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Global Work Glossary

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Table of Contents

What are the eligibility criteria for an O-1A visa?

How does the O-1A visa compare with other visas?

What are the evidence requirements for the O-1A Visa?

Benefits of the O-1A visa to employers

What is the application process for an O-1A visa?

How do you apply for an O-1A visa or visa extension?

How can you improve O-1A visa application success?

Impact on Global Hiring

Considerations for remote work

Are there any legal or compliance concerns for employers?

What is the relevance of the O-1A visa to various industries?

How do you gauge success in O-1A application?

Fast-track your US visa with Deel Immigration

What is the O-1A visa?

The O-1A visa is a special category under US immigration law intended for individuals demonstrating extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics. It is designed for those who have achieved national or international acclaim, indicating they are at the top of their field.

The visa description on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website distinguishes this visa from the related O-1B visa, which covers exemplary individuals working in the arts, motion picture, or television industries.

The O-1A visa enables individuals to work in the US on specific projects or jobs for a designated employer.

Notable scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, and sportspeople may be eligible to apply for this visa, enabling them to attend paid conferences and sporting events or take up project-based work on a temporary basis within the United States.

What are the eligibility criteria for an O-1A visa?

To qualify for an O-1A visa, an applicant must show a sustained level of achievement recognized through extensive documentation of their expertise, such as internationally recognized prizes, significant published works, or a history of major contributions to their field.

Eligibility, in general, rests on three criteria, all of which must be satisfied:

  1. The possession of extraordinary abilities in the relevant fields, evidenced by “sustained national or international acclaim.”
  2. Extensive documentation of these achievements.
  3. The applicant must be coming to the US to work in the area in which they achieved acclaim.

The evidence presented upon application should confirm that the applicant belongs to the elite in their profession. Here are some examples of materials that might constitute appropriate evidence:

  • Winning a significant science prize or funding award
  • Being invited to be a keynote speaker at a major international conference
  • Being a seeded international tennis player invited to play in the US Open
  • Having published a series of well-cited articles in major scientific journals
  • Being featured with a cover story in a major business publication

As you can see, the evidence required to prove eligibility demonstrates prestige or recognition within a profession in which you have made significant achievements. Only a US employer or immigration experts like Deel Immigration can file on an applicant’s behalf.

💡 Deel Immigration is the leading US immigration provider. With more than a 90% approval rate, their team of in-house immigration experts is ready to fast-track your visa application so you can move to the US and start your next adventure.

How does the O-1A visa compare with other visas?

The O-1A Visa can grant up to three years of residence within the US and can be renewed upon successful application in one-year increments.

Unlike other work visas like the H-1B or L-1, the O-1A has no cap on the number of visas issued annually and does not restrict the fields in which one may qualify.

Furthermore, it bypasses the labor certification process, making it a more flexible option for top-tier professionals. Applicants are advised to use an immigration lawyer with expertise in this type of visa who can help prepare a portfolio of evidence.

What are the evidence requirements for the O-1A Visa?

Applicants need to provide proof of their extraordinary abilities, such as awards of major significance, membership in esteemed associations that require outstanding achievements, or authorship of scholarly articles. Meeting at least three criteria established by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is essential.

Evidentiary criteria for documentation include:

  • Prizes and awards documentation
  • Professional association membership certification
  • Publication history in respected scientific journals
  • Evidence of participation in a panel of experts
  • Evidence of contribution to the applicant’s field of expertise
  • Publication of articles in significant trade journals for the applicant’s profession
  • Evidence of employment within a recognized employer or organization
  • Evidence of suitably high remuneration for employment or services to be rendered

If these types of evidence are not appropriate to the individual’s expertise or sector, then “comparable evidence” may be submitted via the petitioner, who must argue why traditional forms of documentation are not available and why the alternative materials submitted are comparable.

For instance: A respected entrepreneur featured on the front of Forbes magazine is delivering a keynote speech at a humanitarian conference. She has waived her fee for this, so cannot submit evidence of remuneration. However, the prestige of the event, and her role in it, may constitute sufficient evidence.

Everything submitted as evidence must be documented or available to view online. Self-certification will not suffice.

Mandatory documentation for ALL applicants includes:

  • A “written advisory opinion” from a peer group member in the same industry to certify the expertise of the applicant within their field. A reference, in other words
  • A copy of the contract or offer letter from the potential employer or sponsor
  • A full itinerary of all known events and activities during the period of residence, including dates, locations, and the nature of each event (e.g., sports event, conference speech, research participation)
  • Details of the agent’s (petitioner’s) authority
  • Evidence of O-1A eligibility (as listed above)

💡 With Deel Immigration, preparing your evidence is easy. Deel’s legal team and attorneys will handle all the paperwork, facilitate consular visa stamping, and provide dedicated one-on-one support for you and any accompanying family members.

Benefits of the O-1A visa to employers

Employing an O-1A visa holder can significantly enhance a team or business by introducing unique skills and innovative perspectives. Such professionals often drive growth, increase competitiveness, and contribute to achieving critical organizational goals.

Furthermore, the O-1A application process is not too onerous compared to other types of immigration visas. This is because it ought to be comparatively easy for the USCIS to verify the significance of such standout individuals. By their very nature, eligible applicants are well-known in their field or sector.

Employers can sponsor up to three years of an applicant’s residence within the US, which can be renewed following a successful application. This makes this a convenient way to secure internationally notable individuals to participate in events or projects that may run for several years.

💡 Deel’s EOR visa sponsorship service provides a simple and accelerated solution to visa sponsorship. Businesses can hire and relocate employees and their dependents to the US without opening a local entity for a streamlined and hands-off visa procurement process.

What is the application process for an O-1A visa?

The process starts with a US employer or agent filing a Form I-129, including detailed evidence of the candidate’s qualifications and the nature of the job offered. Following approval, the applicant can proceed with the visa application at a US consulate or embassy in their home country, providing documentary evidence as requested.

The process in sequence is as follows:

  1. Applicant gathers initial evidence, as detailed above.
  2. US Agent or Employer files form I-129 and receives an I-797 Approval Notice, which is passed on to the applicant.
  3. Applicant Files form DS-160 and pays the visa application fees.
  4. Applicant schedules an appointment at the nearest US embassy or consulate.
  5. Gathering of documentary evidence.
  6. Applicant attends an interview at their US embassy or consulate (bringing documentation) to receive a stamp in their passport.

The documentation presented should include:

  • A passport valid for at least six months after your intended travel date
  • The DS-160 form confirmation of completion
  • Letter confirming date of appointment
  • A photo, compliant with US Department of State criteria
  • I-797 Approval Notice
  • Proof of DS-160 fee payment

Depending on your local consulate or embassy’s visa stamping timeline, it can take anywhere between 3 and 180 days to get your visa stamp, sometimes longer if there are significant backlogs or delays.

The good news is Deel Immigration can handle the visa process and fast-track your application. Should there be a backlog in visa stamping at your local consulate or embassy, Deel has a consular support service that specializes in helping applicants get faster visa stamping appointments so they can get to the US sooner.

"I worked with [Deel Immigration] to get my O1 visa and an EB-2 green card for my company, HireSweets. I’ve been blown away by the experience, the level of availability, and the level of transparency [...] I feel all the difference in responsiveness and help compared with the previous lawyers I worked with. It is incomparable. I would 100% recommend." —Robin Choy, Founder of HireSweet

How do you apply for an O-1A visa or visa extension?

An O-1A visa is initially valid for up to three years, with the possibility of extensions in one-year increments for ongoing projects or activities. This flexibility supports long-term contributions and achievements within the US.

To obtain an extension, an applicant must submit the following through their immigration agent or employer:

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • A copy of the arrival/departure record (Form I-94), which the applicant will receive upon arrival
  • A statement giving the reasoning behind the decision to extend the visa

This should be done at least six months prior to the visa expiry date to prevent any lapse of visa, which would require the applicant to leave the country.

See also: Easy Visa Renewal: 4 Steps for Enterprise Workforce

How can you improve O-1A visa application success?

Success in securing an O-1A visa is likelier with thorough documentation of the candidate’s achievements and a clear alignment of the job offer to their extraordinary qualifications. A good immigration agent will be able to advise on the likelihood of an applicant’s success based on eligibility criteria and the availability of relevant evidence.

Meticulous preparation and detailed documentation are crucial, and timing is everything. Applicants should always allow six months for the I-129 application process (initial application or extension of stay).

If you are an employer sponsoring overseas talent regularly, you may want to check out Deel’s immigration case tracker, which provides a clear overview of all of your workers’ active visa applications, so you remain informed.

See also: How Deel Is Reinventing the Immigration Journey

“I’ve never come across a team that moves so quickly, responds to questions in almost real-time and yet is so detail-oriented. After working with them, I wouldn’t consider working with anyone else for my immigration needs. They’re simply spectacular.” —Mohak Nahta, Founder and CEO, Atlys

Impact on Global Hiring

The O-1A visa is a valuable tool for accessing global talent, promoting diversity, and enhancing a company’s international competitiveness. It supports the hiring of distinguished professionals who can offer valuable insights and expertise. Employers benefit from being able to draw upon an international pool of talent.

The visa provides economic benefits for the United States while offering successful applicants a taste of what it might be like to live and work in the the US. For some, the O-1A visa is the first step to eventual US Citizenship.

See also: How to Get a US Work Visa for a Foreign Worker

Considerations for remote work

Even in remote work settings, the O-1A visa requires a bona fide relationship with a US employer who adheres to all applicable labor and immigration laws, ensuring that the employment terms are maintained irrespective of the work location.

Therefore, even if only a small portion of an applicant’s remunerated engagement takes place within the US, the O-1A visa is the appropriate residence status to apply for.

Employers must ensure compliance with wage and working condition requirements, maintain accurate employment records, and be prepared for USCIS inspections to avoid penalties or visa revocation.

This creates a liability that motivates employers to ensure their O-1A visa applicants are of a suitably high standard.

What is the relevance of the O-1A visa to various industries?

Industries like technology, biotechnology, academia, and sports, where specialized knowledge is crucial, find the O-1A visa particularly beneficial. It enables them to employ talented individuals to drive innovation and elevate their market position.

The process is comparatively straightforward, with a high probability of success for eligible candidates, which allows companies to take advantage of hiring opportunities at relatively short notice.

How do you gauge success in O-1A application?

An O-1A visa holder’s impact is often measured by their contributions to significant projects, innovations they may have introduced, and enhancements to the organization’s standing within its sector.

Here are some statistics that may encourage: 80% to 90% of 0-1A visas are granted annually, with 31,750 granted in 2023 alone.

However, to ensure you have the best chance of success, we recommend partnering with an experienced and specialist immigration team like Deel Immigration.

“Securing the O-1 visa had a profound impact, offering peace of mind. It freed up mental space and time, allowing me to focus more on my business.” - Quinn Litherland, Founder & CEO at Authentic

Fast-track your US visa with Deel Immigration

Deel Immigration is transforming the immigration process, offering candidates a premier experience that blends cutting-edge technology with human touch, ensuring a transparent and smooth immigration journey.

Deel’s user-friendly platform offers self-serve functionality, an application status timeline, real-time status updates, access to a dedicated case manager, and exclusive relocation services, keeping you well-informed and supported at every turn.

Connect with the Deel immigration team today to expedite your visa process and kickstart your US adventure.

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