Only U.S. citizens are allowed to live and work in the United States. U.S. citizenship can be acquired by birth in one of the 50 States (or U.S. territories), or by birth abroad from one or both U.S. citizen parents.
Those that are not U.S. citizens are allowed to enter the country if they have a Visa. There are two main categories of Visas: immigrant Visas and non-immigrant Visas.
The O visa is set aside for aliens of “Extraordinary Ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletes, certain aliens accompanying or assisting those aliens, and their family members.
The fundamental requirement for an O visa is to have reached the top of the profession or endeavor for which the alien seeks admittance into the U.S.
The beneficiary of an O visa may remain in the U.S. until the event, project, or activity for which the alien is admitted is completed.
The initial period of stay can be sought for three years and thereafter one year increments may be sought to complete the activity, event or project.
Applicants need not be on the level of Albert Einstein or a Nobel prize winner, but the ability must be corroborated by a degree of international recognition for achievement in a given field.
High level software developers and other technology development leaders would most likely be eligible for this visa.
The O-1 Visa is for aliens of extraordinary ability that are coming temporarily to the United States to work in their field of specialization for a sponsoring U.S. employer. The O-1 is one of the most sought Visa categories, because:
It is not subject to annual quotas
It can be used by J-1 Visa holders that are subject to the 2-yesr rule
No minimum salary is required by law
There is a low filing fee to be paid to USCIS
The processing time is much quicker than any other Visa
On the other hand, it is not easy to qualify for an O-1 Visa. First, the job must fit into one of the O-1 Visa categories, which are the arts, education, athletics, science, and business. Second, the foreign worker must have acquired national or international recognition in his or her field. There are several criteria provided by USCIS to prove national or international acclaim, and at least 3 must be satisfied.
These criteria include:
Receipt of a nationally or internationally-recognized award
Judging the work of others
Substantial recognition by peers
Membership in associations of distinguished reputation
Employment in a leading or essential capacity
Receipt of a high salary
Original contributions of major significance in the field
Other comparable evidence
Al Also, a peer consultation letter must be included in the petition. If the O-1 Visa is approved by USCIS, the foreign worker can go to a U.S. Consulate and apply for a Visa stamp. Once arrived in the United States, he or she will have to apply for a Social Security Number.
The O-1 Visa is granted for a period of 3 years. It can be extended for periods of 1 year at a time. It is a dual intent Visa, meaning that an application for permanent residency (Green Card) can be filed while the alien is in the U.S. on O-1 Visa status.
Generally, O-1 Visa holders can apply for the EB1 Green Card for extraordinary ability. This Visa is the best possible, and it allows self-sponsorship.
However, it is worth to note that the EB-1 petitions require much more evidence than O-1 Visa petitions, and that only the best immigration lawyers have sufficient experience with these kinds of Visas. It is estimated that USCIS rejects approximately 50% of the EB-1 petition received.