Are you extraordinary? Or are you merely very good? If seeking to enter the US on a visa based on “extraordinary ability,” you may wonder how the immigration authorities determine how talented you are. It has always been unclear.

Think of the arguments sports fans have over their favorite players. A quarterback who some consider world class is deemed by others to be error-prone. Or when you see a film that the critics labeled an extraordinary achievement, you may find it rather dull.

Approval of permanent residency based on extraordinary ability has fallen considerably during the current administration, from 82% in 2016 to a mere 56.3% in 2019.

The good news is that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its policy regarding the 0 non-immigrant classification based on “extraordinary ability” or “extraordinary achievement.” This new information aims to clarify guidance for officers evaluating applications based on these two categories:

  • 0-1 non-immigrant status is an option if you have an extraordinary ability as an artist, athlete, scientist, educator or businessperson. It could also apply if you work in TV or film and wish to work temporarily in the US based on an “extraordinary achievement.”
  • 0-2 non-immigrant status is available if you are considered essential support to an artist or athlete traveling based on an 0-1. For example, an athlete needs their coach, and a singer may need her band.

Time will tell if these recent policy updates will help or hinder those applying. There will always be a certain amount of subjectivity in judging someone’s abilities or talent. One thing remains clear. Immigration laws are complex, and you should seek an experienced legal professional when considering an application.