Being Extraordinary in Your Field May Qualify You To Work in The U.S.

Q & A With Immigration Attorney Lynn E. Schwartz

By Fabrice Tasendo

Following the success of our last Q & A piece on same-sex couples, marriage and how to get your green card, I sat down once again with immigration attorney Lynn E. Schwartz of Lemery Greisler LLC, to talk about a lesser known way to legally get working in the U.S.

I was very impressed by comment, shares, likes and re-tweets from our last piece, and I have to say aside from the questions about specifics, the one comment I got the most was ‘that’s a lot of pressure to put on a potential life partner.  Is there any other way to legally work and stay in the U.S.?’
So once more I turned to Lynn, and started asking away.  As it turns out, there are other ways a person might come to live and work in the U.S., some of which are not as well-known as others, and today we focused on one of them.



Q:  Lynn, it’s great to see you again! In our last conversation you mentioned another way for LGBT foreigners (and our straight allies) to legally work in the U.S., if they were, as you said “extraordinary.” What did you mean?

A:  Certain non-US citizens, like artists, scientists, business people, producers, athletes, people working in the motion picture and television industry, and others may be able to temporarily live and work in the U.S. by showing they are “extraordinary.”  While many don’t know it, there is a visa for that:  the O-1 visa for individuals who can document that they have extraordinary ability or achievement in their particular field.  With an O-1 visa, you may qualify to work and live in the U.S. for up to three years.  In certain instances, you can extend the visa and remain beyond three years.  And for some interested, qualified candidates, you can eventually gain permanent residence.

Q:  When you say extraordinary, do you mean like “you've won a Golden Globe or an Academy Award” extraordinary?

A: Absolutely, but not necessarily. You can also be a DJ, a designer, a make-up artist, or any number of other things, as long as you can prove you are a standout in your industry or field.



Q: I see, so how do you know if you are extraordinary or a standout?
Under the law, there are definitive criteria you need to meet, essentially a list of the types of evidence that qualify as proof.   Generally speaking, though, examples include things like having won a major industry award, gotten other  recognized accolades in your field of work, having been well-published or written about in industry journals or publications, even the fact that you will receive an unusually high salary for a job in the applicable field. Keep in mind that being extraordinary by itself is not enough to get you a visa.  Some of the other things you need to do/show are that you have a job offer, provide an “itinerary” of what you will be working on, shows performed, events worked, etc., and detail why or how your talent or special ability makes you the person needed to get the job done.

This is obviously a very simplified summary; again, there are many components of a viable O-1 petition, but these are the most basic premises.


Q: So if you’re a university professor and you’re well known internationally you could get an O Visa?

A: Yes, or a business entrepreneur like yourself, or an artist, or even a graphic designer who has been expressly identified as critical to the winning of an industry award. You need to be among the best at whatever it is that you do.




Q: And this is something you do frequently?

A: Our law firm has secured these temporary O-1 visas for television producers, physicians, entertainers, graphic artists, journalists and numerous extraordinary others.  You develop your talent, and we develop your paperwork.  By documenting what sets you apart from others, we demonstrate that YOU are expressly and specifically needed to produce a documentary, to perform at certain venues, to achieve certain business goals or fulfill the terms of a contract or do a myriad number of other things which require that special someone. So yes, if you are truly extraordinary, there is a visa for that.

[Pause] I can see you’re thinking really hard.


Q: I am. This is nothing short of amazing! I remember having a programmer working for us that was on an O visa (that programmer also happened to be gay) and I’m glad I get to find out after all this time what an O visa was!

A: So obviously he or she was at the top of the field?


Q: Absolutely!




As we did before, comment / share / email me if you have any follow-up questions or better yet check out Lemery Greisler’s site or call Lynn’s office at 518.581.8800. She’s also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LSchwartzLG with regular news about the ever changing landscape of U.S. immigration, and you can follow her at Twitter @LESLG12866.



Also make sure to read our previous piece about getting a green card on your way to happy ever after (above)


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