O1 Visas for Foreign Medical Doctors Seeking Employment in the United States
Who Qualifies for an O1 Visa and How to Apply
The Ranchod Law Group represents foreign medical doctors seeking employment in the United States. In the article we use the terms medical doctor and physician interchangeably. The Ranchod Law Group also represents hospitals, clinics and health care organizations find qualified physicians: We help many foreign medical doctors live and work in the U.S. and we help many medical facilities hire or retain the foreign doctors they so desperately need and want.
Commonly, our doctor clients come to us after they have completed residency in J1 status. We obtain their J1 waiver, their H1B, and ultimately lawful permanent residency (a greencard). In a similar vein, our medical facility clients typically come to us looking to hire foreign doctors who completed their residency in J status. Both our medical facility clients and our doctor clients occasionally wonder about other options besides the costly and time consuming H1B and labor certification process. If the doctor qualifies, the O1 visa can be a great option. Although the O1 visa can be sought by a variety of professions, it is O1A visa that is typically the type of O visa sought by foreign medical doctors. In this article, we will be referring to the O1A as simply O1.
Qualifying for an O1 visa
To qualify for an O1 visa, the doctor must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and the doctor must be coming or staying temporarily in the U.S. to continue work in his or her area of extraordinary ability. Extraordinary ability means that the doctor is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of his or her field.
At first glance the O1 requirement of extraordinary ability may seem unattainable but by narrowing the doctor’s field it may be possible.
Let’s take the hypothetical case of Felipe:
- Felipe is a native and citizen of Barbados.
- Felipe completed residency in the U.S. in the field of anesthesia.
- Felipe then completed a fellowship in pediatrics.
Specifically, Felipe focuses his time working on pediatric patients needing full body casts for the treatment of scoliosis. Felipe could argue extraordinary ability in the field of anesthesiology for cases of full body casts for the treatment of scoliosis in pediatric patients. Felipe can argue national acclaim in Barbados and use the O1 visa to continue work on anesthetizing pediatric patients needing full body casts for the treatment of scoliosis.
By narrowing Felipe’s field, we have made him one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of his very particular field.
Does Felipe have international or national recognition as an anesthesiologist? Definitely not.
Does Felipe have international or national recognition as a pediatric anesthesiologist? Probably not.
Now, in his field of anesthesiology for cases of full body casts for the treatment of scoliosis in pediatric patients he is definitely the best (and possibly the only physician with such a dedication) in Barbados and he is probably one of the best internationally in his VERY limited field. Felipe must also meet the other O1 visa requirements discussed below.
To obtain an O1 visa, the doctor will have to submit evidence of a major, internationally-recognized, award OR evidence of at least (3) three of the following events related to his career:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the doctor’s field;
- Membership in associations in the doctor’s field which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the doctor’s field;
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the doctor and the doctor’s work in the doctor’s field;
- Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the doctor’s field;
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the doctor’s field;
- A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
- Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to the doctor’s field;
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
The doctor may also submit comparable evidence in order to establish eligibility by arguing the above standards do not apply to the doctor’s unique field. This opens the door for Felipe, from the above hypothetical, to submit other comparable evidence from his very specific field.
The application for the O1 visa must also be accompanied by the following:
- A written advisory opinion from a peer group (including labor organizations) or a person designated by the group with expertise in the doctor’s area of ability. If Felipe, from the above hypothetical, demonstrates that an appropriate peer group, including a labor organization, does not exist in his field the decision will be based on the other evidence of record.
- A contract between the doctor and a medical facility or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the doctor will be employed. Such evidence may include but is not limited to: emails between the doctor and the medical facility, a written summation of the terms of the agreement, or any other evidence which demonstrates that an oral agreement was created. The summary does not have to be signed. However, it must document the terms of the employment offered and that the doctor has agreed to the offer.
- An itinerary or explanation of the work the doctor will be completing in the U.S. with beginning and ending dates. For example, in Felipe’s case the itinerary would probably be a more detailed version of the following “January 2014 – January 2017: Anesthetize pediatric patients needing full body casts for the treatment of scoliosis at ABC Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, California. ABC Children’s Hospital typically has X number of these cases per year.”
- Evidence regarding the wage offered, but note that unlike with the H1B there is no prevailing wage requirement. Furthermore, no particular wage structure is required. A detailed description of the wage offered or fee structure and that the wage offered/ fee structure was agreed upon may satisfy this requirement.
Why you should apply for an O1 Visa
The O1 visa is for an initial stay up to three years, and can be extended in one year periods indefinitely as needed! This is a major advantage of the O1 visa.
Like with the H1B, the doctor can pursue lawful permanent residency (a greencard) while in O1 status if the doctor so decides.