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Seven Ways to Build Your O-1 or EB-1 Case

Seven Things You Can Do to Build Your O-1 or EB-1 Case as an "Alien of Extraordinary Ability"
 
These tips will help you collect the right evidence for an O-1 temporary visa or an EB-1 immigrant visa petition, even before you meet with a lawyer. If you are early in your career and just starting to earn accolades and recognition at the international level, this guide will help you establish good habits for documenting a future O-1 case. If you have an O-1 visa already, it will help you create a stronger foundation for an EB-1 residence case. A complete case strategy should be discussed with counsel, and tailored to your professional field and the nature of your accomplishments.

1. DO Keep your resume or curriculum vitae up to date

Your resume or curriculum vitae is an essential building-block in your case. Include all employment in your field, paid and volunteer work, professional awards, prizes, service on prize juries or editorial boards, publications, editorials about and citations to your work, performances, speaking engagements, peer review, etc. The relevant items will vary widely depending on your field of endeavor. Do not make any exaggerated claims that can be disproven by a diligent fact-checker. Remember that your resume is not evidence of your achievements; it is a statement you make on your own behalf, and serves only as a guide, a timeline or catalogue for the other types of evidence you may provide. For those in academia and the sciences, keep a current citation index as well as reprints of articles by others discussing your work at length.

2. DO Keep a chronological file documenting your accomplishments

Be a pack rat. Keep original evidence of any professional recognition, particularly anything from beyond the four walls of your employer, such as public speaking engagements or committee service for professional organizations. Again, what is relevant will vary widely depending on the nature of your work, but the letter "P" is a good place to start: professional prizes, press coverage about you & your work, publications by you (include peer-reviewed articles, editorials, op-ed, trade & general press, books, etc.), peer review by you of publications by others, publications by others citing and discussing your work, patents, programs (from performances, exhibitions, award ceremonies, panels, conferences, etc.), press releases, publicity materials, and paystubs - if you are paid significantly more than others in your field. Any published material must show the name & date of publication. You will need at least three different types of evidence.

3. DO Get translations

Any documents in a foreign language submitted to USCIS in support of a visa petition must be accompanied by notarized English translations, with a sworn oath of accuracy by the translator. The translator may be anyone other than the beneficiary or petitioner, so you cannot do the translations yourself, nor should evidence be translated by anyone in your family. Translations of press clippings & journal articles must include the date, issue, and name of the publication, as well as the author's name, and title of the article or column. Keep clippings of any original articles by you or about you with the translations.

4. DO Identify your professional references & Keep in touch with them
Any O-1 or EB-1 petition must be supported by testimonial letters confirming your extraordinary ability, preferably from people with authority to comment on the nature and impact of your work, and the influence you have had on others working in the same field or related fields. These letters should be specific to each reference provider, based on how they know of you or your work and their perspective on what you have contributed to your field. Most of the testimonial-providers should be people outside of your petitioner/present employer, and hopefully some will be people who first met you or contacted you through professional channels because they were favorably impressed when they heard you give a talk, saw or heard you perform, read a publication by you or about your work, used or purchased a product you developed, etc. Reference providers may include past employers, professors, or colleagues, clients, counterparties to major deals or transactions, editors, critics, curators, etc.
 
5. DON'T Use a Template

Testimonial letters in support of a visa petition should be unique to each provider. The writer should identify his or her professional credentials, level of experience or expertise in the field, and the basis of his or her authority to comment on your work, before discussing your particular achievements, the quality of your work, and how you have influenced the field.  Distributing the same sample letter or template to all your reference providers can be the kiss of death to a case that might otherwise succeed, and even partial repetitions are damaging: if all your testimonial letters contain an identical paragraph or sentence, then all of the letters will be less credible. Writers should stick to what distinguishes you professionally, and avoid personal statements. Remember that a strong case cannot be built on letters alone: other types of objective evidence should support the statements made int he testimonial letters.

6. DO Identify the appropriate Peer Group(s)

A temporary O-1 visa petition must be accompanied by an advisory consultation letter from a labor union or peer group, consenting to the offered employment in the U.S. and confirming that you meet the relevant standard as "extraordinary". In the performing arts, labor unions must be consulted, and which ones are required will depend on the type of work that is the subject of the petition. In film or television, at least two unions must be consulted, one for labor and one for management. In other fields of endeavor, if there is no union governing employment in your field, then a relevant professional society, institution or trade organization with the right expertise may be consulted. If there is no such peer group in your field, then individual experts may be consulted. Discuss this with counsel, as obtaining the advisory consultation letter is one of the last steps before a petition is filed.

7. DO Continue to build on a strong foundation

You can never be too extraordinary or have too much evidence, so keep aspiring to do more, whether that means publishing, performing, submitting your work to juried competitions, or developing new products or business processes. A big collection of documents can always be edited to the evidence that is strongest. For example, if you already have a large number of press clippings about your work, then identify those articles in major publications that mention you by name and discuss your work in detail. If you already have an O-1 visa, especially in the arts, keep in mind that the legal standard for EB-1 is much higher, so documents that were sufficient for approval of an O-1 petition may not be enough for a green card.


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Karin Wolman is admitted to the bar in the State of New York.
Her practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality law.

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