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Who Can Acquire an Extraordinary Ability Visa?

Albert Einstein, one of the brightest minds the world has ever known, is a famous example of someone whose extraordinary ability provided a path to United States immigration. He was born in Germany before the Third Reich, was visiting the U.S. when Hitler assumed power, and made the wise decision to stay.

These days, the U.S. recognizes immigrants with extraordinary abilities may provide important contributions to American society. San Diego immigration experts discuss some visas these special individuals can take advantage of.

The O-1 Non-Immigrant Visa

Actors, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes of extraordinary ability who wish to come to the U.S. for the purpose of using their exceptional skills and talents can apply for O-1 non-immigrant visas in San Diego. Temporary employment immigration permits such as O-1 visas are similar to non-immigrant work visas in the sense that there must be a petitioner offering a contract to the foreign applicant, who becomes known as the beneficiary.

O-1 visa applicants must prove their extraordinary ability by providing evidence of recognition by peers in their respective fields. One example would be a professional soccer player whose individual records and performance are documented and certified by a foreign or international athletics federation. If the soccer player is from Jamaica, for example, CONCACAF records could serve as proof of achievement.

The EB-1 Immigrant Visa

This visa provides a path toward legal residency and a green card based on employment as well as extraordinary ability. In a way, the EB-1 visa recalls the Einstein situation since the physicist was given a job at the Institute for Advanced Study.

The criteria to establish extraordinary ability for EB-1 petitions is generally higher than for O-1 visas. Ideally, the applicant would be the recipient of a major international award such as the Fields Medal in mathematics, the Turing Award in computer science, or a Pulitzer in journalism. In the absence of major awards, foreign applicants are required to submit evidence such as:

  • Published articles in major academic journals
  • Membership in an association known to only accept individuals whose professional achievements distinguish them in their chosen fields
  • Major commercial success in terms of artistic performance
  • Major contributions that have resulted in new paradigms within the fields of science, academics, or business

In addition to proving extraordinary ability as described above, EB-1 applicants must also submit evidence of sponsorship. Prearranged commitments such as employment contracts are preferable. However, some applicants who are planning to conduct research in the U.S. may be able to support their case. 

Unless the EB-1 applicant intends to self-fund a research project, petitioners who sponsor immigrants of extraordinary abilities must be prepared to pay them far above what their peers earn in the U.S. The EB-1 differs significantly from the H-1B in this regard, and employers must keep in mind they are petitioning on behalf of someone who wants to become a permanent resident.

In addition to acquiring an extraordinary ability visa, there are a variety of other visas immigrants can apply for that fall under the temporary employment umbrella. For instance, it’s possible to acquire a student visa in San Diego or permanent residency visas that require employment. To learn more about the wide array of immigration options, get in touch with the trusted immigration lawyers at KS Visa Law. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment.

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