The O-1A visa is designed for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. To qualify for an O-1A visa, applicants must meet at least three regulatory criteria. One of the criteria is a 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. The applicant must demonstrate not just their membership but the criteria for the membership. At Zneimer & Zneimer, our experienced immigration attorneys can help you navigate the O-1A visa application process and provide guidance on this specific criterion.
To meet this criteria, the applicant must document the association itself and their membership. The petitioner must show that membership in the associations is based on the applicant being judged by recognized national or international experts as having attained outstanding achievements in the field for which classification is sought. For example, admission to membership in the National Academy of Sciences as a Foreign Associate requires individuals to be nominated by an academy member, and membership is ultimately granted based upon recognition of the individual’s distinguished achievements in original research. www.nasonline.org.
Therefore, the applicant must document the association as well as their membership. Documentation about the association may include
- Evidence that the association is in the applicant’s field
- Printouts from the organization’s website regarding the membership requirements and that the organization requires outstanding achievements in the field
- ByLaws of the organization regarding membership requirements
- Documentation about evaluation process, including evidence that the judging is by national or international experts in the field
Associations may have multiple levels of membership. The petitioner must show that in order to obtain the level of membership afforded to the beneficiary, the beneficiary was judged by recognized national or international experts as having attained outstanding achievements in the field for which classification is sought.
As a possible example, membership as a fellow in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) is based on recognition of a nominee’s “significant, sustained contributions” to the field of artificial intelligence, and is judged by a panel of current AAAI fellows.
Relevant factors that may lead an officer to a conclusion that the person’s membership in one or more associations was not based on outstanding achievements in the field include, but are not limited to, instances where the person’s membership was based:
- Solely on a level of education or years of experience in a particular field;
- On the payment of a fee or by subscribing to an association’s publications; or
- On a requirement, compulsory or otherwise, for employment in certain occupations, such as union membership.
At Zneimer & Zneimer, our experienced immigration attorneys can help you evaluate your association memberships and determine if they meet the requirements for the O-1A visa. We will work with you to gather the necessary documentation, such as letters of recommendation and membership certificates, and present a strong case to USCIS.