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 out of eight criteria Extraordinary Ability criteria.
One of those eight criteria is the "High Remuneration" criterion.
What is the High Remuneration criterion?
Let's start with the official wording in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) policy manual describing the High Remuneration criterion:
"Evidence that the beneficiary has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence."
What constitutes as a high salary or high remuneration? Like most of the O-1 criteria, this criterion is subjective. However, in our experience, a strong High Remuneration case could include:
- Proof that you earned (or will earn) a salary within or above the top 5% of all earners in your role and location.
- Proof that you have been paid out significant equity at a previous employer.
- Proof that in your proposed position, your combined salary and equity value are above 5% of all earners in your role and location.
Compare your remuneration with national data (for the U.S: FLC Data Center) or on sites like Indeed, Payscale, Glassdoor, LinkedIn Salary, and Salary.com.
Does equity actually work for the High Remuneration criterion?
It can! USCIS's website states:
"If the petitioner demonstrates that receipt of a high salary is not readily applicable to the beneficiary's position as an entrepreneur, the petitioner might present evidence that the beneficiary's highly valued equity holdings in the startup are of comparable significance to the high salary criterion."
Can I use my salary from ten years ago for the High Remuneration criterion?
Yes. You should find comparative salary data from ten years ago to show that your salary was high compared to other earners when you earned it.
Can I use a salary I earned outside the U.S. as my High Remuneration?
Yes. You'll need to find comparative salary data relevant to the country (and ideally, city) where you were paid. The data should show that you earned in or above the top 5% of earners in the same role and location. When including salaries earned outside the U.S. visa application, be sure to clarify the currency.
Can I include evidence of my earnings from numerous companies?
Yes. If you have earned high remuneration numerous times or at multiple companies, you can include each in your O-1 visa application.
High Remuneration Summary
Each O-1 criterion strengthens your O-1 visa profile. However, you only need to meet three to get an O-1. To learn more about the O-1, join one Legalpad's upcoming O-1 workshops, or subscribe to our newsletter to get info about in-person events near you.