Nonimmigrant work visas were established for people who want to enter the United States in order to work legally in a particular field. Some only want to work temporarily in the United States, others are considering the possibility of eventually becoming a permanent resident. In the latter instance, permanent residence may not be a viable option, either because the individual is not eligible for permanent residence, or because he does not have the time it takes to wait for employment authorization through such a procedure. Whatever the reason is, applying for a nonimmigrant work visas may be the most suitable alternative.
O-1 visas are a type of nonimmigrant work visa, and were created for aliens with extraordinary ability in the arts, science, education, business or athletics. What follow are a description of O-1 visas and a rough outline of what it takes to be eligible for and obtain such a visa. Because this type of visa is used mostly by artists, musicians, and other professions that fall within the arts category, the bulk of this discussion will be directed specifically toward such candidates. However, anyone who falls under one of the other categories (science, education, business or athletics) should keep in mind that similar standards apply to their respective fields.
Extraordinary ability in the arts is interpreted to mean distinction; the artist has to prove that she is one of a few who have obtained prominence or recognition in her field. This can be proved by showing evidence in three of the following categories: one or more significant international or national awards or prizes in that field; critical reviews in periodicals; a significant role in a distinguished production or organization; a history of commercial or critically acclaimed success in this field; significant recognition from experts in the field; or the status to command a high salary.
To prove these things, we ask for as many of the following as is possible:
Resume / Curriculum Vitae: A list of jobs and projects of your work.
Portfolio: A collection of ones work. If musician, then a collection of CDs; if a visual artist, then a collection of portrait prints; etc.
Letters of Recommendation: Letters from peers and other experts of the field. Such letters should include the following:
(1) an introductory paragraph that establishes the writers basis of expertise in the field and how the writer is familiar with the individual; and
(2) a section in which the writer discusses the individual, specifically addressing (a) the beneficiarys talent and ability, and/or (b) one or more of the beneficiarys accomplishments in her field, such as significant projects or events that she worked on.
Press: Any and all articles, interviews and critical reviews that pertain to the beneficiarys work, whether directly or indirectly. This is, arguably, the best kind of evidence.
Advertisements: Any advertisements that promote the beneficiarys band, performances, exhibits, shows, events, etc.
Awards: Evidence of awards or prizes that the beneficiary has received in his/her field, or that was awarded to a project the beneficiary had worked on.
Evidence of Commercial Success: Evidence of ticket sales, album sales, sold out shows, or other sales that are pertinent to ones field.
High Salary: If you command a relatively high salary in your field due to your reputation, we can submit evidence of this such as paychecks, receipts or contracts.
Contract with Sponsor: If you have a contract between the beneficiary and the sponsor, we can submit that. It may be formal or informal, and we can draft a contract for you if it becomes necessary.
Itinerary: A schedule of upcoming shows, tours, etc., even if such are only tentative.
Copies of Professional Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates: If applicable.
There is no hard line rule as to how much evidence is required; the examiners weigh the quantity and quality of the evidence in rendering a decision. Thus, we ask for as much evidence as possible in order to improve your chances of success.
Please note: You must have a sponsor to get an O-1 visa. A sponsor may be an individual or an organization, but should somehow be involved in your field and be willing to work with you in some sort of capacity. There are two general categories for sponsors:
a person or company to whom you will providing services in your field (e.g. a producer, theater, record label, etc.), for instance as an employer, manager or agent.
The sponsor will have to provide certain information such as a name, address, tax identification number, number of employees, date of formation, and gross annual income. It would be helpful if the sponsor could also provide a brochure or a letter describing the company and the business in which it engages.
In addition to filing a petition with U.S.C.I.S. (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services), we have to send a copy of the evidence to a peer group i.e. an organization involved in the aliens field that is willing to evaluate the evidence and provide an advisory opinion as to whether the alien meets the legal standards. For instance, the American Federation of Musicians is generally the accepted peer group for O-1 cases involving musicians; other examples are the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America.
From the time a case commences, it takes U.S.C.I.S. (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) three to six months to make a decision. However, if time is of the essence, the parties have the option of paying an extra $1,000 to U.S.C.I.S. for Premium Processing, in which the government promises to issue a decision within two to four weeks.