The O-1 Visa is one of the most well-known work Visas in the U.S. because it’s a powerful Visa for expanding your business through venture capital investment.

Per USCIS, in 2021, there was a 91.95% approval rate and a low 8.055% refusal rate. 

The O-1 Visa is a special visa that permits individuals who excel in various fields to enter the U.S.A. for 3 years. Also, Startup founders qualify for an O-1 Visa, and with it, they can identify as venture capitalists and pitch their ideas to garner support for their companies.

In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about O-1 Visas for startup founders, critical documents required for startup founders’ O-1 Visa application, how to demonstrate extraordinary ability for O-1 Visas, and answers to frequently asked questions about O-1 Visas for startup founders.

How can you demonstrate extraordinary ability in business?

To prove extraordinary business ability, you must showcase international recognition, showing that you are an international expert. For example, maybe you were once shortlisted in the Forbes 30 under 30 list; you could state that in your application. This criterion gives you a distinguished reputation during the application process.

There are many other requirements, like a peer-reviewed journal, scholarly articles, and original contributions in the major media. We will dive deep into other requirements native to startup founders and entrepreneurs later in this article.

What is an O-1 Visa? 

But often, we still find people who have little to no knowledge about this visa. And it shouldn’t be so…

So, let’s define the O-1 Visa.

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability or outstanding achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally.

But that’s not all it takes to get the visa. You must have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements before you get your O-1 Visa.

It is a 3-year visa that allows you to work and live in the U.S. It is very flexible and advantageous.

The O-1 Visa is divided into two key categories:

  • The O-1A: This visa is for entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, athletes, and top performers in various fields.
  • The O-1B: This visa is for artists, actors, and performers. 

In this article, our focus is on the O-1 Visa, which startup founders use to expand their startup businesses.

What are the requirements for an O-1 Visa for startup founders?

To qualify for the O-1 Visa, you need to meet certain requirements. How many exactly? You need at least three. Yes. Just three, and you are cool to get your O-1 Visa. Let’s take a look at 5+ requirements to meet:

  • Awards

In the area of startups and entrepreneurs, one of the best ways to build a reputation of being a top expert in the field is by showing your awards. Receiving an investment or a venture capital-backed fund will qualify as a proof of an award. There is no minimum amount of capital required. As far as you can show that you have an actual fund recognized as a VC fund or an investment, you are good to go.

  • Critical or essential role at a distinguished organization

Many founders forget so soon that they have had a critical or essential capacity at a top organization. By showing that you’ve served in an essential capacity for organizations, you can get an O-1 Visa. If you can’t remember any, contact other founders to share recommendation letters.

  • Press

What publications do you have across the major media in the USA and foreign publications? Share them. 

If a top corporation or organization has interviewed you, or you have reports/stories in leading publications like Business Insider, Forbes, etc., you can share these reports to meet this criterion.

This is an attractive option for some founders who want to showcase expertise because of the esteem of the publication. It happens often that founders reject the option of being interviewed by major media and focus on work for the company. If you consider an O-1A Visa, this is a good time to take the opportunity and talk about your achievements publicly. 

  • A judge in competition

Being a judge in a competition is a crucial criterion for founders who want to be O-1 Visa holders. Landing a judging opportunity may put you in a great position to get a visa.

Showing that you’ve been a judge portrays your leadership in an industry. It shows that you have profound research on the competition in your industry and you have good working ethics to meet the judging requirements typically.

  • Membership at a professional organization in your niche

Join professional organizations for experts in your field. If you are a founder, apply for an accelerator program like Y Combinator or 500 Startups; investors and venture capitalists in these communities are looking for bright startups in different fields. So, try to meet the membership requirements, and you stand a chance to be recognized simply because you have been recognized by these organizations where entry level is very hard. 

Note: it has to be an organization with outstanding achievement. If you are not a member yet, take a great step towards getting involved in closely knitted circles within your industry.

  • Scholarly articles and original contributions

Scholarly articles are another excellent criterion for founders looking to become O-1 Visa holders. This is because O-1 Visa holders are typically individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in their field, and one way to show this is through having scholarly articles published in reputable journals. Scholarly articles showcase the individual’s expertise and contribution to their field and can be a valuable piece of evidence to support an O-1 Visa application.

Rounding up: Common challenges for startup founder in O-1 Visa

Common issues include demonstrating extraordinary ability, providing substantial evidence of achievements, and meeting the stringent criteria set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Additionally, navigating the complex application process and ensuring clear documentation to establish eligibility can be demanding. That’s why it’s crucial to work with experienced immigration professionals to enhance the chances of a successful O-1 Visa application.

At PassRight, our attorneys are here to give you all the necessary support to become an O-1 Visa holder.

* This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide direct legal advice.

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  • How to Demonstrate Extraordinary Ability for an O-1 Visa as a Founder?

    All you need to demonstrate extraordinary ability is to meet all the requirements in this article.
  • What Makes a Strong O-1 Visa Case for Startup Owners?

    A strong O-1 Visa case for startup owners typically includes evidence of exceptional achievements or recognition in their field, such as notable awards, publications, or significant contributions and the project in the US that will utilize your knowledge.