While the O-1A criteria are known for being very flexible, all O-1 visa applicants must satisfy the advisory opinion requirement. Depending on your field of work, there are a few ways you can meet this criterion. In this article, we’ll discuss everything advisory opinions, consultation letters, and peer letters.
Background: O-1 work visas and advisory opinions
The O-1A visa provides temporary U.S. work authorization for individuals who have shown “extraordinary ability” in their field.
Unlike other U.S. work visas that have fairly rigid requirements, the O-1 is a popular option thanks to the flexibility of the O-1 criteria. To qualify for an O-1 visa, you need to meet any three or more out of eight O-1A criteria.
However, there is one O-1A requirement that is the same for all visa applicants, and that’s the advisory opinion.
Advisory opinions, consultation letters, and peer letters for O-1 visas
An advisory opinion—sometimes referred to as a consultation letter or peer letter—is traditionally a letter from a designated U.S. peer group or labor organization in the applicant’s field written in support of the O-1 application.
However, many O-1 applicants have no peer group or labor organization for their field. This is especially true for individuals who work in fields within business.
If there is no peer group or labor organization within your field, you can submit an advisory opinion signed by someone who is an expert in your field. This letter will state that there is no applicable peer group or labor organization. In the sections below we’ll go into more detail about who can sign this letter and what the letter needs to contain.
Advisory opinions for individuals in fields without peer groups or labor organizations
Who to ask to sign your letter
No specific regulations describe who can sign this type of advisory opinion letter. At Legalpad, we advise O-1 applicants to look for signatories who meet the following criteria:
- They are familiar with your work and will be willing to sign a letter: This may seem obvious, but it is important to ensure that you can find someone who will actually sign the letter. Since the letter will summarize your achievements and attest to your extraordinary abilities, the signatory also should be familiar with your work.
- They work in your field or a closely allied field: Since this letter needs to confirm that there is no peer group or labor organization in your field, it should be signed by someone familiar with it. For example, if you are a startup founder, your field might be something like technology entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial management, or it could be something more specific such as healthcare technology or environmental technology. Before you define your field, you should check with your immigration attorney to make sure that you are aligned since your field will impact other parts of your petition. Once you and your attorney agree to the field, then you will need to find an advisory opinion within your field.
- They are an expert in your shared field: The advisory opinion signatory needs to work in your field and be an ‘expert’ in the field. Whether or not someone is an expert is subjective, so there is some flexibility here. If you working in the field of technology entrepreneurship, an expert in your field could be a serial entrepreneur who has founded numerous technology companies, or they could be a respected executive at a major technology company. They could also be someone newer in their career but with a background of accomplishments demonstrating that they are regarded as experts.
- They are U.S.-based: You may have heard that the advisory opinion signatory should be a U.S. citizen. This is not necessarily true, but they should have a history of working in the U.S. The longer they’ve worked in the U.S., the better. It would not make sense for someone who has never worked in the U.S. in your field to write a letter attesting that there is no U.S. peer group or labor certification in that field.
- Avoid: If possible, you should try to avoid having your advisory opinion be signed by an individual who has an interest in your company, such as an investor or advisor. Additionally, you should avoid anyone who works at the company that is sponsoring your visa.
If you’re applying for an O-1 from outside the U.S. and don’t have many contacts inside the U.S., it might be challenging to find someone who meets all the criteria we recommend for advisory opinions.
Think about past co-workers or classmates who have gone on to work in the U.S. within your field. Consider reaching out to alumni from your university program, or people who have participated in the same accelerator program as you and now work in the U.S. People you’ve met at conferences, connected to on LinkedIn, or with whom you’ve sat on judging panels are also viable candidates. Even if you don’t have a close relationship, they may be willing to sign the letter and help you out. Don’t assume they’ll say no before you ask!
Remember that these are not strict requirements and that your immigration attorney will be able to help advise you on the best person to select.
What the advisory letter should contain
At the most basic level, the letter should include a statement attesting that “there is no applicable peer group or labor organization within the field of [your field].” Other elements of the letter could include:
- A short bio about the person signing the letter that demonstrates that they are an expert in the field within the U.S.
- A statement attesting to your extraordinary abilities, and/or attesting to the signatory’s support of your O-1 visa application
- A summary of your accomplishments
- A description of how you meet specific O-1 criteria, if applicable. For example, your immigration team might suggest that you use this letter as evidence of how you meet the Original Contributions criteria. In this situation, the expert will describe your original and majorly significant contributions to the field. Or, they could describe how you meet the Judging criteria by attesting that you sat on a judging panel together.
The contents of this letter will be based on the unique strategy your immigration team creates for your O-1 visa. Because of this, it is important to align with your immigration attorney before working on the letter.
Plus, organizations like Legalpad write custom Advisory Opinion letters for each O-1 applicant, so if you get started too early, you may miss out on some expert help that is included in your visa package!
After helping hundreds of people get O-1 visas approved, we’ve learned that the Advisory Opinion can initially be a bit confusing for visa applicants. That is why we’re here to help! Reach out if you’d like to learn more about the O-1 visa and what you’ll need to get your application approved quickly and easily.