The O-1 visa permits individuals who excel in the fields of arts, sciences, sports, education, business, motion pictures, or television to enter the United States for a period of up to three years. Startup founders and entrepreneurs who get an approved O-1 visa can identify venture capitalists and pitch their ideas to garner support for their companies.

Extensions are possible to get for an O-1 visa (if an individual with extraordinary ability must remain in the U.S. beyond three years). One of the benefits of obtaining an O-1 visa is that indispensable assistants of individuals with exceptional ability may be eligible for an O-2 visa, which allows them to enter the United States for work purposes. VisaNation attorneys have vast experience in securing approvals for O-1 and O-2 visas. Consider seeking the advice of an O-1 visa attorney if your company needs to bring someone with exceptional talent to the United States for employment by scheduling a consultation. Our lawyers help to bring numerous O-1 startup immigrants to the U.S. every year. We make the entire process seamless and quick, schedule a consultation.

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Requirements for Start-up Founders & Entrepreneurs

There are several requirements that must be fulfilled, which are listed below:

Received Sustained Acclaim 

One main qualification to be eligible for the O-1 visa is that the applicant must demonstrate that they have received sustained acclaim (nationally or internationally) and are seeking entry into the United States to work in the same field for which the acclaim was achieved. As a startup founder, that could look like having received a grant from a government agency for a proposed undertaking or if you competed in an event/competition and you were a finalist. These are just a few examples of what could qualify as sustained acclaim as an entrepreneur or startup founder. Moreover, if you have already received a financial investment from a venture capitalist for your company then this can be used as evidence in your case. Immigration law doesn’t require that a specific amount of financial backing be shown but it should be substantial enough to bolster your case and show you are excelling in your field.

Do family members in your startup company qualify? 

Unfortunately, angel investors and family members of your startup company are not eligible. Any capital that is raised by a startup founder or entrepreneur must be authorized and you should have evidence of the venture capitalist fund. If you raised capital for a previous project, this can also be used in your case to show that you qualify.

o1 visa startup founders

Tip: Don’t meet the award requirement? Consider applying to a business accelerator. Many investors keep a close eye on these incubators to invest in rising startups.

Play a Lead Role in the Organization 

Another qualification is being able to demonstrate that you play or critical role in the organization and have a distinguished reputation. You can use letters from individuals who work in the organization or from past employers to prove your leading role in the organization.

Show any Press Coverage or Published Works

Any coverage from media, published materials, or documentation that demonstrate this can be included in your case as well. This can be national or international in scope. Things like interviews on media channels, articles about your endeavor or any published works are great to highlight.

Being a Judge for Other’s Work 

If you were selected to be on a panel as a judge for other’s work in a related field this is important to accentuate as well. This demonstrates that you are recognized as having expertise in your field.

Membership in Associations

Have you served as a member of any professional organizations or clubs? This can help your case and you can use it to fulfill one of the requirements for the O-1 visa.

High Salary

Showing that you have commanded a high salary for your services or from past clients. Using salary statistics specific to your position and geographic location can serve as evidence that your salary falls within the top range for your area. This may involve referring to government databases that provide salary information or using wage statistics.

Authoring Scholarly Articles in Professional Journals or Media

Did you write anything that was featured in a research publication or peer-reviewed journal? This can be used to fulfill the criterion.

Other Original Business-Related Contributions 

If you have any type of intellectual property, patents, trademarks or documents that would fit in this category, let your immigration attorney know.

Keep in mind that to be approved for the O-1, you only need to fulfill three criteria in total from the aforementioned list.

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O-1 Visa Process for Entrepreneurs

In order to obtain an O-1 visa, the employer needs to submit Form I-129.

Furthermore, an itinerary must be submitted which explains the nature of the events in which the visa beneficiary will participate, along with their start and end dates. Once all the required information and documents have been submitted by the O-1 visa lawyers, USCIS will review the application and make a decision. It is crucial to submit everything at least 45 days before seeking entry into the United States due to the processing time for O-1 visas. You should allocate 3-4 months or more for the O-1 visa processing time. The exact processing time is largely dependent on the service center handling your case.

To ensure that all documents and evidence are submitted correctly and within the specified deadlines, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a qualified O-1 visa attorney.

Can a Start-up Sponsor an O-1 Visa?

Yes! A startup can sponsor an O-1 visa. As long as the startup is able to meet the requirements for sponsoring an O-1 visa, such as providing evidence of the beneficiary’s extraordinary ability in their field, the startup can act as the visa sponsor. The startup would need to file the necessary forms and provide supporting documentation to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).o1 visa for startup founders

How to Choose An Immigration Attorney As a Start-up Founder

There are a number of important factors to keep in mind when selecting an immigration attorney to help you obtain an O-1 visa.

  • Experience with similar cases: When looking for an immigration attorney to help you obtain an O-1 visa, it’s important to choose someone with experience handling similar cases. This means that the attorney should be well-versed in the specific requirements and nuances of the O-1 visa application process. They should have a track record of success in securing visas for clients who are also startup founders and entrepreneurs.
  • Open and effective communication: Good communication is key when working with an immigration attorney. You need an attorney who is responsive and accessible, and who is willing to take the time to answer your questions and address your concerns. Look for an attorney who is open and transparent in their communication style, and who is able to explain complex legal concepts in a way that you can understand.
  • Upstanding reputation: When selecting an immigration attorney, it’s important to choose someone with a reputation for integrity and professionalism. Look for an attorney who is respected in the legal community, and who has positive reviews from past clients. You can check online reviews or ask for referrals from other professionals in your field.
  • Transparent fees: Finally, it’s important to choose an immigration attorney who is upfront about their fees and billing practices. Look for an attorney who provides clear and transparent pricing information. Avoid attorneys who make vague promises about the cost of their services, or who add unexpected fees and charges to your bill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about this topic.

Who qualifies for an O-1 visa?

The O-1 visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. This can include individuals who have won major awards or prizes in their field, have been published in professional or major trade publications, have been a judge of the work of others, have made original contributions to their field, or have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations with distinguished reputations.

Are O-1 visa hard to get?

While the O-1 visa application process can be complex and requires extensive documentation to demonstrate the individual’s extraordinary ability, it is doable with the right immigration team by your side. VisaNation law group attorneys have experience building strong cases and providing sufficient evidence for our clients to obtain their O-1 visas.

Is O-1 visa better than H-1B?

The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary ability, while the H-1B visa is for individuals in specialty occupations. The two visas serve different purposes and have different eligibility requirements. Which visa is better depends on the individual’s specific circumstances.

What is the salary requirement for O-1 visa?

There is no specific salary requirement for the O-1 visa. However, the applicant must demonstrate that they will be receiving a salary or other remuneration for their services in the United States.

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What is O-1B vs O-1A?

The O-1B visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, while the O-1A visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.

What are the supporting documents for O-1?

The supporting documents for the O-1 visa include evidence of the individual’s extraordinary ability, such as awards, publications, and letters of recommendation, as well as documentation of the job offer and other necessary paperwork. You can see a full list in the guide above.

Is O-1 easier than EB1?

Which visa is easier to obtain depends on the individual’s specific circumstances.

Does O-1 have dual intent?

Yes and no. O-1 is a quasi-dual intent visa. Though an O-1 visa holder is not required to keep a foreign residency, they are still required to have nonimmigrant intent in the eyes of immigration law. Still, it is not outrightly counter to immigration law if an O-1 visa holder files for permanent residency. However, filing for permanent residency may arise questions about nonimmigrant intent especially if the applicant travels on the O-1 visa while a permanent residency application is pending. Unlike L-1 and H-1B visa holders, an O-1 visa holder should not travel on his or her O-1 visa while a green card application is pending.

Can I apply for a green card while on an O-1 visa?

Yes, it is possible to apply for a green card while on an O-1 visa. However, the process can be complex and requires careful planning and preparation.

How VisaNation Lawyers Can Assist

The lawyers at VisaNation Law Group specialize in O-1 visas and can assist you in obtaining permanent residency in the United States if you’d like to go down that path. They have the expertise to provide guidance on the necessary documentation to demonstrate extraordinary ability and can help you avoid any unnecessary hurdles throughout the application process. Additionally, if an O-1 visa is not suitable for your situation, their immigration lawyers who specialize in employment-based green cards can advise you on other work visa options.

If you require a person with extraordinary ability to stay in the United States beyond the duration of their original O-1 visa, VisaNation Law Group’s lawyers can help with obtaining O-1 visa extensions. They can also assist with obtaining O-2 visas for essential assistants and visas for the dependents of O-1 visa beneficiaries. Schedule a consultation to get started today!

Our Experience 

Entrepreneurs seeking to pursue O-1 visas will bode well if they have gained seed funding for the purposes of starting their businesses.  Of course, the larger the funding, the better. In the past, we have used evidence of seed funding for the “awards” category.  We have also successfully argued seed funding as an indicator of significant contribution to the applicant’s field of expertise. Lastly, large amounts of seed funding usually generates press interest that can be used to substantiate the “media” prong.  All in all, O-1 applicants in the start-up arena can leverage seed funding to bolster their O-1 applications in various compelling ways.

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