The O-1A “extraordinary ability” visa is for accomplished people who have attained national or international acclaim in their field. In absence of a specialized “startup visa” in the United States, O-1 has become a visa of choice for successful startup founders who can meet its exacting criteria. Our firm has been among the first to introduce this option to the tech community, and we have perfected the methods of building successful O-1 cases for entrepreneurs and professionals employed by tech startups. We have also worked with clients in many other fields of endeavor including scientists, business consultants, finance professionals, marketing experts, and many others.
Despite the allusion to the Nobel Prize in O-1 regulations, one doesn’t have to be a Nobel laureate to qualify for this visa. In fact, most of our clients don’t have major internationally recognized awards. In absence of a major award, one can qualify for O-1 by satisfying at least three out of these eight criteria:
If you think you can offer evidence of satisfying some of these criteria, it may be worthwhile to set up a consultation and have our Attorney evaluate your eligibility for this visa.
Either an employer or an employee (or both) can request the initial consultation with our firm to determine the eligibility for H-1B, identify potential “red flags” (if any), discuss whether the proposed position satisfies “specialty occupation” requirements, and decide on the best strategy.
Employer and employee provide responses to our firm’s questionnaires and document checklists, which include a preliminary position description, information on actual wages paid by the employer to other workers in the same occupation, the employee’s educational credentials and work experience (if relevant), as well as all other required information.
Our firm reviews the provided documentation carefully and ensures that the position description and the worker’s qualifications are consistent with the H-1B requirements. We also analyze the actual wage data and obtain the prevailing wage for the position (including the occupational category and the appropriate level), to ensure compliance with the wage requirements. After that we obtain the Labor Condition Application from the Department of Labor and prepare all required compliance documentation (“Public Access File”). We then prepare the required immigration forms (Form I-129 with supplements) and the support letter for the petition, send to the employer for review and signature, and then file it and all required documentation and filing fees with USCIS.
USCIS will review the petition. Most cases prepared by our firm are approved after the initial review but sometimes USCIS requests additional evidence before making final decision. In the past year and a half, USCIS has become especially strict in adjudicating H-1B petitions but our firm has thus far been able to maintain near 100% approval rate (although we cannot guarantee the same outcome in any specific case). USCIS initial review with premium processing (additional filing fee of $1,225) takes 15 days. Premium processing is optional and it is not always available for “lottery” cases. Without premium processing, the USCIS review may take several months.
If the employee is in the United States and requested “change of status” or “change of employer,” he or she will be able to start working for your company right away. If the employee is abroad, he or she will have to apply for a H-1B visa at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States (usually in their home country), and only after the issuance of such visa will that person be able to come to the United States and start working for your company. For “lottery” cases, the earliest start date is October 1 or the approval of the petition, whichever is earlies. Please read more about change of status and consular processing of visas in our “Common Visa-Related Issues” section.
Please remember that post-approval changes in H-1B employment may affect both the employer’s obligations and the employee’s status. We will always be there to answer questions about possible changes in the employee’s job, corporate structure, office location, etc. We ask our clients to keep us appraised of any changes before they occur, so that we can provide proper guidance.