Dear Sophie! How can we meet each of the O-1A criteria?

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Here is another edition “Dear Sophie”, an advice column answering immigration questions about working in tech companies.

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“Your questions are vital to spreading the knowledge that enables people around the world to rise above boundaries and achieve their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you work in HR, are a founder, or are looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I am happy to answer your questions in my next column.”

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TechCrunch+ members get access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase an annual or two-year subscription with a 50% discount.


Dear Sophie,

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Our startup will sponsor me and my co-founders for an O-1A visa.

How can we meet each of the O-1A criteria?

– Prominent Entrepreneur

Dear Extraordinary,

What an exciting journey for you and your co-founders – O-1A is a great option to grow your startup and take control of your geographic location.

Earlier this year, immigration officials clarified and expanded the types of evidence that qualify for O-1A Extraordinary Ability Visa, making it more accessible to individuals. As always, I recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney who can help you and your co-founders develop an immigration strategy and contingency plans if necessary.

To qualify for O-1Athe person must either win a major international award, such as the Nobel Prize, or meet at least three of the following eight criteria. Good cases usually meet four or more of these criteria, supported by extensive letters of recommendation, as well as other documentary evidence:

Receiving a prize

Nationally or internationally recognized awards

You must demonstrate that you have received national or international awards—usually two or more—for excellence in your field.

In January 2022, the Biden administration announced new efforts to attract and retain STEM talent in the United States. This prompted immigration officials to expand the list of achievements that qualify as national or internationally recognized honors for O-1A.

Here are a few examples of what now qualify as an award of excellence:

  • Obtaining a doctoral degree. award of a scholarship or doctoral dissertation.
  • Providing venture financing.
  • Winning a national or international startup competition or hackathon.
  • Professional association awards.
  • Awards for participation in international or national conferences.

Exclusive Membership

Invitation to join a group or association requiring excellence

This criterion requires you to show that you have been invited to join a group or association that requires outstanding achievement from its members and is judged by recognized experts. It cannot be membership based solely on paying a fee or signing up to join, or membership based on educational attainment or years of experience in a particular field, or a requirement for employment, such as membership in a trade union.

Composite image of immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn with the TechCrunch logo in the background.

Image credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

Some examples to help strengthen your O-1A claim include:

  • Fellow-level membership in an association or organization in your field, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) or the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
  • An invitation to join a scientific committee or business club.
  • Acceptance into accelerators or incubators such as Y combinator (although most likely not YC Startup School), Founders Network or techstars.
  • Membership or collaboration with organizations such as Forbes Tips or On deck.
  • An invitation to become an advisor or mentor to an individual startup or through an accelerator or incubator.

It is important to note that the group, organization or association you join or work with must be relevant to your area of ​​expertise.


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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