When Amelia and Oliver* left their native Australia nearly two years ago, the married couple was excited about embarking on their next life adventure in the U.S.
Oliver, an algorithmic programmer, accepted a new job in Silicon Valley. Amelia, a university-trained artist, thought life in a new country would inspire her work. And it did for a while.
But after more than a year, she felt bored and disheartened. Without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and therefore prohibited from selling her artwork or doing any work under U.S. immigration law, she yearned to return to the challenge and gratification of working.
The company that hired Oliver sponsored him for the O-1A nonimmigrant visa for individuals of extraordinary ability. Although a temporary visa, the O-1A offers unlimited renewal options, which would allow him to remain in the U.S. indefinitely. As the spouse of an O-1A visa holder, Amelia received an O-3 visa, which also has unlimited renewal options. However, O-3 visa holders are not eligible for an EAD—a work permit. If Oliver received a green card, Amelia would receive one, too, and could apply for a work permit.
When he accepted his job, Oliver’s company vowed to sponsor him for a green card. But Oliver did not know when that process would start, how long it would take, or if qualified U.S. workers would step up to take his position. He only knew that not being able to work was taking a toll on his wife. He decided to take action.
For Love—and a Work Permit
Rather than wait for his company’s legal counsel to begin the green card process, Oliver hired the Alcorn Immigration Law team to help him do that on his own. He wanted to give Amelia the opportunity to return to work as soon as possible.
We determined Oliver’s experience and accomplishments would make for a strong petition for an EB-1A Green Card for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability. An individual can apply for an EB-1A on his or her own behalf—without an employer or a job offer. That means individuals can sidestep the lengthy and complicated PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) labor certification process required of employers. Labor certification is designed to make sure no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the job that is held or will be given to a foreign national. Its goal is to ensure that the employment of U.S. workers, their wages, and working conditions are not adversely affected by hiring a foreign national.
We were confident U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would approve his EB-1A green card petition. Still, we advised him to maintain his O-1A status until he received final approval.
Initially, Oliver worried about meeting the more rigorous EB-1A requirements and failing to make it possible for Amelia to get a work permit (EAD).
Still, he was a strong EB-1A candidate: A top expert in algorithmic coding and programming, Oliver earned many prestigious international awards. He ranked high in many coding competitions and received media attention for his outstanding performances. Competition organizers even invited him back as a judge. Moreover, Oliver filled leadership roles and commanded high salaries at his current and previous companies.
Bump in the Road to Work
We submitted Oliver’s green card petition with premium processing. Under premium processing, USCIS must make a decision on a petition within 15 calendar days. Without it, a USCIS decision could take six to eight months or longer.
However, we received a Request for Evidence (RFE)—a request from USCIS for additional documentation, which is a rare occurrence for us. RFEs significantly slow the petition approval process. In theory, USCIS should not evaluate petitions with premium processing any differently than those without. But under the Trump administration, USCIS issuance of RFEs for petitions with premium processing has become a more common practice.
With Oliver’s EB-1A petition, USCIS gave us 60 days to respond to the RFE. We responded within just 14 days. USCIS approved Oliver’s petition about 14 days later. We quickly filed for adjustment of status so that Oliver and Amelia could get their green cards—and Amelia could finally petition for a work permit.
Love Wins the Day
Now, Amelia’s EAD is pending approval from USCIS, thanks to Oliver’s efforts. She already has a few potential work opportunities lined up.
We Can Help
The Alcorn Immigration Law team supports immigration for innovation by assisting highly-motivated investors, founders, talent, students, and families obtain visas, green cards, and citizenship. Contact us if we can help you, an employee or a loved one. We can help whether an individual is inside or outside of the U.S.
* To maintain confidentiality, the clients’ names have been changed, and details have been either omitted or slightly altered. Please note that our success in a case does not predict nor guarantee the outcome in your legal matter. The result portrayed above depended on the facts of this case. Results will differ based on different facts.