To obtain an O-1 visa, you must meet at least three out of the eight "extraordinary ability" criteria.
The O-1 Visa Overview
The O-1 visa is a work visa that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States temporarily.
To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must:
- Have received a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic Medal.
- Meet three of eight criteria Extraordinary Ability criteria.
One of those eight criteria is the "Judging" criterion.
What is the Judging criterion?
Let's start with the official wording in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) policy manual describing the Judging criterion:
"Evidence of the beneficiary's participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought."
In other words, you can meet this criterion by serving as a judge of your peers. Some judging examples include:
- Peer reviewing articles
- Judging a hackathon or other tech event
- Sitting on a panel at a business competition
- Reviewing a VC fund's prospective investments
- Reviewing accelerator applications
A few years ago, I peer-reviewed articles unrelated to my current work as a startup founder. Can I include those in my O-1 petition?
Per USCIS's policy manual (see above), your judging event should be in a field that is the same as your O-1 field, or a related field. If the articles you reviewed are somehow relevant to your current field, you could use them for your O-1. For example, if you are the founder of a machine learning startup and previously reviewed articles on natural language processing.
Do student competitions count for the O-1 Judging criterion?
The Judging criterion requires that you judge your peers. The best practice is to include events in which you judged other professionals in your field.
However, your immigration attorney may advise you to include a student competition in your O-1 petition, depending on the type of event and whether the other judges were industry professionals.
Is judging one event enough to meet the O-1 Judging criterion?
Yes, judging one event can qualify you for the O-1 Judging criterion. However, judging two or three events will further strengthen your petition.
What documentation is needed to prove I was a judge?
Any documentation that clearly shows you were a judge will help. For example:
- Screenshots of emails from event organizers asking you to serve as a judge
- Flyers or other announcements for the event listing you as a judge
- A certificate from the event showing that you were a judge
- Screenshots of emails or statements from editors of publications where you served as a peer reviewer
Judging your peers is a fairly straightforward way to strengthen your O-1 profile. But if you don't meet the Judging criterion, you can still qualify for the O-1 visa! Check out this series for in-depth info about each of the eight O-1 criteria, or review the rest of our immigration resources to learn more about U.S. work visas!