Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States based on their extraordinary ability in the arts will need to prove to the Government that they have risen to a level of distinction in their field of ability. The standard is a high one and being good at what you do is often not enough. Instead, the Government looks for external evidence to support that you are Extraordinary. For an overview of the O-1 visa, please click here. For an overview of the green card for aliens of extraordinary ability, please click here.
The U.S. government requires the person applying for an O-1 visa to provide either 1) evidence that he or she has received or been nominated for a significant national or international award in the field, such as an Academy Award, or Emmy; or 2) evidence in at least three of the following:
- Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
- Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
- Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
- A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
- Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
- A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence
- If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation in the arts, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility (this exception does not apply to the motion picture or television industry).
For the remainder of this post, we will examine what a case fulfilling 3 of the criteria above might look like for a Fashion Designer.
Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
A fashion designer working for a major fashion house may have his designs featured in major fashion publications such as Vogue, WWD, InStyle, etc. If the article does not mention the beneficiary by name, the pieces the beneficiary has designed may be highlighted and corroborated by the label.
Not all publications will benefit the applicant; the publications must be reputable and distinguished. To this end, the fashion designer must prove that the publications are well-known, reputable, and/or have a wide circulation, by providing documentation related to the publications’ significance from trade journals, other publications, subscription/circulation data and/or attestations from prominent people in the field. Data affirming the significance of a publication must be submitted even for well-known publications such as Vogue or The New York Times.
This category is usually not satisfied with just one publication – the more the better. Often, the expert opinion letters that are obtained for the O-1 will discuss these publications, and in some cases even mention how the writers became aware of the applicant’s work from these publications.
Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
At least 4-6 testimonial letters written by present or former employers or recognized experts in the fashion designer’s field of extraordinary ability should be submitted. These letters must certify to and specifically describe the applicant’s recognition and extraordinary ability or achievements in factual terms. They must also set forth the expertise of the writer, and how he has come to know your work.
Unlike traditional letters of recommendation, testimonial letters for O-1 purposes must be detailed and specific about your specific accomplishments and your role in them. These letters form one of the most important components of any O-1 petition, and you should work closely with an immigration attorney to develop detailed letters that satisfy the legal standard.
A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence
A fashion designer who is earning a high salary in relation to the majority of other designers in the field should provide proof of his salary (e.g., paystubs or tax returns), as well as industry data from sources such as the Department of Labor and reputable sources online to show that his salary is at the highest end of the range. This category is one of the more objective and may usually be satisfied with objective data. The government does not have a set dollar value or percentage related to how much higher the salary should be than the industry average, but the higher the better.
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