Decoding the Written Advisory Opinion: A Critical Step in Your O-1 Visa Petition

A consultation letter, also known as written advisory opinion, is critical to an O-1 visa petition because it serves as a professional endorsement of the beneficiary’s claim to extraordinary ability. A well-prepared written advisory opinion can significantly strengthen an O-1 visa petition, while a poorly prepared or negative opinion can weaken or even derail the petition.

What is a Consultation Letter?

A written advisory opinion, or a consultation letter, is a key document to submit with an O-1 visa petition. In essence, a written advisory opinion is a statement from a peer group or labor organization with expertise in the claimed area of extraordinary ability. This opinion serves as an evaluation of the beneficiary’s abilities and achievements to establish whether or not they meet the high standard of “extraordinary ability” that the O-1 visa requires.

Essential Contents of the Consultation Letter for an O-1 Visa Petition

Per United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the written advisory opinion should contain the followings:

Remember, the written advisory opinion should provide a detailed evaluation of your achievements and a conclusion as to whether you meet the extraordinary ability requirement. 

Steps to Obtain a Consultation Letter for Your O-1 Visa Petition

Obtaining a written advisory opinion involves the following steps:

  1. Identify the Appropriate Peer Group or Labor Organization

    This should be an organization or group with expertise in your field of extraordinary ability. For example, if you are a gymnast, this might be a professional organization such as USAG. If you're an actor, it could be an acting guild.

  2. Prepare Your Evidence

    You will need to provide the peer group or labor organization with evidence of your extraordinary ability. This might include awards you've won, media coverage of your work, letters of recommendation from industry experts, scholarly articles you've published, etc.

  3. Request the Opinion

    You should formally request the written advisory opinion from the organization. This request should include all of the evidence you've gathered. It might also be helpful to include a cover letter explaining why you are seeking an O-1 visa and outlining the evidence you are providing.

  4. Follow Up

    The organization may require some time to review your request and may ask for additional information or clarification. Be sure to respond to any requests promptly and thoroughly.

  5. Receive the Opinion

    Once the organization has reviewed your evidence and decided, they will provide you with the written advisory opinion.

Once you receive the written advisory opinion, it should be included in your O-1 visa petition that you submit to USCIS. Please note, however, the rules and requirements vary. Therefore, it is often a good idea to work with an immigration attorney or expert to help you navigate this process.

Why is a Consultation Letter necessary for O-1 visa petitions?

The written advisory opinion is necessary for an O-1 visa petition for many reasons: 

Objective Assessment of Extraordinary Ability

For an O-1 visa petition, an objective assessment of the beneficiary’s extraordinary ability from an authoritative and credible source is necessary through a written advisory opinion.

High Standard of Proof

The O-1 visa is specifically designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. As such, it’s necessary to have a high standard of proof that the individual truly possesses such extraordinary abilities.

Specialized Knowledge

In practice, USCIS officers reviewing O-1 petitions may not necessarily have specialized knowledge in the beneficiary’s field. As such, a written advisory opinion from a peer group, labor organization, or a person with expertise in the field provides valuable insight and context. It serves as a form of endorsement and gives credibility to the  claims of extraordinary ability.

In many cases, the absence of an advisory opinion could cause delay or complications in the adjudication process. However, it’s important to note that the USCIS has discretion when considering these advisory opinions.  The officers may agree or disagree with the findings, depending on the totality of evidence provided in the petition.

Timeline for Obtaining the Consultation Letter in the O-1 Visa Process

A written advisory opinion is required when you submit the O-1 visa petition. Therefore, it should be obtained prior to the submission of the O-1 visa petition.

No Specific Deadline

There is no specific deadline for obtaining the written advisory opinion in terms of a set number of days before you apply for the visa. However, it is important to account for the time it may take for the peer group, labor organization, or the expert to review your materials and prepare the consultation letter. This process may take several weeks or more.

Prepare in Advance

Also, consider that USCIS processing time for O-1 visa petitions can vary. That being said, it’s a good idea to begin the process, including obtaining the written advisory opinion, well in advance of the event or employment commencement date. 

However, always remember that USCIS guidelines may change over time.  As such, it’s always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney or expert to understand the current requirements and timeline. 

Submitting a Request for Consultation Letter Versus Providing the Consultation Letter Itself

In general, the written advisory opinion itself should be included with the O-1 visa petition when you submit it to USCIS. The written advisory opinion serves as an evaluation and endorsement of your qualifications from an authoritative source in your field.

No Confirmation of Your Extraordinary Ability

Simply submitting a request for an advisory opinion without the actual opinion would not provide the necessary confirmation of your extraordinary ability. The rule of thumb, USCIS requires the consultation letter itself to decide about the O-1 visa eligibility.

May Cause Delay 

If a consultation letter is not included with the petition and the adjudicating officer determines that one is required, USCIS could pause processing the petition until the consultation letter is provided.

It’s important to note, however, that the immigration laws and regulations are complex and subject to change.  Therefore, it is always recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or expert to understand the current requirements and procedures.

Waiver of the Consultation Letter Requirement

There are certain circumstances that may warrant a waiver of the consultation letter. 

Regulatory Waiver

Specifically, the regulation stipulates that if the O-1 petition is for an individual with extraordinary ability in the arts, the consultation requirement may be waived if the petitioner can establish that an appropriate peer group, or a labor organization, does not exist.

Exploring Additional Exceptions

For the O-1 visa petition, specific situations might also warrant a waiver for the written advisory opinion. Typically, for a waiver request to be granted, the petition must demonstrate that a designated entity to issue the consultation letter does not exist.  In addition, USCIS may waive the consultation letter requirement if the petition shows the designated entity refuses to issue the consultation.  

☞ Fields with Absent Peer Group or Labor Organization

Certain areas of extraordinary ability may lack a well-established peer group or labor organization capable of providing the advisory opinion. This is often the case in emerging fields or highly specialized professions that may not have established bodies to offer such opinions. If the petitioner can convincingly demonstrate the absence of such a group, USCIS might waive the requirement.

☞ Recognized Extraordinary Achievement in Television or Film

For the O-1B visa petition in the television or film industry, USCIS may waive the consultation requirement. This waiver is likely if the petitioner can prove that the beneficiary’s is recognized through a major award, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award.

It’s important to note, however, that these are exceptions and do not warrant a waiver of the consultation letter requirement. USCIS retains the right to require a written advisory opinion or to request additional evidence to establish eligibility. Furthermore, USCIS may directly contact a relevant peer group or labor organization to solicit their opinion. 

The Role of Immigration Experts in Navigating the O-1 Visa Process

Given the complexity of these matters and the potential for laws and regulations to change over time, it’s always advisable to consult with an immigration lawyer or expert. They can provide guidance throughout the process, ensuring the understanding of specific requirements for each individual case. 

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