The O-1 visa is a great option for those who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in their field. In order to obtain an O-1 visa, one must be an alien with a proven track record of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Proving that you are extraordinary in your field is not always an easy task. However, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your application for an O-1 visa is approved.
Include all required documentation
First, you need to ensure that you completely and accurately fill out the O-1 visa application, Form I-129. Next, you need to make sure that you include in your application package all of the other required documentation, such as a written advisory opinion from a peer group, a copy of the written contract between you and your employer, and your itinerary. If you accidentally forget to include these documents, you risk having your application delayed or even denied.
Provide sufficient and convincing evidence
The most important step in filing your O-1 visa application, however, is including sufficient and convincing evidence that you are an alien of extraordinary ability in your field. The evidence you include needs to prove that you have received a major, internationally-recognized award or, if you have not done so, you need to prove at least three other listed achievements.
When compiling the evidence for your O-1 visa application, you need to keep in mind that the immigration officer reviewing your application package has only a very limited time to look over everything that you have included. Therefore, you want to make sure that you do not include unnecessary or trivial items in your package. However, it is very important and key to include a wealth of information and documented evidence for each one of your achievements in your field. Once your application package is compiled, it is not unusual for it to be about 500-1000 pages.
The type of documented evidence you include for each one of your achievements will vary. However, as an example, if you received a nationally or internationally recognized prize or award for excellence in your field, you should include items such as:
- Names and résumés of previous award recipients
- Criteria used to grant the award
- Significance of the award
- Reputation of the organization granting the award
- Who is considered for the award, including geographic scope
- How many prizes are awarded each year
You should attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the immigration officer reviewing your case. You need to provide him or her with sufficient evidence to not only prove that you wrote that paper or received that award, but you must also show the importance of your accomplishment. Your evidence should explain why the immigration officer should care about what you have accomplished. You need to make clear the importance, reputation, etc. of your work. This can be done in numerous ways, depending on what your accomplishment is. Some examples of evidence to include are press releases, articles in recognized newspapers or magazines, reviews, sales numbers, citation counts, etc.
The more information that you include upfront in your initial application, the less likely it is that you will receive a Request for Evidence from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requiring you to submit additional proof. Your best chance of having your O-1 visa approved is to have adequate evidence of your achievements available to the immigration officer who initially reviews your application. In fact, it is better to give them too much information and documented evidence than not enough. You want the officer to be able to tell that you have reached a high level of achievement and acclaim in your field by scanning through the evidence you provided.
Present your evidence in an organized and concise manner
One of the most important things to keep in mind is the organization and preparation of your evidence. Even if you include overwhelming evidence for each one of your achievements, if it is unorganized, disordered, and not sufficiently labeled, the immigration officer will not have enough time to find what he or she needs to see in order to approve your application. Therefore, it is important to carefully present your evidence in a clear and concise way. It is a great idea to tab and label each item of evidence, listed in order of importance, and then create a Table of Contents, making it easy for the immigration officer to not only know exactly what you have included, but to easily flip to that evidence to review.
The letter that you should include along with your application should also be detailed yet concise and easy to follow. You must keep in mind that the immigration officer reviewing your application will likely not have a deep understanding of the type of work that you do. Therefore, you need to be able to describe your job, accomplishments, and impact in your field in layman non-technical terms.
Following these steps will help assure the best outcome for your O-1 visa case. You want the immigration officer reviewing your application to have an easy time checking all the requirements for approval. If, however, you do receive a Request for Evidence from USCIS, these same rules will apply to your response to that request.
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