O visa is also easier to win than the permanent residence analog for extraordinary ability and outstanding researchers.

Many employees make the mistake of believing that because they qualified for an O-1 extraordinary ability temporary visa that they have a good chance at prevailing in an EB-1(a) extraordinary ability petition for a permanent or immigrant visa.  This is not true.  Similarly, employees who successfully gained L-1A multinational manager, or executive status will find that obtaining permanent residence under the permanent multinational manager/executive category EB-1(c) is more difficult.

Only those among the small percentage who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor may qualify for this visa.  Businesspeople applying for an O visa must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in a field of expertise by providing documentation that satisfies the statutory requirements.

The O-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa allowing a foreign national to come to the United States to work at the petitioning company.  This visa is relatively quick to obtain and is not subject to prevailing wage requirements, labor condition applications, an annual cap, processing delays, and many other problems affecting H-1B visas.   But applicants must be highly qualified and submit extremely well documented evidence of their sustained national or international acclaim in their field of endeavor.

The most crucial burden is proving that the alien beneficiary has sustained national or international acclaim in his or her field of endeavor.  Only a person who is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of his or her field of endeavor qualifies for this visa.  It is reserved for those with extraordinary ability.

The alien must present evidence of the receipt of a major, internationally-recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or evidence from at least three of the following nine categories:

  1. Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in his or her field of endeavor;
  2. Membership in an association in the field which requires outstanding achievements of its members as judged by recognized national or international experts in the discipline or fields;
  3. Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien concerning the alien's work in the field;
  4. Participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field;
  5. Scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  6. Authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional journals or other major media;
  7. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organization and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  8. High salary or other remuneration commanded by the alien for services;
  9. Other comparable evidence.

The sponsoring employer need not show that the position demands the skill of someone with extraordinary ability.  USCIS changed its rules regarding this some time ago, and now the petitioning employer need only show that the alien will work in his area of expertise.

Generally, the employer must also "consult" with a peer group, labor organization or management organization regarding the type of work the worker will perform and on his qualifications.  The group's "consultation letter" must qualify the project as appropriate for the beneficiary's work and as a researcher, scientist, or other worker of extraordinary ability.

The O-2 Visa for support personnel is only available to those applying as artists, entertainers or athletes.  These principals are eligible for O-1 visas under slightly different qualifying requirements.  The O-3 visa is for the spouse and unmarried minor children of the principal visa beneficiary.  O-3 status, as most temporary derivative status, does not confer the right to study or work in the United States without independent authorization from USCIS.

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