Seven Things You Can Do to Build Your O-1 or EB-1 Case as an "Alien of Extraordinary Ability"


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If you are early in your career and just starting to earn recognition at the national or international level, this guide will help you establish good habits for documenting a future O-1 case, and if you have an O-1 already, it will help you create a stronger foundation for an EB-1 residence case.


DO Keep your resume or curriculum vitae up to date

Your resume or curriculum vitae is an essential building-block in your case. Include all employment in your field, paid and volunteer work, professional awards, publications, performances, speaking engagements, peer review, etc. The relevant items will vary widely depending on your field of endeavor. Do not make any exaggerated claims that can be disproven by a diligent fact-checker. Remember, your resume is not evidence of your achievements; it is only a statement you make on your own behalf, it serves as a guide, a timeline or catalogue for the other types of evidence you may provide. For those in academia and the sciences, keep a current citation index as well, and reprints of articles or books by others that discuss your work at length.


DO Keep a chronological file documenting your accomplishments

Be a pack rat. Keep original evidence of any professional recognition, particularly anything from beyond the four walls of your employer. Again, what is relevant will vary widely depending on the nature of your work, but the letter "P" is a good place to start: professional prizes, press coverage about you & your work, publications authored by you (include peer-reviewed articles, editorials, op-ed, trade & general press, books, etc.), publications by others citing or discussing your work, peer review by you of articles by others, patents, programs (from performances, exhibitions, panels, conference presentations, trade shows, etc.), press releases, publicity materials, and paystubs - if you are paid significantly more than others in your field. Any published material must show the name & date of publication. You will need at least three different types of evidence.


DO Get translations

Any documents in a foreign language submitted to USCIS in support of a visa petition must be accompanied by notarized English translations, with a sworn oath of accuracy by the translator. The translator may be anyone other than the beneficiary or petitioner, so you cannot do the translations yourself. Translations of press clippings & journal articles should include the date, issue or edition, and name of the publication, as well as the author's name, and title of the article or column. Keep clippings of any original articles by you or about you with the English translations.


DO Identify your professional references & Keep in touch with them

Any O-1 or EB-1 petition must be supported by testimonial letters confirming your extraordinary ability, from people with authority to comment on the nature and impact of your work, who can describe the influence you have had on others working in the same field and/or related fields. These letters should be specific to each writer, based on how they know of you or your work and their perspective on what you have contributed to your field. Most should be people outside of your petitioner/present employer, preferably who first met you or contacted you through professional channels because they were favorably impressed when they heard you give a talk or presentation, saw or heard you perform, read a publication by you, used or purchased a product you developed, etc. Reference or testimonial letter writers may include past employers, professors, or colleagues, clients, counterparties to transactions, editors, critics, etc.


DON'T Use a Template

Testimonial letters in support of a visa petition should be unique to each reference provider. The writer should identify his or her professional credentials, level of experience or expertise in the field, and the basis of his or her authority to comment on your work, before discussing your particular achievements, the quality of your work, and how you have influenced the field. Distributing the same sample letter or template to all your providers can be the kiss of death to a case that might otherwise succeed, as even partial repetitions are damaging: if all testimonial letters contain an identical paragraph or sentence, then all of the letters will be less credible. Remember that a strong case cannot be built on letters alone, and other types of objective evidence should support some of the assertions made in the letters.


DO Identify the appropriate Peer Group(s)

A temporary O-1 visa petition must be accompanied by an advisory consultation letter from a labor union or peer group, consenting to the offered employment in the U.S. and confirming that you meet the relevant standard as "extraordinary". In the performing arts, labor unions must be consulted, and which ones are required will depend on the type of work that is the subject of the petition. In film or television, at least two unions must be consulted, one for labor and one for management. In other fields of endeavor, if there is no union governing employment in your field, then a relevant professional society or trade organization may be consulted. If there is no such peer group in your field, then individual experts may be consulted. Discuss this with counsel, as obtaining the advisory consultation letter is one of the last steps before a petition is filed.


DO Continue to build on a strong foundation

You can never be too extraordinary or have too much evidence, so keep aspiring to do more, whether that means publishing, performing, submitting your work to competitions for awards, or developing new products. A big collection of documents may be edited down to what is strongest. For example, if you already have a large collection of press clippings, then identify the articles in major publications that mention you by name or discuss you and your work in detail. If you already have an O-1 visa, keep in mind that the legal standard for EB-1 is much higher, especially if you work in the arts, and documents sufficient for approval of an O-1 petition may not be enough for a green card.

Additional Resources

For details on the regulatory criteria, sponsorship, and peer advisory requirements of the O-1 visa category, please see the "What is an O-1?" page of my website. A brief overview of the EB-1 category is provided on the Employment-Based Immigrant Visas page.

What is an O-1?

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

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O-1 extraordinary ability visa

The O-1 extraordinary ability visa is a non-immigrant visa available to people who have achieved national or international recognition through their profession.

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