Why are O-1 Visas Being Denied?

September 9, 2020

Highly skilled immigrants may find it challenging to enter the United States due to a new policy update. On March 11, the Trump administration issued a ban on O-1 visas given to immigrants with extraordinary abilities in their field. This ban ultimately forced immigrants to find alternatives to legally enter the U.S. Those currently interested in these alternatives should contact a qualified immigration lawyer to obtain a national interest exception.

What is an O-1 Visa?

An O-1 visa is given to those who demonstrate an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, athletics, or business fields. O-1B visas are for those who are highly skilled in the arts and motion picture industries. Immediate family members of an O-1 visa holder, such as spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old, may apply for an O-3 visa, which allows dependents to travel with an O-1 visa holder while they stay in the United States. They can arrive in the U.S. after the O-1 visa holder, however they can only study in the U.S., they cannot work. Applicants interested in an O-1 visa must fulfill three of the following conditions:

  • They received an award for excellence in their field.
  • They have a membership in an association that requires outstanding achievement, judged nationally or internationally by recognized experts.
  • They served as an individual judge or in a judge panel of others in a similar field.
  • Their work was published in professional or high-profile trade publications, or in mainstream media.
  • They published articles in professional or notable trade publications.
  • They require a high salary or remuneration for their services.
  • They made scientific, academic, or business contributions of major significance in their field.
  • They have additional expertise in their field that does not fit the above criteria.

O-1 Visa Denials

President Trump recently placed a ban on O-1 visas for those looking to enter the U.S. to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ban prevents immigrants from coming to the U.S. if they were in the Schengen Area for a 14-day period before their intended entry. The Schengen Area, which includes most European countries, was targeted for the ban specifically because these countries had the highest concentration of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths outside of the People’s Republic of China. A few days later, this ban was further updated to include those traveling from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Denied an O-1 Visa?

Certain immigrants may fear a denial of their O-1 visa due to the Trump administration’s recent restrictions. Those facing a denial should first contact an attorney to help them find legal alternatives or exceptions for the O-1 visa. According to a State Department official, those interested in the O-1 visa may appeal, however, they must qualify for a national interest exception. Unfortunately, relatively few qualify for this exception, which include:

  • Certain business travelers
  • Investors
  • Treaty traders
  • Students

Officers within the consulate continue to consider other applicants if they are deemed qualified in the field and available to aid in national security, humanitarian relief, or certain health care travel. Those who will likely face the worst of this ban include those in the entertainment, arts, and culture fields, since they will likely not qualify for an exception.

Additionally, those qualified may also be interested in the EB-1 visa, also known as the Employment-Based Extraordinary Ability Green Card Visa, which requires a more thorough background investigation and additional proof of expertise. Although it is a difficult visa to obtain, it is highly desirable because applicants do not need to go through the PERM process and the wait times are low.

Controversies Surrounding the Ban

The ban on O-1 visas initially seemed to hush public health concerns, however, there are some controversies stemming from the denial of O-1 visa candidates, despite their 14-day quarantine. Many immigrants in the Schengen Area quarantined in a non-banned country to avoid denial. However, many of these immigrants were still denied. Some believe this denial does not align with original public health concerns, while some attorneys believe that if they did align with these concerns, immigrants would not face a denial if they quarantined in a different country.

Some experts suggest immigrants to complete a 14-day quarantine in a non-banned country with an open U.S. embassy that can issue a temporary visa. After doing this, the individual should fly directly to the U.S. to avoid a restriction trigger if the individual’s layover was in a banned country. The immigrant should also document their quarantine and contact an immigration attorney to help discover alternatives to the O-1 visa. Attorneys can also help those apply for a national interest exception if they qualify.

Vineland Immigration Attorneys at the MC Law Group, LLC Advocate for Those Interested in an O-1 Visa

If you have an extraordinary ability and are interested in an O-1 visa, contact a Vineland immigration attorney at the MC Law Group, LLC. We know the difficulties of entering the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are dedicated to helping highly skilled individuals apply for a national interest exception for the O-1 visa. If you are interested in consulting your legal options, contact us online or call us at 215-496-0690 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.