INDIVIDUALS WITH EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY
Visas for Highly Accomplished Individuals
There are two extraordinary ability pathways: one leads to a temporary work visa (known as the O-1 visa) and the other leads to a Green Card (known as EB-1A). Both of these options are designated for highly-skilled foreigners who wish to continue working in their field of expertise, which must fall within the broader fields of sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
As one might suspect, these immigration pathways are quite difficult because they require proof of truly exceptional skills or achievements in the relevant field. Being “very good” at one’s job usually is not enough to qualify for these pathways, as one must demonstrate that he or she is truly towards the top of his or her respective job field. Therefore, a successful application must prove sustained success and significant recognition of one's abilities on the national or international level.
For the entrepreneur, such proof can include evidence of successful business accomplishments as well as proof of awards or or other forms of recognition. Official letters written by widely respected industry leaders can also be useful. For artists, notable media attention regarding the applicant’s success or abilities are typically a key element of a successful application. One notable disadvantage of the O-1 visa compared to the EB-1 Green Card is that the O-1 requires a US sponsor/employer while the EB-1 Green Card allows for individual self-petitioning (even if the applicant is located outside of the United States).
If approved, O-1 status is typically given an initial approval period of three years, but it has the potential to be continuously extended without any official maximum limit. Conversely, Green Cards issued under the EB-1A pathway are unconditional and thus permanent.