The O-1*is a good visa option for individuals with extraordinary abilities in
the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or with a
demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture
or television industry who want to come to the U.S. to continue working
in the areas of extraordinary abilities.* Our office handles a lot of
extraordinary ability petitions for scientists in a variety of fields.
This article was prepared by attorney Ekaterina Powell from our office.
Dr. Y, a citizen of Ethiopia, came to the U.S. on a J-1 visa as a
Research Scholar. For years, she has been engaged in extensive
scientific research and has acquired recognition for her achievements in
the field of probiotics. With her J-1 status expiring in the coming
weeks, Dr. Y received a job offer from an established biotech company
specializing in the development and commercialization of probiotic
dietary supplements. In the proposed research position within the
organization, Dr. Y could continue her innovative research for the
development of probiotic supplements as an alternative treatment for
kidney failure, as immune system optimization, and for prevention of
Dr. Y came to our office inquiring about her options to stay in the
U.S. and work for the biotech company. With no more H-1B visas
available, the best option for Dr. Y was applying for an O-1 visa. With
only a few weeks left to prepare the O-1 petition, Dr. Y was very
worried at first that there was not enough time to get everything ready.
We assured Dr. Y that with her cooperation in gathering the documents,
we would do whatever it takes to prepare a strong case and file it
within the deadline, and we were successful in doing so.
Dr. Y’s background and research experience supported application for
O-1. Dr. Y has made several important contributions to the field of
probiotic research that have been recognized and relied upon by some of
the most highly esteemed experts in the field of probiotic research. Dr.
Y’s articles have been published in internationally recognized
peer-reviewed scientific journals and have been widely cited worldwide.
Dr. Y has presented her work at major scientific conferences, has served
as a peer reviewer for manuscripts accepted for publication, and has
received many honors and awards.
The biggest challenge in this case was of course the tight deadline
for its filing, but with the cooperation of Dr. Y and her ability to
gather all the required documents, we were able to put together a very
strong O-1 case within only a few weeks.
As we see in our practice, typical challenges of an O-1 case for a scientist are summarized below.
CLEAR AND CONCISE WAY OF PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE
The key in each O-1 case is careful preparation and presentation of evidence.
The first thing that we did in Dr. Y’s case, as in any other O-1 case
for a scientist, was obtaining the background summary of the scientific
research of the individual. When clients provide us with an overview and
explanation of their work, we are able to better assist them in
collecting the necessary evidence and present the case in a clear and
As we see in our practice, the biggest challenge for scientists is
explaining what they do in layman non-technical terms. Scientists are
used to writing articles and presenting at conferences where their
audience is other researchers in the field who understand the scientific
terminology used. However, neither the USCIS officers who adjudicate
cases nor the law office’s staff is expected to be experts in all fields
of genetics, nuclear physics, neuroscience, biophysics, mathematics,
computer science, atmospheric chemistry, etc.
Since the case is presented to immigration officers who are not
familiar with the terminology, it is critical for a successful O-1 case
to present the evidence in a way that any lay person would understand.
Similarly, for us to be able to help our clients prepare the strong
case that is easy to go through, we need to have a clear understanding
of their research, accomplishments, and the impact they’ve had on the
field of their work.
Thus, we always ask our clients at the outset of each O-1 case to
provide us a summary of their accomplishments in plain language avoiding
overly complex technical or scientific terminology whenever possible.
Often times, clients come to us after a previous O-1 denial or with a
request for evidence from the immigration. When we start reviewing the
scientist’s CV and the denial decision/request for evidence (RFE), it
becomes clear that the scientist is qualified for O-1 visa but
presentation of evidence in the case was poor, the cover letter
submitted in the case did not explain in clear and concise language how
the eligibility criteria were met, and these were the reasons why the
immigration officer was not able to arrive at the positive
determination. It is unfortunate as a lot of precious time is lost and
many scientists become discouraged in trying to continue their work in
the U.S. As a result, the U.S. is losing a lot of talent as the most
brilliant minds are leaving our country to continue their careers
elsewhere where their work is appreciated and encouraged.
DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE OF SCIENTIST’S EXTRAORDINARY ABILITIES
Mere assertions of recognition in the field will not lead to O-1
approval. Each O-1 case has to be supplemented with documentary evidence
showing the individual’s extraordinary abilities in the field of
Typical forms of evidence for O-1 visa petition include:
recommendation letters from experts in the field; an advisory opinion
from a peer group in the field of scientist’s endeavor; supporting
letter from employer describing the scientist’s job duties,
qualifications etc.; evidence of honors and awards; evidence of
memberships in professional scientific organizations; evidence of being a
referee for work of others; contributions to the field research; record
of publications and citations; conference presentations; media reports
highlighting the scientist’s achievements, evidence of high remuneration
for professional services and receipt of grants to carry on research,
O-1 CONSULTATION REQUIREMENT
In O-1 petition context, a written advisory opinion from a peer
group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the
group with expertise in the beneficiary’s area of ability is required.
However, as we see in many cases for scientists, often times there
is no recognized peer group or labor organization in the field of their
In absence of such group or organization, the regulations (8 CFR
section 214.2(o)(5)(ii)) provide that an expert opinion from a person or
persons with expertise in the area of the alien’s ability may* be
provided to satisfy the consultation requirement.
This expert opinion from “a person or persons with expertise in the
field” is very much like the reference letters/recommendation letters
from experts in the field of the alien’s extraordinary ability. In fact,
one of the reference letters can satisfy the consultation requirement,
as long as it addresses the nature of the work to be done and the
alien’s qualifications. In addition, such letter should describe the
material reviewed, and how the conclusions were reached by the affiant.
Affidavits written by recognized experts should specifically describe
the beneficiary’s recognition and extraordinary abilities and
achievements in factual terms and should set forth the expertise of the
affiant and the manner in which the affiant acquired such information.
The letters merely asserting “major significance of beneficiary’s
contributions” without more will not be given much weight. Reference
letters should be written in factual terms describing specific
beneficiary’s contributions. When such a letter is written by an
individual with the expertise to explain the work in comprehensible
language and with the credibility to opine on its importance, it
facilitates a positive adjudication of the case.
It is important to note that letters from current/former employers,
co-workers, supervisors can be submitted.* However, their opinions may
be considered biased and may be given less weight than the opinions
coming from independent/objective sources.
It is very important in an O-1 case to obtain reference letters from
experts in the beneficiary’s field who can be considered unbiased and
who know the beneficiary through his/her reputation in the field,
professional accomplishments, and scientific advancements.
SUCCESS OF DR. Y’S CASE
In Dr. Y’s case as described above, we explained how Dr. Y meets the eligibility requirements for O-1 status in factual terms.
In order to emphasize the impact of Dr. Y’s work in the field of
probiotic research, we explained the positive effects of certain
probioitic strains she has identified, the mechanisms of their
operation, diseases they help to prevent and treat, including
gastrointestinal infections, hospital-acquired infections that are not
treated by antibiotics, and frequent infections common to newborn
babies, and percentage of population these diseases affect.
In support of O-1 petition for Dr. Y, we submitted extensive
documentation* substantiating Dr. Y’s extraordinary abilities in the
field of probiotic research, including evidence of nationally and
internationally recognized awards of excellence and certificates of
achievement, evidence of membership in internationally recognized
professional associations, newspaper articles featuring Dr. Y’s
scientific contributions,* Expert Opinion Letters from individuals with
recognition in the field of probiotic research, Dr. Y’s* publications in
professional scientific journals along with citation record, Dr. Y’s
conference presentations, and evidence that Dr. Y has served as a peer
The case was processed at the California Service Center and was approved in 9 days without any requests for additional evidence!
Dr. Y has already started working for the biotech company carrying on
her important research developing therapeutics that will continue
benefitting the community in the years to come.
The client was so pleased with the results of our hard work and has
already started preparation of her employment-based green card
application with a National Interest Waiver case with our office.
Jacob J. Sapochnick is the managing attorney of The Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick and is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; he has been invited to lecture on immigration law topics at various conferences in the United States and abroad. He has also published several articles on issues related to the field. Mr. Sapochnick, Esq. provides immigration law support to US Immigration clients worldwide. This includes assisting individuals and companies applying for Visas to work and live in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mr. Sapochnick graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, School of Law with a Bachelor of Law (Hons.) Degree. He also attended California Western School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained his LL.M (Masters) degree in international and comparative law. Thereafter, he pursued his career, focusing on US business immigration law. Mr. Sapochnick assists foreign workers to live and work in the United States by understanding their situation, goals and objectives he obtains the appropriate work and investment visas. His clients range from multi-national companies to mid-sized and small companies, as well as individuals undergoing the U.S. immigration process.