The Catholic University of America

O-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics

This classification is vailable to individuals who, through their original significant contributions to the field, have achieved a level of national or international recognition and are coming to the U.S. temporarily to work in their field on a specific project or set of projects as defined in the petition filed by the sponsoring institution. This classification can be useful alternative to an H-1B for individuals who meet the eligibility requirements and who previously held J-1 status and are still subject to a two-year home residency requirement.

Three things must be clearly established in this petition:

  1. The nature of the project/work and the terms of employment in which the individual will be engaged
  2. The individual is internationally recognized in his/her field, as evidenced by letters in support of the petition
  3. The individual has received a major international award for achievement in his/her field, such as the Nobel prize or something appropriate for the field, or in the absence of such an award, can document his/her achievement as described below.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for this classification, the employer's petition must be accompanied by documentation that clearly establishes that the employee is internationally recognized by showing that he/she meets at least three of the six (6) criteria listed in federal regulations:

  1. Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the field. These are awards that are recognized by people in the field as prestigious. Copies of the award should be included in the petition and the significance of the award(s) should be explained. It may be useful to provide information on how competitive the award is: how many people apply and from where do the applicants come, and ultimately how many are chosen?
  2. Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement in the field. It's necessary to look at and document the membership eligiblity criteria for membership. Organizations that simply require the payment of dues generally do not qualify. Organization for which experts review and endorse applications for membrs may qualify.
  3. Articles written about the individual that have appeared in professional publications. Generally speaking, the work of individuals who have made significnt original contributions to the field is generally discussed in professional publications. Any articles written about the individual should be included in their entirety with an English translation if necessary. Documentation must include the title, author and date of the article. In general citation listings alone do not meet this criteria.
  4. Participation as the judge of the work of others in the field. It is not uncommon for individuals in academia to be asked to review the work of thier peers - whether it be on an editorial board, or being ask to evaluate articles submitted for peer-reviewed journals or to be a member of a panel of judges and an exhibition of some sort. Any such activities should be documented either by providing copies of letters/emails asking (or thanking) the employee for reviewing the work or by obtaining a letter from another individual confirming this.
  5. Original contributions to the field. Any original contributions to the field need to be highlighted and documented. Patents (if appropriate to the field/work) can help to establish this as can letters from colleagues inthe field (see discussion below).
  6. Authorship of scholarly books or articles. Copies of articles, books, text chapters, etc. all help to establish standing in the field and are expected of individuals engaged in academic teaching and/or research. Copies of published articles should be included along with the individual bibliography. Foreign-language articles canbe included in this. If the publication record is long, select the most significant works for submission. Foreign language articles do not need to be fully translated, though an English-language abstract is recommended.
  7. Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  8. Evidence of having commanded a high salary.

Letters from Recognized Experts in the Field

One of the cornerstones of this sort of application are letters from experts in the field that clearly describe the employee's standing in the field, the employee's contributions to the field and their significance. These letters can also help to establish:

  • standing in the field
  • significance of contribtions
  • that the individual meets any of the eligiblity criteria described above.
Letters should come from experts in the field who are familiar with the individual's work and are willing to write letters on his/her behalf in support of the petition. Immigration appears to give greater weight to letters from individuals who have not worked closely with the individual. If someone is an expert then people who have not worked in the same department know of their work. Individuals should represent as varied a group as possible, should come from inside the U.S. and abroad, and as appropriate to the field and the individual's standing in the field:
  • Academic institutions
  • Government institition
  • Business community
  • Professional Associations
International Student and Scholar Services will formally write to these individual to request the letter and provide guidance on the critria for the letter and make suggstions regarding wording and tenor of the letter and providing specific instruction on where the letter should be sent.

Limits on Duration of O-1 status

There is no total limit on how long an individual can hold O-1 status. The length of the project for which the individual has been sponsored determines overall length of stay. However, petitions submitted by the employer can only be for the following timeframes:

  • Initial petition: can be for any period of time up to three years
  • Extensions: can be only for one yerar at a time

Petitions for individuals can be filed up to one year before the start date requested.

Initiating CUA Sponsorship

CUA has tried to simplify the process as much as possible. The bulk of the work is done up-front in the collection of supporting documentation and letters. the process is fairly straightforward, but can take some time:

  1. CUA department AND the foreign national request initiation of sponsorship process by completing their respective portions of the request form.
  2. Foreign National contacts individuals who have agreed to write letters in support of the petition to formally ask them to write letters in support, and providing them with guidance for writing the letters.
  3. ISSS awaits letters from the experts. This can take a while to get, depending upon the responsiveness of the letter writers.
  4. ISSS prepares the USCIS forms for the Provost's signature and notifies department of need for filing fees.
  5. ISSS finalizes the petition and sends to USCIS.


Needed from…

… For Initial Sponsorship:

… For Extension:

CUA School/Department:

CUA O-1 Department Request form

Check for filing fee (wait for notification from ISSS before requesting)

O-1 Extension Request form - Department portion

Check for filing fee

International employee:

O-1 Sponsorship Request form - employee portion? Copies of CV, diplomas

Copies of passport, current immigration documents if in U.S.

Letter in support of petition

Documents supporting petition (see check list on request form)

O-1 Extension request - employee portion

Copies of current immigration documents

Letter in support of petition

Copies of any publications, lectures, awards, recognitions since getting original CUA-sponsored O-1

Cost and Timeframes

Base Cost of filing an O-1 petition: $460. It can take USCIS a few months to adjudicate this type of petition.

Premium Processing: The total cost for filing the premium processing request along with the O-1 petition is $1,225. Premium processing decisions are usually rendered within 15 days.