[UPDATED] USCIS Issues New Guidance for O-1 Petitions

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

UPDATE: On July 22, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual to provide additional guidance on evidence that it will accept in a petition for an O-1A nonimmigrant of extraordinary ability or achievement with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions.  

Specifically, USCIS has clarified that beneficiaries can show evidence they are at the top of their field by being named on a competitive government grant for STEM research. The USCIS Policy Manual contains a full list of examples of evidence that can be used to demonstrate extraordinary ability in STEM occupations. A complete list of acceptable evidence is provided in the USCIS Policy Manual.  


On Jan. 21, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new policy guidance that applies to certain O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement visas


The new guidance, updated in the official USCIS Policy Manual, clarifies the evaluation of an O-1 beneficiary’s prospective work within his or her area of proposed achievement or extraordinary ability. The guidance further clarifies how USCIS evaluates evidence to determine eligibility for O-1A nonimmigrants, particularly for individuals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The new guidance includes a table discussing the types of evidence that will satisfy each of the criteria for establishing that the beneficiary meets the standards for the O-1A classification. 

The USCIS guidance also indicates that if petitioners show that a particular existing requirement does not apply to their occupation, they can submit alternative evidence of comparable significance that establishes sustained acclaim and recognition. The guidance further includes examples of comparable evidence that can be submitted to support beneficiaries working in STEM occupations. 

Finally, the USCIS update states that when officers are determining if individuals of extraordinary ability are coming to work in their “area of extraordinary ability,” officers will consider whether the individual’s prospective work includes the expertise, knowledge or skillsets that are pertinent to the occupation(s) in which the individual works.  

This new guidance does not change the legal standard for qualifying for the O-1A classification, but it does provide clearer guidance that O-1 petitioners can use for assessing the strength of potential O-1A cases and for assembling documentation to demonstrate the beneficiary’s qualifications.  

Looking Ahead  

While this policy guidance is effective immediately, USCIS is accepting public comments for the new guidance, which can be submitted on the Policy Manual for Comment page.  


Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Amanda Bolhuis and Ian Love, who are Partners at Global Immigration Associates (GIA), one of the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").    

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.