High-Flying Success: Pilot Obtains O-1A Visa Amidst Uncertain Times

One of the most amazing parts of our practice is having the opportunity to collaborate with remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds and nationalities. We helped our client, a pilot from South Africa, navigate the path to obtain an O-1A visa, all during the challenges and uncertainty of the global pandemic. Learn exactly how our team went above and beyond to secure an approval! 


The O-1A visa is a type of non-immigrant visa that is designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics. It is also sometimes referred to as the “genius visa” or the “Einstein visa”. To qualify for an O-1A visa, an applicant must provide evidence of their extraordinary ability through national or international acclaim in their field. This can be demonstrated through awards, publications, membership in professional organizations, and other similar achievements. The O-1A visa allows the holder to work for a specific employer in the United States for up to three years, with the possibility of extensions, and can also lead to permanent residency.

The Case

A client of ours was a private pilot in South Africa seeking an O-1A visa during the pandemic uncertainty. Typically with these visas, you need to demonstrate an extraordinary ability in the industry you are applying from. There is a very small pool of individuals who used our client for his services. He had previously tried filing with another firm and got denied. Our team was able to build a case around our client’s expertise in aviation, and relevant training in topics related to aviation, management, and quality assurance. Our client was well-rounded and had extensive training from one of the largest private jet operators in the world and was certified in ATPL.

An applicant for an ATPL must complete a theoretical knowledge examination and no fewer than 1,500

pilot success story

 hours of flight time. This flight time requirement exceeds those of other less-rigorous pilot license types, such as a private pilot license, which requires 45 hours of flight time, and a commercial pilot license, which requires 200 hours of flight time. In each case, the fact that these ATPLs were issued by their respective nations’ aviation associations, which are government-administered licensing boards, indicates that they are judged by “national or international experts” in aviation.

We were able to prove that our client satisfied at least four of the regulatory criteria set forth at 8 C.F.R. 214.2(o)(3)(iii);

1. He had documented membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields. 

2. He had been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation. 

3. He commanded either a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence. 

4. He served as a judge or evaluator of the work of others in the field of aviation, and in his capacity as Quality Assurance manager. This was core to his duties in ensuring legal compliance throughout all levels within his organization. 

o1a timeline

The Verdict

RFEs are usually sent out for these O-1A visas; our client didn’t receive one. We were able to file everything under premium processing within a week, and his O-1A was approved in February 2022!

Another VisaNation Law Group Success Story

We’re thrilled we could help our client navigate his case during such uncertain times. Whether you’re a pilot, entrepreneur, investor, academic, or wanting to relocate your family to the United States, it’s all about gathering the right kinds of evidence and presenting your case in the proper light!

Let VisaNation Law Group’s lawyers handle the difficult tasks so that you can focus on your work in the U.S. Schedule a consultation with a VisaNation Law Group attorney today.