The O-1-visa…the most coveted of all non-immigrant classifications. A nod from the US government that you’re one of the best in the world at what you do. And to prove it, they’re going to let you stay in our great nation for three years so we can steal your talents. A top-notch immigration lawyer can assess whether you qualify for the O-1 classification, but then the question becomes ‘on what basis do you assess the attorney you’re about to entrust with the visa that is likely to define the next few years of your life’?
There are three essential components to consider when pursuing an O-1 visa. These are timing, accuracy, and presentation.
O-1 visas often are often associated with tight deadlines (ex. the brilliant scientist’s H-1B petition didn’t get selected in the Cap and their start date with a new company is coming up; an entertainment production gets the go-ahead and needs its director or lead actor on-board yesterday). O-1 petitions frequently need to be filed within a matter of weeks, sometimes days. Parts of the O-1 process take a pre-defined amount of time (unions, filing, visa appointment wait times, etc.), so you should be looking for firms who know how to prioritize the O-petition’s requirements to meet the deadlines. Alternatively, there are some instances where it helps to wait before filing an O-1 petition, such as changing status from a B-visa. Other things to consider are time limitations in the regulations (i.e. nationals from mainland China being limited to a three-month O-1 no matter what the itinerary says). One of the best ways to assess the law firm you’re potentially hiring is to find out who their clients are and what types of cases they specialize in.
There are three different types of O-visas: O-1A for scientists, educators, businessmen, and athletes. O-1B for artists and O-1B for motion picture and television (while technically O-1B is one category and not two, there are separate regulations for them and their corresponding O-2s, so it’s helpful to think of them as independent categories). Most professions will easily fit into one category, and your attorney should start gathering evidence based on the specifications of each one. However, there are a few professions that are a bit more difficult to classify. Architecture could be art in some cases and engineering in others. Producers with their own companies in creative professions could be artists or entrepreneurs. Why is this important? The O-1 visa doesn’t just define if you can stay in the U.S., but your classification and proposed work set the parameters for what you can do whilst you’re here. Accurately assessing every detail of your case from the major to the minor details is essential to avoid those pesky RFEs, and – probably more importantly – to let you work without worrying if the USCIS is going to chase you down later for fraudulent classification. Make sure to check out how long the law firm you’re potentially hiring has been in practice.
Depending on the case, an O-petitions consist of anywhere from 100 to 1000 pages. Yet, it’s estimated that the adjudicating officer gets about 45 minutes to review each case, if that. Knowing how to prioritize the contents of an O-petition and present them clearly for the adjudicating officer is critical to the success of the case. Equally important is knowing which information to exclude. A strong case can equally be made to look weak if an inexperienced attorney dilutes the strong evidence with extraneous material. It’s critical that you work with a firm that’s demonstrated their ability to so check their success rates.
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Click here to go to the USCIS’s Official Page on O-1 Visas.