O-1 Visa Requirements
Scientist or Doctors or may be eligible for O-1 classification if they demonstrate extraordinary ability in the field of science. O-1 visas are granted for up to three years initially, and may be extended in single-year increments if the same work continues.
To be eligible for this classification, the physician must be able to show that he or she is a person of extraordinary ability in the field of science that has been demonstrated by sustained national and international acclaim. The immigration regulations define “extraordinary ability” in the field of science as a “level of expertise that the person is one of the small percentage who has arisen to the very top” of the field. Such stature can be demonstrated with evidence that the scientist or doctor has received a major award for excellence in the field, such as the Nobel Prize, or at least three of the following:
- Receipt of a national or international prize for excellence in the field of science
- Membership in associations that require outstanding achievement of members, as judged by recognized experts
- Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the physician
- The scientist or doctor’s original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance
- The scientist or doctor’s authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media
- The doctor or scientist has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
- Participation on a panel or as an individual to judge the work of others in the same or allied field of specialization
- The scientist or doctor’s receipt of a high salary as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
Filing of an O-1 Petition
The physician’s prospective employer must submit the O-1 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition to documentation supporting the physician’s eligibility for O-1 classification, the petition must include:
- Copies of any written contracts between the employer and scientist or doctor. If there is no contract, a summary of the terms of employment must be submitted.
- An explanation of the nature of the work to be performed.
- Written advisory opinion from the appropriate consulting entity.
A consultation letter must be prepared by the appropriate U.S. peer group, which could include a person or persons with expertise in the field. A favorable advisory opinion should describe the scientist or doctor’s ability and achievements in the field of science, the nature of the duties the scientist or doctor will perform and whether the position in question requires the services of an alien of extraordinary ability. Although not binding on the USCIS, these advisory opinion letters must be included in all O-1 petitions.
Advantages of the O-1 Visa
If scientists or doctors meet the high extraordinary ability requirements, the O-1 visa has advantages to the J-1 visa and H-1B visa.
- If the scientist or doctor applies from abroad he or she will not be subject to the two-year home residency requirement. Thus, scientists and doctors in the U.S. on a J-1 visa may file for an O-1 visa at the US Embassy and re-enter the United States without obtaining a waiver.
- Unlike the H-1B visa there is no prevailing wage requirement.
- The O-1 visa is not subject to a cap. With only 65,000 H-1B visas available per fiscal year, the O-1 visa is an attractive option to scientists and doctors who are interested in pursuing employment in private practice.
- Because extensions of O-1 status may be granted in one-year increments without limitation, the scientist or doctor need not worry about a 6-year limit as with H-1B visas.
- As the requirements for O-1 status parallels those of the first preference employment based immigrant classification, this category may become a viable option for those scientist and doctors who obtain O-1 classification. Given the retrogression of other employment based categories, the possibility of obtaining the first preference category can be appealing.
O-1 Visa FAQs
Is an O-1 visa employer specific?
Answer: Yes. If a physician would like to change employers, he or she must obtain a new sponsor.
What are the requirements for an O-1 visa?
Answer: Physicians are able to apply for O1 status if they show “extraordinary ability” in the field of science. This is a high standard, as the physician will need to have a level of expertise held by a small percentage of those “who have arisen to the very top.” This standard can be met by showing that the physician has sustained national and international acclaim.
If you wish to learn more about the requirements for O-1 classification or other employment based nonimmigrant visa options, please contact our office to schedule a consultation at 415-986-6186.