Immigration officials have declared Shera Bechard former Miss November and girlfriend of Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner to be pure genius. Bechard was allowed a visa by immigration officials as an “individual with extraordinary ability.” The specific extraordinary ability was left unstated on immigration forms but it is believed that the matter was fully researched by officials.
A review of her web site (done as part of our own editorial process) did not reveal any of the specific examples given by the government for this visa like an “internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize.” However, few of us would likely recover from bikini shots of the Dalai Lama.
The O-1 visa allows individuals of “extraordinary ability” to come to the United States for up to three years. Methinks we need a new category for some candidates to separate the brainiacs from the bunnies.
This story did get me thinking about the limited review given to such discretionary decisions. Under current rules, a person like Stephen Hawking would have little recourse in the denial of a O-1 visa application as he watched Bechard shown through customs by a dozen attending customs officials. The standard is so subjective and discretionary that it defies review.
The government site lays out the criteria. It would seem that Bechard would fall under O-1B (B is for bunny):
The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
The O nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as:
O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1
O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s
General Eligibility Criteria
To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.
Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.