Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

O1 Visas – Extraordinary Ability in Sports

Extraordinary Ability in Sports

In this guide, I’ve tried to outline the requirements that need to be satisfied in order to qualify as a person of Extraordinary Ability. If you discover after having read this guide that you may fit this definition then get ready for the red carpet treatment courtesy of US immigration.

There are a group of people that US immigration feels are so talented in their field that they can be considered ‘extraordinary’ and as such can qualify for one of two privileges not offered to anyone else. The first is the O-1 visa which provides for temporary stays in the US, and the EB1 visa which is a direct-to-green card route that provides permanent residency within months of application.

When considering this qualification you must put all inhibitions of modesty aside and consider yourself in the most favorable light possible in relation to your peers. With this classification, modest will get you literally no where. In contrast, boasting about every last professional achievement could be enough to tip the scales in your favor for this visa. Welcome to America.

Extraordinary vs. Exceptional / Talented:
It’s very easy to think that the words ‘extraordinary’ and ‘exceptional’ are easily interchangeable. However, for US immigration purposes, each of these words has distinct meanings.
Exceptional Ability:

In essence this refers to people who have advanced skills, persons who have advanced degrees such as a Masters degree, law degree, and/or a doctorate. These are people who are deemed to have acquired exceptional abilities. Persons of exceptional ability qualify for the lesser EB-2 visa which is discussed in another guide.
Extraordinary Ability:
The legal term ‘extraordinary ability’ seeks to identify those persons who have reached the very top of their professions as compared to their peers.

Extraordinary ability in sports could mean someone who has had several hit records, or is highly regarded in their field as someone who is at the top of their profession due to critical acclaim. Competing at the national and/or international level as a professional or amateur would be sufficient. There are many sports that are amateur such as the Olympics.

To determine if a person is indeed at the top of their sport is quite difficult as there is no magic marker that separates a person either way. For example, a coach might be a person of extraordinary ability because he has been chosen to coach the national side or individual representative. An individual may compete in a sport that is perhaps less well-known than other sport, such as archery vs. the 100 meter dash. Ultimately each case much be considered on its individual merits and a case must be argued and made on the applicants behalf.

There will of course be those who would seem to automatically be obvious candidates for extraordinary ability, for example a person who has placed well in a world-class or international event e.g., Olympics, pan-American, European, Commonwealth, African or other continental or inter-continental sporting event. Having said that, placing well in a national competition could be sufficient, although perhaps not instantly decisive unless the person placed in the top 3 for their country. Remember, there is no hard and fast rule.

Should You Apply for the O-1, EB1 or Both:
If you are coming to train for a limited period and that training is the full extent of your reason to coming to the US then the temporary O-1 visa would sufficient. You would need a sponsoring organization to actually make the application on your behalf claiming your status as being someone of ‘extraordinary ability’.

If you are looking to seek work in your field of ‘extraordinary ability’ then you can sponsor yourself.

In both cases your attorney will need to catalogue your cumulative extraordinary achievements in order to make a convincing case that you are indeed worthy of such an honor. In this endeavor, unless you have actually won a major award, no stone must be left unturned, no reference must be left unsolicited, and no achievement must be left unmentioned in order to build your case. After all, what is the point of almost getting your visa application approved? Being deemed by US Immigration as having O-1 / EB1 status is very subjective, so every effort must be made to make an overwhelming case, leaving no room whatsoever for doubt in the mind of the official deciding your case.

How Long Can The O-1 Last For?
The O-1 generally lasts for the duration of the US engagement. However, typically, it is initially issued for three years and can be extended indefinitely at annual intervals forever, as long as the visa holder continues to remain occupied in the field creating the O-1 status.

Can the O-1 Be Upgraded To Green Card Status?
In most cases the O-1 visa holder can apply for EB1- priority worker status, which is a green card based on extraordinary ability at any time.

Rights of Spouse and Children of O-1 Visa Holders
The spouse and children of O-1 holders will be given O-3 status. This can be quite a limiting status because the spouse and the children will not be granted work permits to work in their own right. Therefore, in order for the spouse and children to obtain employment they must qualify for a work visa in their own right, which can be difficult. This having been said, because they will be able to remain in the US for as long as the principal remains in O-1 status, they can look for employment opportunities and apply for the appropriate visa. Your immigration attorney will need to consider the case of each family member to see if they have sufficient qualifications themselves to qualify for a work visa.

A general rule of thumb should be that, unless the family member has a bachelor’s degree or is a bona fide skilled worker, they may have to consider attending college until such time as the O-1 achieves green card status or the individual family member acquires sufficient education or skills to strike out on their own.

By following the various check lists above you will be able to assist your attorney immensely in this application.

I hope you have found this overview informative and helpful. However, if you have any further questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me personally.
Chris M. Ingram, LL.M., ESQ
Attorney At Law