Forget the H-1B. Use the 'genius visa' for foreign talents instead.
A Nobel or Pulitzer are some of the main ways to prove to the US government that you're extraordinary. Source: Rawpixel/Unsplash

H-1B applicants have been through a lot. There is now more scrutiny over their application, while the White House seems increasingly unwelcoming and uncertainty hovers over family rights to live and work in the US.

But a San Francisco company is now offering an easier work visa pathway: the O-1 work visa.

According to Mercury News, PassRight wants to assist foreign talent in their quest to get the O-1 visa, aimed at individuals with “extraordinary ability or achievement” according to the US government.

In a press release, the company said: “Through its ‘O-1 is the new H-1B’ program, PassRight is creating an innovative way for US companies to recruit foreign talent.”

“The solution involves the semi-automation of the O-1 visa.”

O-1 vs H-1B

H-1B Visa O-1 Visa
Duration 3 years, with extension possible 3 years, with extension possible
Up to 6 years No maximum limit
Annual Cap Regular: 65,000
Master’s Exemption: 20,000
Bachelor’s level degree (or its equivalent)
for Regular Cap.
Master’s degrees or higher for Master’s
Exemption Cap
“Very top of the field of endeavour”
A major, internationally-recognized award,
such as a Nobel Prize or at least 3 other
outstanding international membership
or recognition
Application Starts in April annually Can be applied for at any time of the year

So how does PassRight come into the picture?

It’s offering an “automated screening process” whereby first, it assesses whether the applicant qualifies for the O-1. This is then followed by the completion of around 80 percent of their application, with the remaining 20 percent to be filled out by a lawyer.

The startup said this process also connects applicants with a talent agency, which sponsors qualified applicants and places them in relevant companies.

Not everyone is on board with PassRight and its promises, however. University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Computer Science Professor Norm Matloff said while he strongly supports the O-1, it should be awarded only to “the truly outstanding talents.”

PassRight may be “over-promising”, he said.

Justin Bieber is a recipient of the O-1 visa. Source: Shutterstock

Matloff hits the nail on the head with the rigorous expertise requirement for the O-1 visa.

While the O-1 has been “filling the gap” for Silicon Valley tech workers who didn’t get lucky in the annual H-1B lottery according to immigration attorney Orlando Ortega, it’s not exactly easy to prove to the US government that an applicant is “extraordinary”.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has listed eight ways to prove one’s “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics”. This includes proof of national or international recognition, as well as how you’re making a lot more money compared to others in the same field.

For international graduates, the right choice between the H-1B and O-1 visa ultimately depends on the prospective US work visa applicant. Both have their own unique advantages – to know which is best for you, information is key (keep up with our coverage!) and speak to the international advisers at your university.

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