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How Many Letters Do You Need for an O-1 visa?

We often get asked, “how many letters do I need to get approved for my O-1 visa?” At Legalpad, we find testimonial letters most helpful for the original contributions and critical employment criteria. 

advisory letter

How many letters do you need for an O-1A visa?

The O-1A visa is easily the most complex and nuanced nonimmigrant visa. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency responsible for reviewing visa petitions, determines whether or not you qualify for the O-1 by assessing whether you meet certain criteria below:

  • You have received a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic Medal

OR

  • You meet three of eight criteria:
  1. You received lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards in the field
  2. You are a member of associations in the field that require outstanding achievement, as judged by international experts in your field 
  3. There is published material about you in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
  4. You have judged the work of others in the field, either individually or on a panel
  5. You have made original contributions of major significance to the field
  6. You have authored scholarly articles in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
  7. You have served in a leading or critical role for distinguished organizations
  8. You command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration

In order to prove you meet these criteria, you will have to submit sufficient evidence in your O-1 visa petition. Many O-1 visa petitions end up being over 500 pages due to the amount of evidence included. The length of O-1 petitions is partly due to the fact that there are numerous elements to some of the O-1 criteria. 

For example, to prove that you meet the membership criteria, you must show not only that you are a member of an association, but also that the association exists and is in your field, the association requires outstanding achievements of its members, and the outstanding achievements are judged by experts in your field. 

You might have a certificate showing that you are a member of the association, but that certificate by itself does not provide enough information to show that you meet the full criteria.  

Sometimes the types of evidence needed to prove every element of the criteria do not exist. Perhaps there is no information online about how your association selects members, so there is no way to demonstrate that outstanding achievements are requirements for membership and experts are the ones who assess the outstanding achievements. 

In this situation, your immigration team might recommend that you include a testimonial letter in your O-1 visa petition that is signed by someone at the association of which you are a member. This letter can describe the membership application process, and attest that you do meet the O-1 membership criteria

At Legalpad, we find testimonial letters most helpful for the original contributions and critical employment criteria, since they are somewhat subjective. For original contributions, we could include a signed letter from an expert in your field attesting that your inventions are ‘majorly significant'. For critical employment, we could have the CEO of your former employer sign a letter attesting to your essential role at that company.

But what are the limitations of O-1 testimonial letters? The reality is, independent supporting evidence holds more weight than letters. Using existing evidence also saves you time and allows you to get your visa faster. Even if you do include testimonial letters, you should still try to include as much independent evidence as possible to support your letters.

We often get asked, “how many letters do I need to get approved for my O-1 visa?” There really is no answer that is true for everyone.  

You are only required to submit one letter for your O-1, which is called an Advisory Opinion. This letter should come from someone in your field with a history of working in the U.S. and they should be able to express their support of your visa application. They can also speak about how you qualify for the O-1.

Other than the Advisory Opinion, there is no requirement for letters in O-1 petitions. If you have solid documentation of how you meet the criteria, you may only need to include the Advisory Opinion. However, you may still have a strong case, but need an additional letter or two to support the documentation that you already have. 

The best way to determine what types of evidence you might need for your O-1 case is to talk with an experienced immigration team. Legalpad’s team has helped hundreds of immigrants get O-1 visas approved. Whether you need one or five letters for your visa, we’ll do the hard work of drafting them for you and assist you in getting them signed. Get started on your O-1 now.

 

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.