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Personal experience: how to move to the United States on a visa for talented people

Anastasia Babenko, blog author adb_companion, spoke in great detail about how her husband got the O1 visa - the so-called visa for talented people. ForumDaily publishes the article with the permission of the author.

Фото: Depositphotos

Moving to the US was our dream with my husband. He, a specialist in Big Data and Machine Learning, has repeatedly been to America on business and on internships. I fell in love with this country at first sight. Therefore, we have firmly decided to move here to live and make it legal. Our first task was to find a good employer in the States who would sponsor a visa and relocation.

Employer search

1.1. We started by compiling a list of companies where my husband would like to work. Focused mainly on large ones; As a result, the list was about 15 companies. We chose both purely IT companies and financial corporations, large mobile operators, which may also require our profile specialists.

1.2. Next, we prepared a good detailed summary listing the projects the husband worked on, publications and prizes in IT competitions.

To compile a CV, we used the site Only then you should not forget to remove the footer with the site name in the already downloaded resume.

1.3. The next step was a long and monotonous job search process. Here I, first of all, searched for vacancies on the websites of the companies themselves. My husband helped select the appropriate position for his profile.

In parallel, I sat in various forums dedicated to immigration and life in the United States. From my point of view, the most useful is

1.4. Finding jobs on Linkedin helped a lot. There is a fairly large database (it seems that almost every self-respecting company duplicates its vacancies there), a single form of responding to a vacancy (literally in one click, unfortunately, this only works for small companies), and a fairly flexible search that allows you to filter vacancies by region , companies, positions, etc. I sent applications for the maximum number of more or less suitable positions. I also regularly monitored company websites and Linkedin for new positions. I sat for several hours every day. The most dreary and time consuming part is filling out applications for vacancies of those companies that require registration on their sites. Some even require you to fill out all over again for each job. Facebook has a limit on the maximum number of applications (three), Google has something about 10. We mostly skipped the section with Cover Letter, except for very cool companies like Tesla, where my husband wrote them himself.

The last questions in the questionnaires on the websites of companies standardly concerned the work permit in the USA. Here I, of course, put that there is no permission, but the candidate applies for a visa H1B or About1 (visa for people with outstanding abilities).

I intentionally give links only to the site of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, because there is the most relevant and reliable information. But translation of requirements for visas, of course, can be found in other sources.

1.5. So, to the vacancies. The conversion was very small: either there was no answer at all, or, as a rule, a lot of failures fell, and we all could not understand what was the matter, because the resume is really good and very satisfies the requirements of the vacancy. Perhaps this is a normal process of recruiting, but did not want to put up with it.

1.6. Then I began to think about how to increase the percentage of feedback, and it is better if it is positive. I decided to search for HR s in LinkedIn and write to them directly. It turned out that this is a viable option: for many HR on the page it is indicated what kind of specialists they are hiring, whether they are currently harboring or not; some even write mail and ask to fold their resumes there.

We have compiled several very short text templates (3-4 sentences) for Linkedin and the post, which briefly described what the husband is specializing in, what he is doing now and would be happy to consider positions in the company. Well, or if she found a specific position in the company, she immediately gave a link to the vacancy claimed by her husband. She wrote, of course, on behalf of her husband.

The response has grown a little, but many HR, having heard that there is no work permit or that the husband applies for H1B, immediately merged. Later, one of the HR told us that with H1B there are now big problems, the chances of getting this visa have fallen dramatically, so many companies have practically abandoned it.

Anastasia Babenko with her husband. Photos from the personal archive of Anastasia Babenko

The administration of the President of the United States for the second year promises to change the conditions of selection for a visa НХNUMXВ. Now it is a lottery, equal for all, but at the same time most of the visas go to outsourcing companies, who harbor in rabid numbers of workers from China and India (notorious Tata and their ilk). It is expected in the plans that this will still be a lottery, only with priority for those who have higher salaries and qualifications. A formal document confirming this is not yet released, while everything is at the level of rumors and articles in the media.

1.7. We decided to focus on O1, and also began to consider other visas: EB1, EB2, EB3.

For each of these visas I have compiled a brief information: what are the criteria for issuing, you need / do not need an employer. Began to read everywhere about these visas. Mostly I came across posts of “experts” who said that for О1 one must be a born genius and have a Nobel Prize, otherwise it’s impossible to get this visa. There was very little information about EV visas. However, since H1We don’t want us to do this, we decided to stop with O1 visa, well, and find out more about EB1, 2, 3.

1.8. I continued to apply for open vacancies on company sites, and also write directly to HR companies on Linkedin, only indicating where I could, that my husband was “eligible for O1”.

As a result, through Linkedin, I went to the recruiter of one of the large companies that was ready to begin the interviewing process, but first they wanted to consult with the lawyers on whether the candidate exactly met the O1 criteria. We were sent, frankly, with the left foot a questionnaire with very general questions, almost duplicating the wording of the O1 criteria themselves. We answered the questions in the same way, especially without straining and not signing, at that time did not quite understand what exactly could be brought under one or another criterion.

We were answered in reply whether it is possible to add something else, again without examples of what it could be, what kind of achievements could be taken into account, etc. We added that we considered it necessary, this was not enough, we received a feedback “we are not sure that you are strong enough”. It was a shame a little, because the process took a whole month, the interview never began.

Photos from the personal archive of Anastasia Babenko

The main findings for finding an employer:

  • adapt resumes for the US market. If you don't know how, the easiest way is to write to local Russian-speaking groups on Facebook (Seattle and Silicon Valley for IT, for example). People from the industry eagerly respond and often give useful feedback;
  • the way to write directly to HR companies on LinkedIn works well;
  • do not wait for the weather by the sea, served on a couple of vacancies. Work on this regularly, look for fresh positions and feed them.

Фото: Depositphotos

Lawyer search

One refusal due to the insufficiently strong case O1 did not convince us to abandon the idea of ​​obtaining this visa. We decided to start looking for a normal lawyer, in order to clearly understand whether the husband is suitable for O1, well, and in order to write to recruiters later that we found a lawyer ready to take on our case.

2.1. The lawyer was hard to find: the Internet is replete with dubious immigration agencies that promise to prepare the best case, and I couldn’t find recommendations of specific lawyers on the immigrant forums, they write general things. At first, I stumbled upon a video of a couple of bloggers, where representatives of one of the companies involved in immigration spoke, and told how successful their cases were and how simple everything is. I bought it. I contacted the representative of the company, agreed on a Skype call. In parallel, I decided to read the reviews. I read so much that the hair on my head stood up: they write how everything was all right and well described, they took a pledge from them, and then the company’s employees stopped communicating; positive reviews were somehow suspiciously formal and similar. Maybe, of course, they make cases and help people to immigrate, but I decided not to get involved with them.

At that moment I was already desperate to find a lawyer in this ocean of divorce, but came across post one of the immigration lawyers on how, in fact, to choose the right immigration lawyer. This blog also contains a lot of useful information about both lawyers and immigration opportunities in the United States.

I used all the listed tips. First went to I chose lawyers suitable at first glance. For me it was important that the lawyer in the profile had a photo, focused on lawyers working with Russia and the CIS countries, as a rule, their names were Russians, cut off those who have been told that they work in half of the world’s languages, well , and, of course, looked at the education of lawyers and their experience so that they correspond to what was written in the LJ post. As a result, selected the order of 15 candidates.

Then I checked their rating on, very "cool" also cut off, guided by the fact that they can work in large companies, where all the work is done by their assistants, who tend to make mistakes, well, just because intuitively for me, their services seemed very expensive, although prices, of course , not listed on the site. The list was reduced to about 10 people, I contacted them through and started to wait.

Not all responded, but some of the respondents also dropped out: some offered a “detailed” analysis of the case for several hundred, some had a paid consultation, which is generally not bad, but they simply had good attorneys who offered free advice.

In parallel, we threw a call to our friends who moved to the United States on the subject of a recommendation of a good lawyer. Some guys recommended a lawyer with whom they moved themselves.

As a result, we had two Skype calls: one with a lawyer whom I found through the websites; the other with the one recommended to us.

I want to note that at least just to talk to a lawyer about your case is very useful, he will more or less appreciate it, indicate what exactly you need to add, what else you can use, what are the chances, did he have similar cases, and, most importantly, were they successful? A clear picture emerges, and you begin to understand much better what did those first lawyers want from you.

Anastasia Babenko with her husband. Photos from the personal archive of Anastasia Babenko

So, to talk.

2.2. The first lawyer was good, experienced, she often does O1, but she didn’t work with IT specialists, so she didn’t really imagine our case. But from her we learned about the EB 2-3. She said that such visas are made for a very long time if a person is not in the United States at this moment (before 2's). These visas immediately provide an opportunity to get a green card, but the employer is unlikely to bother like that and spend two years on one employee.

As we understood, the EB2 and EB3 visas are exactly the visas that people who work in the United States on the H1B visa receive and who decide to change their status from a nonimmigrant visa to an immigrant one. Those. the employee first moved on an H1B work visa, after a while the employer submits a petition to him so that he can subsequently receive a green card. Obtaining an EB2 and EB3 visa is the next step towards immigration.

For visa ЕВХNUMX said that we are rather weak. There, the criteria are very similar to the O1 criteria, but in general the requirements are much higher, so the chance is small.

2.3. We really liked the second lawyer. First, she works just with IT-specialists, very quickly understood what her husband was doing, started asking specific questions. She said that we have a very real case, and she is familiar with the facts of approval of much weaker cases.

We were offered two options: either find an employer who sponsors a visa; or to open a company, to employ ourselves there and, thus, we pay for the whole feast. Only in the second variant it is necessary to additionally rent an office for a company in the USA, which is very easy in principle: you can rent, for example, one table in a room for a few hundred bucks a month; still pay for the registration of the company, which is also inexpensive and very fast. Well, and the second point, the company should really work, at least the first time, until you, for example, decided to close it and find a job in another place.

With the O1 visa as well as with the H1B visa, you can change your employer, you are not assigned to a specific company located at a specific address, as with the L1 visa, for example.

After talking with lawyers, I again returned to the O1 criteria and this time I added there much more information about my husband’s work and his achievements, consulting with him, of course. Now our case looked much more impressive.

The cost of a lawyer is on average 10 thousand dollars, this includes everything, including payment of the application for filing, but does not include the processing of additional evidence, if requested.

The main findings on finding a lawyer:

  • finding a good lawyer is hard, a lot of scam;
  • It is advisable to look for a lawyer if you are considering the option of moving through your business or if you are going to find a job in a small company. Large companies and many startups work with their law firms and yours will not be taken for sure.

Employer and case preparation

3.1. We were not set up for business, so we decided to continue to look for an employer.

Another option, which is now used by large companies, is the L1 visa, when you work at least a year in a company office outside the US, and then you are transferred to the office of this company in the USA. We were ready for this option if offered.

I didn’t stop using my husband in large companies, but I also started looking closely at startups. The methods are the same: company sites and Linkedin. I wrote in lichku or mail the same standard text, attached a resume, only now I added that the husband is suitable for an O1 visa, and we have a lawyer ready to take on the case.

We were answered by several startups (the number of responses was much higher), some of them then fell off, but with one we reached the end. However, their lawyers said that our O1 case is not strong enough, so they can offer us a position in their office in Ireland.

At that time, my husband successfully passed an interview with another large American company (as a result, a simple response to vacancies on the company's website worked). Her lawyers also told us that the case was not strong enough, so they would serve us directly to O1 and H1B (this was the very beginning of the year, so H1B would have to wait almost a year).

3.2. Began a long preparation of the case. We worked with a law firm providing services to our employer. Our lawyer, as expected, the company refused to take.

We were sent a detailed questionnaire on O1, which was already much easier to fill out after several iterations done earlier. At the end, I provide detailed information about what we included in the content of each of the criteria.

3.3. The most difficult for us were Reference Letters.

They are mentioned in passing on the USCIS website in the description of the O1 visa, but in practice this is almost the main factor for the success of the case. Also, lawyers usually try to gather evidence of your extraordinaryness more than on the 3 criterion (although 3's are formal enough). For example, we lacked some evidence for a full-fledged criterion, but they were still attached to a case.

First, you need to select people who occupy an outstanding position in their field, their opinion should be authoritative and have weight. At the same time, these people should be familiar with the work and achievements of the candidate for a visa, and, of course, they should agree to confirm in the letter that this candidate is really quite outstanding and deserves an O1 visa. It is clear that there is no need to invent and invent here, there really should be something that distinguishes the candidate from the rest. In our case, these were the projects that the husband worked on.

We have compiled a preliminary list of candidates who could provide such letters. The lawyers said that, firstly, these should not be some super stars in their field (but at the same time sufficiently significant professionals) so as not to overshadow the candidate’s own achievements. Secondly, it can be both people with whom the husband works directly, for example, his professor (husband completed the PhD) or manager on an internship, or those with whom he did not work directly on the project, but this person used the results of the project, or simply familiar with the success of the husband, for example, the head of another department of the company where the husband worked, or the CEO of the company for which the husband was doing the project.

Requirements for the degree of familiarity of a candidate for a visa and authors Reference Letters may vary depending on the lawyer. For example, the author of one of our Reference Letters, who himself moved to the United States on an O1 visa, said that it is very important that the authors of the candidate's letters do not personally know, but were familiar with his achievements. Perhaps so, but we were told by lawyers that this is not necessary.

Secondly, it is important to understand what will happen in the letter itself. Here my husband had to sit down for a couple of days and roll on 10 pages, what projects he did, what was their advantage, what role did he play in the project, how were the results of the project used.

Photos from the personal archive of Anastasia Babenko

The text of the letter is compiled by you, the lawyers and the author of the letter. You write a detailed description of what you can be considered extraordinary for, lawyers help, compose the text in accordance with the formal requirements and wording, the authors, of course, also rule the text. Nobody is interested in writing non-existent facts, they write what they really are. Thus, the letter goes through several stages of adjustment before being signed.

Thirdly, writing and signing letters takes a lot of time. Here you need to be patient and understand that those who compose letters have another job and other things to do.

In general, besides Reference Letters and a detailed questionnaire, nothing was required of us. The only thing, since the process took several months, we sent updates to the lawyers. I read somewhere that it’s better if there are more 10 scientific articles and more 10 reviews of other authors ’articles, for example. The articles were in perfect order, and we got a review in the process of preparing the visa.

In general, it is necessary to discuss with lawyers how to strengthen the case, because you have at least 3 of the month in stock, you can and you have a lot of things to do.

We finished with the letters of recommendation, now I will go directly to the criteria for O1: what criteria did our case satisfy, what did they include, and what was not singled out in a separate criterion, but went as additional evidence. Go.

In our case, the 5 criteria were highlighted:

  • Original scientific, scholarly, or
  • Classification is sought
  • Reassessment for services as evidenced
  • Classification is sought
  • Employment or a distinguished reputation

3.4. Original scientific, scholarly, or

The main source for the proof of this criterion was the description of the husband’s research that he does as part of his PhD (PhD wrote in Switzerland if it matters): what kind of research, his purpose, what contribution it makes to his research interests, his role in the research. It is very important that all this be described in a language that is accessible to a layman. First, because lawyers are not experts in your field, but they must understand why your work is so important. Secondly, USCIS employees who will consider your case are also unlikely to understand all the intricacies of your research interests, but they make the final decision, so it is extremely important to convey to them the importance of your contribution to science / business, etc.

I don’t presume to say for sure, but, most likely, part of the Reference letters also belonged to this criterion. For example, a husband’s PhD study is directly related to what he did during his internship in the United States. His internship manager wrote a letter describing in detail what the project was, what role the husband had in him, what this project allows us to do, what improves at what stage of implementation it is.

3.5. Classification is sought

Well, everything is simple here. My husband has 14 articles (most of them are in top foreign magazines and conferences). Here I myself added the following characteristics when I created the file for lawyers:

If the article was for a magazine, then the journal’s impact factor indicated (as one of the lawyers said, the impact factor should preferably be at least 2) and a link to the journal.

If the article was for the conference, then gave a brief description of the conference (there is on the main page of each conference), from which year it has been held, how often its rating (found this sourceI do not know how reliable it is) and a link to the conference site. This information may not have been subsequently used, but I thus showed that the conferences had a global significance.

3.6. Reassessment for services as evidenced

Here we referred to the husband's sn in his previous place of work and compared with the all-Russian indicator. I found information about the average sn in the country on Rosstat. Unfortunately, the Rosstat does not keep statistics on many specific professions, so the closest was “Computer Specialists”, but this later arranged for lawyers.

You can also use your RFP at a future place of work if it is 1,5-2 times the average RFP in the considered area in the USA.

3.7. Classification is sought

Here, as evidence, we enclosed a review that the husband wrote on other articles. Total gained 13 review. Confirmation of the fact that the review was written were screenshots from the system, which indicated who was the reviewer and for which conference / magazine. Part of the review was already taken during the preparation of the case.

My husband was also appointed the Program Committee Chair (the person who selects articles for the conference).

3.8. Employment or a distinguished reputation

For this criterion, we described the duties of the husband at the previous place of work: projects in which he participated, what role he played in them, what these projects were used for, whether they served as the basis for future developments in the company, etc. The company is large and well-known, so it was safe to say about it that it has a distinguished reputation.

The second item was the project of her husband, whom he started studying as a student: together with other colleagues, they created Russia's largest technical electronic library in the field of petrochemistry. He was responsible for the entire IT component of the project, it also described in detail what was done, his role, etc. A separate letter of recommendation from one of the library’s co-founders was also written on this topic.

Фото: Depositphotos

3.9. These were the main criteria.

Additionally, we applied:

  • an article about a husband in a Russian newspaper;
  • an article in one of the famous blogs about his scientific article;
  • references to his speeches at conferences also indicated that this was for the conference, who else from the honored industry representatives spoke at it;
  • his presentations that he did inside the company;
  • a list of professional competitions, where he took part, and what places he occupied (hakatons, etc.). But later it was not included in the final case, because He did not win these competitions.

In general, lawyers, of course, better tell you what exactly should be highlighted in your case. But I give our example in order to make it easier for you to navigate and understand what information to give them at the entrance, in order to minimize the likelihood of failure due to “your case is not strong enough”.

It is clear that companies prefer to take candidates with the most powerful potential O1 cases, it’s still worth a lot of money, but you can only advise either to look for your lawyer and consider all possible relocations with him, or don’t despair and look for a company that will be ready take a chance. It is also necessary to understand that lawyers will not begin to take on a frankly weak case, in order not to spoil their statistics.

3.10. In order to orient you better, I’ll give you below. The main conclusions that we made on the 1 visa:

  • If you are predominantly engaged in science and are going to do O1 as a scientist, then it is better, of course, to have a PhD or, as in our case, at least to actively write it. Even better, it will be a reputable university. In the process, you will have articles, reviews, projects, scientific contributions, etc.
  • If you are going to do O1 in the direction of business (this is also possible), then, as one of the lawyers explained to us, you should have, for example, successful exits from the startups you created (say, a large company bought you), this will be your contribution to business scope.
  • Publications about you in the press can be initiated. Newspapers and magazines will readily publish an article about you, if there is at least a little something to write about. You can also act as an expert in one of the specialized magazines, radio, and even in a video blog. Yes, yes, about the case of getting O1 with the attachment as a proof of the presence of publications about a person of posts from the blog, we were also told.
  • For athletes, one of the most significant criteria, of course, are their awards, as well as their publication in the media.

3.11. Finally, day X came, when the case was fully formed and sent to USCIS. The company filed for premium processing, so the answer should have come no later than two weeks. We received a response a week later on the day of the anniversary of our wedding and were extremely happy!

In many forums I read that they often respond within a week of 1.

I’ve been reading a lot about the fact that often USCIS asks for additional evidence, returns a case demanding documents that were originally in this case and so on. This question we asked a lawyer, she said that in their practice a request for additional evidence of the extraordinary abilities of candidates occurs rarely.

By the way, from the autumn of this year (2018) they impose additional restrictions on the consideration of visas: they may now be denied a visa immediately without asking for additional evidence.

After visa approval

Next we had to fill in the form I-160 and apply for a visa at the embassy. Everything went smoothly until the consul asked if my husband had a resume with him. He was absent. Then we were sent to Administrative Processing and asked to send them a resume and a description of the future position. They said that the process can take up to 5 weeks. Of course, we were upset because we were going to leave in a month. As a result, 4 waited a week, then wrote to a lawyer, he wrote a letter to the consulate. As a result, on the last day of the 5 week, we received a Positive Response, which meant that we could get our visas.

I hope my post was useful to you, I tried to reflect the answers to all the questions that I had in the process of finding an employer and preparing the case. This is a very large, monotonous, long and not always pleasant job. Therefore, you need to tune in for a long battle - and forward.

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