How to Hack Your Way to an O-1 Visa

If you’re an international worker in the US on an H-1B visa, losing your job means leaving the country within 60 days. But there’s a solution: get an O-1 visa.

At first, the O-1 Visa might seem daunting. It requires “Extraordinary Ability”. Most people see that and decide they can’t get it.

But there’s a way to hack the process. The O-1 visa requires eight criteria, and you need to meet at least three of them.

Here’s how I would approach getting the O-1 visa:

1. Awards - You can show you’ve won awards in your field. If you’re a founder, that could mean raising venture capital, winning a pitch competition, or other tech/VC related prize. If you’re in tech, that could be winning a hackathon.

2. Memberships - Find a “prestigious” group, club, association, accelerator… anything that’s the “peer group” of your field, like Y Combinator, Techstars, OnDeck, anything you apply to that has an acceptance rate of <10%.

3. Press - Get press about your work. Start a side project, a Github repository, a side business, and launch it on Product Hunt. Or simply pay for press. Money can get you into Forbes and Inc articles, press releases, etc. You don’t need a profile feature in the New York Times; just get a bunch of press so you look like a prolific professional on the rise.

4. High Salary - You need to have been paid in the top 10% of professionals in your position, region, and at some point in time. Be creative; you can achieve this by finding a job in a lower cost of living area, getting a job offer, or keeping your current salary while visiting another country.

5. Critical Role - You need to have led a crucial division, department, or team, created important IP or internal processes, or have specialized knowledge. To show the company’s distinguished reputation, gather press, funding from established VCs, and partnerships with well-known organizations. Combine these to demonstrate your value and your company’s success.

6. Judging - Judge other professionals in your field and get proof. Use your network to help place you.

7. Scholarly Articles - Show you’ve gone through an editorial process to get published. Write op-eds.

8. Original Contributions - This one is difficult to hack. You either have it or you don’t.

If you meet at least 3 criteria, apply for the O-1 visa. Otherwise, hustle for a membership, judging role, press, and a high-paying contract. Switch from H-1B to O-1 status with your employer and apply for a second O-1 visa through an agent. O-1 visas have unlimited renewals, no max at 6 years, and better treatment.

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