O-1s for Stanford Affiliates
The O-1 nonimmigrant category — as described by US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations is available to foreign nationals who have achieved "sustained international acclaim for extraordinary ability in an academic field in which they are among a small percentage of experts who have risen to the top of their field."
The category permits an employer to petition the Department of Homeland Security for an employee to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis within their area of extraordinary ability or achievement. A valid offer of employment is required.
When is an O-1 Visa Necessary?
Other than the scenarios described below, O-1 status is probably not necessary. Postdoctoral scholars, as trainees, should be in J-1 status, and by exception may hold H-1 status. (Stanford is a cap-exempt employer, and is not, like industry, limited in quantity to its access to the H-1 program.)
As a matter of practical expectation, O-1 is probably not a classification suitable outside the faculty and academic staff ranks.
There are a few Stanford affiliates (described below) who have no alternative but to seek O-1 status.
Needed by some Physicians
H-1 regulations restrict the use of the H-1 status by physicians with more than incidental patient care. A physician with more than 20% of their FTE dedicated to patient care who needs immigration support must either have graduated from a US medical school or otherwise have passed all three parts of the MLEs in order to be approved for H-1 status by USCIS. In the absence of one of these requirements, an O-1 nonimmigrant visa may be the alternative.
Subject to the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement 212(e)
Former participants in the J-1 program may be unable to change status and/or qualify for an H-1 due to the Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement. If your candidate has had Fulbright or ECFMG sponsorship, for example, this requirement is automatically invoked. However, they may still be eligible for an O-1 (although a prohibition to changing status for those with Two-Year Requirement while residing in the U.S. remains). Canadian citizens can circumvent the restriction temporarily because they are not required to obtain a visa stamp in their passports. Send an email to Bechtel to inquire.
Obstacle of H-1 Time Limits
The H-1 program limits the beneficiary to six years in the U.S. in that status, after which they must depart the U.S. for a year. There are provisions that allow extensions for those who are in the green card process, but outside of those exceptions, the only way to continue a program of activity without interruption is to move to a different classification.
Other than the scenarios described above, O-1 status is probably not necessary. Postdocs, as trainees, are expected to be in J-1 status, and by exception may hold H-1 status. (Stanford is a cap-exempt employer, and is not limited in its access to the H-1 program as is industry).
Stanford has retained Fredrikson and Byron, PA (now known as Fredrikson) for assistance with certain types of immigration work, including O-1 petitions. Fredrikson is the exclusive provider of these legal services to Stanford University and is the only firm that can submit Stanford’s petitions to USCIS. If a department or employing unit has a need for these services, it needs to work with Bechtel International Center to collect basic information and secure preliminary approvals before processing the referral. The firm works in cooperation with Bechtel International Center to coordinate the University’s representations to the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship, and Immigration Services. Employees may not retain personal counsel for Stanford O-1 petitions.
Referral requests start with a Workflow transaction—regardless of whether they are initial, extension, or even just an evaluation of feasibility. The workflow transaction number is needed for the referral request. See Export Control and Workflow for O-1 transactions to be referred to Fredrikson for guidance in the Workflow environment. No obligation to pursue an O-1 is created by a referral.
The second step in a referral request is made using this online form. The referral request can't be completed without a Workflow transaction number. There is no provision for employees to initiate their own immigration procedures.
When a department’s referral request is approved, the department or unit representative is given instructions for contacting the attorneys.
Departments and other hiring units are responsible for legal and filing fees for Stanford-sponsored petitions. See Fredrikson’s Legal Fee Schedule. (You must be logged in to a stanford.edu account to review the fee schedule.) Legal fees do not include filing or premium processing fees; these are extra and should be discussed with the attorneys.
Please do not consult the firm outside the context of an approved referral from Bechtel for each individual case you wish referred (i.e., new request, extension, amendment, green card). You’ll need to complete a Workflow transaction and new Qualtrics form each time you seek an extension, for example, or want to inquire about a green card for someone who has already been granted an O-1.