passportDoes landing a dozen spots behind an Olympic medalist make you an “extraordinary” individual? Does it qualify you for O-1 visa?

According to the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990, the government grants visas to individuals with “extraordinary ability” in the fields of science, art, education, business, or athletics. Rahbaran & Associates notes that you can also qualify if you’ve won a Nobel Prize or an Oscar, signaling exceptional accomplishment.

This, however, is contrary to what has been seen in the news recently. In 2012, a Federal District Court judge in New York and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied the petition of Iranian table tennis player Afshin Noroozi for an “extraordinaryability” visa. Noroozi is the first Iranian table tennis player to join the Olympics, finishing 65th during the 2008 Olympics and ranked 248th in the world.

What “Extraordinary” Really Means

Under the system, athletes need to demonstrate consistent and acclaimed achievements in both the national and international scenes. As the USCIS puts it, an “extraordinary ability” is “a level of expertise indicating that that individual is one of those few who have risen to the top of the field of endeavor.”

With Noroozi’s “impressive and commendable” years of dedication and practice—in the words of Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, he still “fell short” to qualify for the petition. This raises a question on how “extraordinary” should your credentials and talents be to qualify.

Proving Your Expertise is Part of the Challenge

As part of the process, you must present an extensive documentation of your track record, including association memberships recognized by experts. Copies of published materials, such as newspapers and magazines featuring your expertise and achievements, will also help.

You need to produce a strong and solid body of work to qualify for the O-1 Visa. Renowned experts in the field can also back up your application, providing an “advisory opinion” that affirms your exceptional talent.

“Extraordinary Ability” is a Lifelong Endeavor

The system requires you to present all your valid achievements to qualify for a visa. This means that you need to work hard in every competition, so you can demonstrate a wealth of achievements.

Failing to qualify only boils down to two things—you missed out on important details or your credentials are simply not enough. US Immigration denies nearly 90% of O-1 visa petitions because of incomplete documentation and mistakes. Don’t allow poor planning and rushed preparation to sabotage your petition.