We are Rachel and Kevin, and a few years ago, we were you! Having worked in film and theatre in Ireland, the UK and across Europe for more than a decade, we made the move to Los Angeles on O1B Artist Visas and dove into the warm and exciting waters of Hollywood’s bustling film and television industry… within six months of getting here, the doors on the O1 visas were closing.
We had made the move to the US on the temporary O1B artist visa sponsored by our managers and according to US immigration officials we were legal to work, but now, all of a sudden, many studios and networks decided that they were not accepting O-1B visas!!
We had moved 6000 miles across the globe to start a new and exciting chapter in our careers and now we felt jipped. Our visas cost us over $8500 each, we couldn’t just turn on our heels and head home. We needed GREEN CARDS!
Though we’d often heard about the EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY GREEN CARD, we didn’t know anyone with one and the stories people told were of impossible odds and needing to win an Oscar to have any hope. But we’re not big fans of “impossible” and so began out investigation of the EB1-EA Green Card process.
We contacted our attorneys to have our cases assessed and they weren’t horrible – but ultimately, they didn’t have much advice to give us. “Get more stuff”, was pretty much all they had to say. Hardly very informative and certainly not inspiring. So we reached out to our other international O1 friends seeking green cards to see what they had been told – but the answer was always the same – “get more stuff”! Not much help there. Both the O1 and the EB1 require you to prove that you are in the top percentile of your field, and with no real ranking system like in sports, proving your status is your responsibility and highly subjective.
We dusted off our original O1 applications and our submitted evidence, and gathered everything we could on the work we had accomplished since submitting our O1 files to the USCIS. We also looked at what work we had coming up and what evidence we could use from that. We figured out that our green card applications couldn’t go in right away, as we each had some work lined up in Europe and there are restrictions on when you can apply related to when you entered the country and also on leaving the country once you have a pending application. The green card application isn’t one to rush anyway, so we were happy to be able to spend a little time working through it.
I can’t emphasize enough how much work is involved in self-petitioning. It is a massive undertaking. Without the help of Rachel and Kevin, I would not be sitting here with my Greencard in hand! I learned that the trick was to figure out my niche and concentrate on that. Each step is a mountain. But with Rachel and Kevin, you have the steps to conquer them!
Mr H. (Ireland) – Los Angeles
In our research of the EB1-EA we discovered that we did not have to have a sponsor like with the O1 and other work visas, and that we could file the application ourselves without an attorney. We had just paid $8500 each for our O1 visa applications, and near the same again in moving to Los Angeles, so the thought of having to pay another $10,000 each, less than a year later, was a thorn in our side to say the least. We had also some difficulty with our attorneys on our O1 applications – they hadn’t filed them for FOUR months after we had been told they had been submitted! – PLUS while we were considering if we should self-file, we met with a friend who had just booked a major TV series and paid for premium processing on his green card so he could film the role – but his attorney also didn’t file when they said they would and he lost the job!! To have more control over our visa applications we began to take self-filing more seriously!
Breaking down the application and our experience into the 10 criteria, we were able to assess our chances in qualifying. We drew up spreadsheets and workplans, contacted old employers and new colleagues. We laid the groundwork for our applications. We read through all the USCIS instruction pages, dozens of immigration forums, got familiar with the Kazarian v. USCIS, 580 F.3d 1030, 1036 Case(9th Cir. 2009), we bought guides on how to apply for the EB1 scientist green card – (there is a good bit of info out there for science, but very little on the arts and business). We studied everything we could get our hands on…
I got my Greencard approved in 5 days!!
Ms S. (Australia) – Los Angeles, March 2017
The application took a lot of work and took time. The USCIS green card requirements ask that you qualify in at least three criteria out of ten, proving sustained national or international acclaim, with further evidence to show that you will continue to work in the United States, as well as be of potential benefit to the US and its people. You must present your case by compiling this into a ~20 page or so cover letter or petition letter tying together your evidence plus filing a bunch of forms.
A little over a year after arriving in Los Angeles with a head full of dreams, we hit print on our applications – hundreds of pages of evidence, our cover letters and completed forms. We had a crash course in artist immigration under our belt. For just over $2000 each in filing fees and medical costs, we self-filed and won our place in the United States of America as Persons of Extraordinary Ability.
Having just gotten married and started a family, there was no way we could afford to spend $10,000 on an application that could be filed for two! With Rachel and Kevin’s guidance we were able to self-file and start our new life together in USA.
Mr V. (UK) – Los Angeles
Since then we have helped dozens of others around the world to file their cases; some working with attorneys, some self-filing with our just our guide. When you work with an attorney you have the benefit of their opinion on your chances, and their experience in writing many petition letters – their expertise is your peace of mind. It is your responsibility, though, to collate and prepare your evidence for them.
We show you all the steps in preparing your case and how to present it. We fully explain the criteria to help you brainstorm your career. We give examples of what makes for strong and compelling evidence as well as what doesn’t. We provide you with checklists and samples of strong recommendation letters for a flying start to your application. We love receiving emails from people that used our guide excited to tell us news of their successful application.
We have been through this and discovered so much along the way, both as applicants and as mentors to others, we want to shine a light on the path to permanent residence in the United States for extraordinary people. It’s hard enough to put your entire life’s work on paper and send it off in hopes of being deemed worthy by some anonymous assessor in an office somewhere, but to do that without a clear guide as to what the criteria mean, what counts and what doesn’t, what forms to file when, while often being told that it’s impossible and futile, can be overwhelming. This is an application that we all hope to only ever have to do once, and then forget about forever, and that is why it is so important to get it right the first time.
Let our experience be your guide and join us here in the USA.
Just understanding what was strong evidence made all the difference to me in putting together my application. Things I thought were inconsequential turned out to be major blocks in building my case. Knowledge is power, and Kevin and Rachel give you that power.
Mr K. (Ireland) – Los Angeles
Tell me more about the EB1…
The EB1-EA is the Employment Based 1st Preference Green Card for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, with sustained national or international acclaim, covering individuals of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics. Often called the genius green card, it has a few different names all designed to scare you off applying, to make you doubt your extraordinariness and believe that it’s impossible to obtain. We have all heard the rumors – it can’t be gotten, it’s impossible, they only give them to Oscar/Grammy/Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winners… We’ve heard it all ourselves – we have even been told all these things while standing there with our green cards in our hands – but there are no golden statues on our mantle!
When I got my RFE I was gutted, I literally couldn’t look at it for weeks, even though I knew I had to get to work on it right away. Then with Kevin and Rachel’s guidance I was able to pull myself together, deal with my examiner’s issues, and reframe my achievements to prove my case.
Ms H. (UK) – Los Angeles
How do I qualify? Is there a back door? A secret handshake?
Individuals of extraordinary ability are considered to be the best of the best in their field. Sometimes this is very measurable – a champion athlete, a multi-million euro startup, an award winning scientist or world famous artist – but very often the measure of success is much more nuanced and subjective. Success can mean different things to different people. Successful people are not only those who make the most money, or show in the finest venues, but also those who create and build on the smaller level, reach smaller communities, cultivate new techniques, find magic in the mundane, and develop culture.
There is no single benchmark by which to identify these valuable and beneficial people, and it is for this reason that the EB1-EA application is structured to allow applicants show their impact across ten possible criteria, needing only three to qualify. There’s no back door, but there is a level playing field on which to prove your extraordinary ability. Also, rather than suggest themselves as the know-it-alls of art, business, education, science and athletics, the USCIS takes into account a wide range of established evidence, as well as comparable evidence – where applicants have the opportunity to establish how their work, though different to the established qualifiers, does still satisfy the criteria. Read more about extraordinary ability in our What is extraordinary ability article.
I think the hardest part is blocking out all the doubters and negative ranting online. Yes it’s difficult and you have to bring your A-game, but art is so important in society and that is not lost on the USCIS. They want the best, and you just have to show them that that is you. Knowing what they’re looking for, and how to describe your work in those terms, is a major trump card in your application!
Mr J. (UK) – Los Angeles
Okay, so I qualify in three criteria and I’m in, right?
Not quite. After you’ve satisfied three criteria, your examiner then takes an overall look at your application and makes a secondary judgement – known as “Final Merits” – to determine if you will continue to sustain your career and offer benefit to the United States. Here they take into account all your evidence, even for criteria that you failed to qualify under. For example, you have satisfied the three criteria of published articles, artistic exhibitions, and membership in distinguished organizations, but failed to satisfy in judging others, scholarly articles, and lesser awards – however you have demonstrated that you do take the time to offer your talent and knowledge as a judge and tutor, and you have a number of awards for your work and contributions to your field… These things speak volumes about you as a person, and show your interest in assisting others and forwarding your art form. Though perhaps smaller elements in your own career, they are strong signs of your interest in benefiting others – and that is an important element for the USCIS in considering you as a new member of American society. You know how the kids in movies are always doing extracurricular work be accepted into fancy colleges? This is kinda like that! Read our FAQs.
So… What are you telling me?
The EB1-EA artist green card may easier to qualify for than you have been lead to believe. It’s not a fairy tale, myth, nor is it impossible to get. It is a paper application, designed to allow you prove your eligibility to live and work in the United States, to create art, build your business, train and compete as an athlete, educate others and advance science, and benefit the American people and culture. The criteria are designed to have you prove your sustained acclaim through various external means, including reviews, testimonials, lesser awards, memberships or critical roles in outstanding organizations, exhibition in highly regarded venues, and commercial success. Within our guide we detail how to present your evidence, how to word your explanatory petition letter, and give many examples of what makes for strong and compelling proof.
And I should do this on my own?
The EB1-EA is a self-sponsored green card, meaning you do not need a US employer to apply – you are your own sponsor. Use of an immigration attorney is optional. When we applied we were torn as to what was the better option – we had friends who applied with attorneys and been denied, others who had been approved, but never heard of anyone self-filing! There is a lot of work involved in the application, most of which you have to do on your own anyway. What an attorney offers you is peace of mind. They have done it all before many times and they can do it for you, taking much of the stress and pressure off your hands. Of course, they charge a fee for this service, which may or may not be a factor in deciding how you proceed.
There’s no guarantee either way, the deciding factor is your career, not who prepared your application. We believe that our guide can help you to present your career, showing it in its best light and highlighting its merits – whether that is in how best to word your recommendation letters or just in choosing the evidence to present to your attorney so they can best word your petition letter. We have gathered all the information, heard from all the experts, seen all the arguments for and against every angle, dug through forums and compiled a comprehensive guide on how the USCIS criteria apply to you.
The Extraordinary Ability Green Card is not an impossible feat. If you are working and achieving in the arts, business, education, science or athletics, either you are ready for it, or you are ready to focus your career to be ready for it soon.
Wait… Be ready for it soon?
Yep! Qualifying for the EB1-EA is tough. While the criteria are similar to the O-1, the level of scrutiny your evidence comes under is far more thorough. You have to decide if you are ready. You can take non-committal consultations with attorneys to help you judge if your evidence will pass muster, and you may be told by those attorneys or a “visabot” that you are not yet ready to apply. You can use our guide as an actionable blueprint to develop your career and build your evidence in such a way as to strategically better qualify you for a future application.
In 2008 we met an older lady who had worked as a business woman in London for decades, she had taken early retirement and recently graduated with a masters degree in acting. She had no performance experience, but she was determined to make the move to Los Angeles and follow her dreams. Surely she couldn’t very easily qualify for a visa that requires a career of sustained acclaim! Yet two years later, having focused all her efforts on finding and creating work that would satisfy the visa criteria, she arrived in L.A. with an O1-B visa. And upon learning of the difficulties and restrictions O1 actors were facing, she continued her focused efforts and two years later again, using our techniques and strategy she self-filed her EB1-EA green card – and SHE GOT IT! So it IS all possible. How did she manage it? She worked strategically through our criteria deconstructions and shaped a career trajectory that ticked the immigration examiner’s boxes. By concentrating on the roles, positions and organizations that would give her status among her industry peers, she built a petition worthy of the extraordinary ability visa.
We built our Artist Green Card guide so you can have the tools to do the same. In our guides we show you how to design your career to gain the most from it and how to generate the evidence you need to qualify as a person of extraordinary ability. We share with you how to build a portfolio that demonstrates your career in the best way and with our extra supplements on press releases, marketing, and goal setting, we help you garner the all-important paper evidence of your extraordinary ability. We demonstrate how to formulate your petition letter, give you examples of 2 full letters written in different styles and detail how to compile your evidence, and, of course, give you an understanding of the forms.
We are living and working in the USA and we want you to join us. Whether you have your career in place and are ready to file or you are just be starting out, we can guide you on your journey. We are excited for you in this adventurous next step in your life.
Rachel & Kevin
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