O-1A Extraordinary Ability Visa for Entrepreneurs

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If you are a foreign national seeking to start a business in the US as an entrepreneur, one of the visa categories that you may qualify for is the O-1A extraordinary ability visa provided you meet certain criteria.

For more information, or to have a consultation with an attorney about the specific facts and nature of your case, contact the experienced O visa attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates. Our lawyers have more than 50 years of combined experience in numerous complex immigration law matters.

Call (800) 625-3404 to get started.


What Is the O-1A Extraordinary Ability Visa?

The O-1A extraordinary ability visa is available for foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in their field of expertise. The initial period of stay for the O-1 visa is up to 3 years, with extensions of stay available in increments of up to 1 year. Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 may be eligible to obtain the O-3 visa as dependents. Spouses and children may not work with this type of visa but may be students in full or part-time study.

How Does the O-1A Visa Work for Entrepreneurs?

The O-1A may be a viable alternative if you don't qualify for the H-1B. The H-1B requires that your work is in a specialty occupation, and you may be subject to the annual H-1B visa cap that limits the number of visas available each year.

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Requirement 1: You Must Establish That You Possess Extraordinary ability in Your Field

There are two ways to establish extraordinary ability. The first way is to have received a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize.

In order to establish this, you may submit evidence showing some of the following:

  • The criteria utilized to confer the award
  • How significant the award is in your field
  • The reputation of the organization that granted your award
  • Prior award winners who had international acclaim when receiving the award
  • Whether the award attracts competition from internationally recognized people in your field

The second way to establish extraordinary ability is to prove at least three of the following eight criteria:

  1. Whether you have a prize or award for excellence in your field that is lesser nationally or internationally recognized;
  2. Whether you are a member of associations that necessitate outstanding achievement for membership as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  3. Whether there is published material about you in professional or major trade publications or major media that relate to your work in the field;
  4. Whether you have participated in a panel or have individually judged the work of others in the same or allied field of specialization.
  5. Whether you have made original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance;
  6. Whether you have published scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  7. Whether you have worked in a critical or essential capacity for establishments and organizations that possess a distinguished reputation;
  8. Whether you have commanded or will command a high salary or other remuneration for your services.

Requirement 2: Your Petition Must Be Filed by a US Employer, an Agent of the United States, or by a Foreign Employer via a United States Agent

In order to qualify for the O-1A visa, you cannot file a petition on behalf of yourself. The petition must be by your US employer, US agent, or foreign employer by US agent. However, an entity owned by you may be able to file the petition on your behalf.

Requirement 3: You Must Get a Consultation Letter from a Suitable Peer Group

It is necessary to obtain a consultation letter written by a member of an appropriate peer group. This letter is an advisory opinion from a group or individual possessing expertise in your field regarding the nature of your work and your qualifications. The letter may come from management and/or labor organization. Your achievements and abilities in your field should be described in the consultation letter.

Additional Information about the O-1 Visa

Your petition cannot be filed more than one year prior to the actual need of your services. In order to avoid any delay, you should file your petition at least 45 days prior to your intended start date of employment. At the end of the initial three-year period of stay, you may obtain an extension in increments of up to one year. A request for extension should include a description of the event or activity used in your original petition as the basis for the approval, and you should confirm that an extension is needed for you to continue or complete the same described activity or event.

If you have any questions about the O-1A extraordinary ability for entrepreneurs or any of the other types of immigration visas that may be available to you, please call (800) 625-3404 or contact our immigration attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates for a consultation with an attorney at the nearest office close to you.

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