Exploring the O-1 Visa as an Alternative to the H-1B
February 6, 2020
As H-1B season approaches, employers and potential foreign employees may be finding it difficult to maintain a positive outlook. For those of you who attended today’s USCIS webinar on the H-1B online registration process, it’s obvious the USCIS is still working through many uncertainties surrounding the new H-1B registration process. When you factor in the rising incidences of denials by USCIS and issuing requests for evidence (RFE), it’s no wonder employers are exploring other non-immigrant visa options.
While the preparation for the H-1B petition is relatively straightforward, USCIS statistics show that H-1B RFEs and denials have increased significantly over the past several years. The denial rate for new H-1B petitions has jumped from 6% in FY 2015 to a whopping 32% in FY 2019 (through the second quarter). Between FY 2010 and FY 2015, you’ll observe that H-1B denials rates never exceeded 8%. Today, the rate has quadrupled to 32%.
Given the current landscape, it’s worthwhile for employers to explore alternative work options for their employees. The O-1 visa offers advantages for work authorization that are worth considering.
The O-1A Visa
The O-1 visa is an employment-based temporary work visa reserved for individuals who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, business, athletics, or arts. Employers may submit the O-1 petition any time during the year to ask for an initial three years of work authorization. The best part is there is no annual O-1 quota or O-1 “lottery” to deal with.
One of the challenges though, is proving an employee’s qualifications for an O-1 visa. Employees must be able to demonstrate they have “risen to the top of the field” through various categories such as having:
- Received top honors or awards for their work;
- Been a member in prestigious organizations;
- Served as a peer judge or reviewer;
- Authored articles in their area of expertise;
- Publications about themselves or their work;
- Been employed in a critical role for distinguished organizations; and,
- Received high remuneration.
While the list may appear intimidating, many employees in specialized fields, especially those who have a masters degree or higher, have already published their work in the industry, have co-authored patents, and have made significant original contributions in their field which can qualify them for the O-1 visa.
One advantage of the O-1 visa that is often overlooked by employers, is how much of a competitive edge the O-1 visa offers. While there is indeed more effort that goes into preparing a strong and approvable O-1 petition, the benefits are much higher to the company in the long term. Employers who pursue an O-1 visa for their employees benefit from recruiting “aliens of extraordinary ability.” They signal to candidates that the company is open-minded, can think outside-the-box, and willing to explore opportunities that will help the company grow. It may also signal the possibility the company would apply that same logic for greencard options as well. Companies who can distinguish themselves from competitors by exploring immigration options for candidates will probably fare better when it comes to recruiting that highly sought-after candidate.
Therefore, it is well worth the effort to explore all options with an experienced immigration attorney, particularly a team with years of experience assessing and drafting O-1 visa petitions. Contact Accel Visa Attorneys to learn which visa best suits your needs.