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Articles Posted in O1 Visas

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Can a social media influencer and OnlyFans model with a large online following qualify for the O-1B visa, as an individual of extraordinary ability in the arts or entertainment?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to do just that despite several challenges presented to us by USCIS, in which the adjudicating officer downplayed our client’s achievements, and unnecessarily applied a narrow interpretation of the standard “fashion model” to our client who did not fit the traditional mold of a “fashion model.”

Through a detailed presentation of additional evidence, we advocated for our client and explained that although our client did not neatly fit into the traditional category of “fashion model,” she did in fact satisfy at least three of the eight criteria for O-1B, based on her extraordinary achievement as a social media influencer and model, prominence, recognition, and her lead/critical role as founder of her own successful web platform.

Here, we will share with you how we were able to overcome such challenges and ultimately obtain an approval for our client.


The Rise of Social Media Influencers

Before the social media boom, fashion models were considered the primary vehicle by which companies promoted and advertised commercial products for global audiences. For those seeking success in today’s modeling landscape, social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and Only Fans provided fertile ground for a new type of “model” to emerge – the social media influencer and “instafamous” model.

While such influencers do not fit the traditional “model” prototype, they have taken an unconventional approach to developing their social media presence, and leveraging their online presence in such a way that has enabled them to achieve and sustain an extraordinary level of achievement and recognition within their respective industries. Such influencers have been able to amass millions of followers and achieve an extraordinary level of achievement by inking lucrative brand deals, partnerships, and collaborations with some of the world’s largest companies.

There can be no doubt that the rise of the social media influencer marketing has revolutionized the way that companies do business. That is because the industry has recognized that influencers can engage and connect with their large audiences in a way that cannot be replicated through traditional media figures.

For instance, influencers build relationships with their audiences through sharing their opinions and personal stories, thereby establishing a sense of credibility and authenticity that differentiates them from most conventional models.

Those influencers that have achieved a high level of achievement in their field, by way of sustained national or international acclaim, and a degree of recognition that is substantially above that ordinarily encountered in the field, may qualify for the O-1B visa to live and work in the United States in the area of extraordinary ability.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we celebrate a client’s recent success story and share with you how our office was able to successfully obtain an O-1A visa approval for a jiu jitsu athlete of extraordinary ability.

First, let’s go over the O-1A visa process for individuals of extraordinary ability.

The O-1A is a perfect fit for those who can demonstrate a sustained level of national or international acclaim, as well as recognition for achievements received in their field of expertise. An O-1A applicant must demonstrate that he or she is one of a small percentage of individuals who has risen to the very top of his or her field, and that he or she will work in an area of extraordinary ability.

It is important to note that an O-1A applicant may not self-petition for their visa. A valid employer-employee relationship must exist, and the employer must petition for the applicant’s visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS. Alternatively, a U.S. agent may file as a petitioner for an O-1 beneficiary if they are the actual employer of the beneficiary, the representative of both the employer or beneficiary, or authorized by the employer to act in place of the employer as its agent.

In general, three of eight criteria must be satisfied to successfully obtain an O-1A visa.

These criteria are as follows:

(1) Documentation of the alien’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;

(2) Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;

(3) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;

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Are you at the top of your field in the arts, sciences, education, business, or sports? Do you need to travel to the United States for your work?

The O-1 visa allows people with extraordinary abilities to work in the U.S. for a temporary time. But to get the O-1 visa, you must prove your extraordinary ability in some way.

So what do you do when you don’t have an award like an Oscar or Grammy?

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Have you ever wondered what visa options are available to social media influencers?

Social media influencers have quickly become of the biggest assets for brands seeking to reach millennial audiences by way of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing refers to a business collaboration with an influential person on social media to promote a product, service, or a campaign. Social media influencers are those who have amassed a large following on social media and have established credibility among their followers within their specific industry.

An influencer can come to the United States and work with brands to promote their goods or services by applying for the O-1B visa for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the social media influencer must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim via social media, and seek to come to the United States to work with companies using their social media platform.

What is extraordinary ability?

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction.  Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in their field.

For social media influencers this means a large following within their field of business such as fashion, gaming, travel, lifestyle, etc.

Evidentiary Criteria:

There are 6 evidentiary criteria that must be met to obtain the O-1B visa:

Evidence that the applicant has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

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What are some alternatives to the H-1B visa?

So, you’ve applied for the H-1B visa, and by now you are well aware that the cap has been reached. You may be wondering what you will do if you are not selected in the lottery. Have no fear, we have you covered on your Plan B.

In this post, we breakdown the alternatives to the H-1B visa that allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States.

1. The O-1 “Extraordinary Ability” Visa:

This visa type is for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, motion picture, television, or arts industries who have received national and/or international acclaim in their field. An alien on an O-1 visa may live and work in the United States for a period of up to three years.

In order to be eligible for this visa type you must demonstrate that you are an alien of extraordinary ability in your field. Applicants must hold an advanced degree (at least a master’s) to demonstrate a high level of expertise in their field, and have received international or national acclaim in their fields as evidenced by awards and other international or national recognitions received. Individuals who are leading experts in their fields, and have written extensively in their fields, receiving notoriety for their publications are also great candidates for the O-1 visa. Membership in prestigious professional associations which require outstanding achievements from members are extremely helpful when applying for the H-1B visa, as well as evidence of scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions that are considered of major significance in the field.

2.TN Visa for Mexican and Canadian Nationals

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Mexican nationals may apply for a TN visa to live and work in the United States. To be eligible the TN visa applicant must work in a profession approved under the NAFTA program for a U.S. employer. Dependent spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can live in the United States under a derivative TD visa.

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A recent working paper published by Harvard economist, William R. Kerr, and Wellesley economist, Sari Pekkala Kerr, is making waves on the subject of immigrant entrepreneurship. The study asks: just how important are foreign-born entrepreneurs to our economy? Are their contributions truly significant?

The study’s abstract reads as follows:

We examine immigrant entrepreneurship and the survival and growth of immigrant-founded businesses over time relative to native-founded companies. Our work quantifies immigrant contributions to new firm creation in a wide variety of fields and using multiple definitions. While significant research effort has gone into understanding the economic impact of immigration into the United States, comprehensive data for quantifying immigrant entrepreneurship are difficult to assemble. We combine several restricted-access U.S. Census Bureau data sets to create a unique longitudinal data platform that covers 1992-2008 and many states. We describe differences in the types of businesses initially formed by immigrants and their medium-term growth patterns. We also consider the relationship of these outcomes to the immigrants’ age at arrival to the United States.

The study is important because it forces members of Congress to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, in order to determine whether or not it is beneficial for the United States to create more opportunities for highly-skilled entrepreneurs and professionals. Regrettably, the immigration debate has largely centered around illegal immigration to the United States, ignoring calls to create more flexibility for highly-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. As it stands today, immigrant entrepreneurs can only obtain a green card via sponsorship from a United States employer. The majority of entrepreneurs are forced to remain in the United States on a temporary ‘dual intent’ nonimmigrant visa, until a U.S. employer agrees to sponsor their green card. Visa options are very limited for highly-skilled immigrants. Even for the most brilliant of entrepreneurs, this process requires time and patience. Our current immigration laws are doing us a disservice since they are keeping out some of the most talented entrepreneurs in the world. Immigrant entrepreneurs are increasingly important because the number of businesses and American jobs they create is on the rise.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

  • As of 2008, at least one in four entrepreneurs among start-up companies are foreign-born. Similarly, at least one in four employees among new firms are foreign-born
  • 37% of new firms had at least one immigrant entrepreneur working for the company
  • At least 1 in 3 start-up firms were founded by an immigrant entrepreneur, with an increasing rate from 1995-2008
  • The share of immigrants among all employees working for start-up companies is on the rise
  • Immigrant employees in low-tech positions comprise about 22.2% of start-up companies, while 21.2% of immigrants work in high-tech positions in start-up companies
  • Among new start-ups backed by venture capitalists, 60% had at least one immigrant entrepreneur
  • Immigrant employees working for a start-up company backed by venture capitalists have higher mean average quarterly earnings

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On May 04, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, announcing that filing fees for many USCIS petitions and applications are expected to increase for U.S. employers and foreign nationals. The proposed regulation stipulates that filing fees may be adjusted for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests by USCIS. The increase in filing fees was considered after USCIS conducted a comprehensive review of its fees and found that the current fees do not cover the cost of services provided by USCIS. According to USCIS, in an effort to fully recover costs and maintain adequate services, “an adjustment to the fee schedule will be necessary”. According to the regulation, fees for most employment-based petitions and applications would be raised by an average of 21%, though other types of petitions may experience a higher increase in filing fees.

According to DHS, the higher fees will more accurately reflect the current cost of processing immigration applications and petition. A portion of the increased fees would provide additional funding for refugee and citizenship programs as well as system support for interagency immigration status verification databases.  The increase in filing fees will not take effect until the federal government approves the regulation, which is expected to take several months following the close of the 60-day comment period on July 5, 2016.

According to the new fee schedule under consideration, employment-based petitions would be the most impacted by the increase in filing fees. The filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, would increase by 42% to a fee of $460, from the current rate of $325.  Similarly, the filing fee for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, would increase by 21% to a fee of $700, from the current rate of $580. The complete fee schedule under consideration has been provided below for your reference.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is expected to be the most heavily affected by the new fee schedule. The filing fee for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, would increase by a rate of 186% requiring Regional Centers seeking designation under the program to pay a filing fee of $17,795 instead of the current rate of $6,230. In addition, Regional Centers would be required to pay a $3,035 annual fee to certify their continued eligibility for the designation. Currently, there is no fee in place for annual certification. The filing fee for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, an application associated with the EB-5 visa program, would also increase to a rate of $3,675, a 145% increase up from the current rate of $1,500. The filing fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence would remain unchanged under these new regulations.

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mayaFor this month’s staff spotlight, we invite you to learn more about Paralegal, Maya Elkain.

Ms. Elkain began her journey with the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick in 2014 as an intern. She quickly learned the ins and outs of employment based immigration law and was offered a position. Today, she assists attorneys with the preparation of H-1B applications, E-2 investor visas, L-1A visas, O visas, National Interest waivers, provisional waivers of unlawful presence, and much more. Ms. Elkain specializes in employment-based immigration and investor petitions. With her assistance, our law office has been able to receive affirmative decisions in numerous cases.

“The best part of my job is having the opportunity to make a difference and actually help our clients succeed in their immigration process. It is the most rewarding feeling.”

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to our senior case manager, Inese Grate, one of the original members of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick. Ms. Grate joined our firm when there were merely 2 employees working at the office. In addition to studying law in Latvia, Ms. Grate received her Master’s in Law in International Business Transactions from Temple University Beasley School of Law and attended the International Law Institute at Georgetown University School of Law.

Ms. Grate specializes in business and family immigration, corporate, international trade, and international transactions. Ms. Grate provides consultation on strategic investment in the United States for international clients and corporations to identify potential opportunities, create jobs, and develop successful businesses. Throughout her professional career, she has taken several international and U.S. startup companies from an ideation phase through to establishment and registration. Ms. Grate is unique in that she thinks outside of the box and is able to utilize her professional network of financial advisors, real estate brokers, investors and industry experts to assist our clients based on their unique needs. Throughout her career, Ms. Grate has helped numerous corporations and individuals in the United States as well as several European countries in various immigration/business related issues. Ms. Grate evaluates business plans and works on all related immigration issues including visas, licenses, and permits. She has helped in numerous cases in this area for the past few years.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to Associate Attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq who joined our firm in 2012. Attorney Zhou is an active member of the California State Bar, the New York State Bar, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Ms. Zhou practices primarily on employment-based and investment-based immigration law. Ms. Zhou has experience in various aspects of business immigration, including employment-based permanent residence and nonimmigrant visas, as well as marriage-based immigration and citizenship matters. Specifically, she has provided counsel to clients in relation to employment in specialty occupation, nonimmigrant NAFTA professional visa, individuals with extraordinary ability and achievements, nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange visitor visa, religious worker visa, E-2 treaty investor visa, waivers, applications for adjustment of status, employment certification (PERM) applications, motion to reopen/reconsider, re-entry permit, visa interviews, as well as extensive EB-5 investment immigration work.

Ms. Zhou received her Bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from Zhejiang University, one of the top universities in China. She graduated with distinguished honor awarded by the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province and was editor-in-chief of law review of her law school in China. She subsequently attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained her Master’s degree in Law (LL.M.). Prior to joining the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, Ms. Zhou has practiced in China for two years.