Narratively

 

The Extraordinary Ones (Part III)

Three immigrants seeking a highly coveted visa struggle to prove their worth to the United States.

Story by Peter Moskowitz & Claudia Bracholdt | October 22, 2012

What makes a person extraordinary?

One of the most coveted types of visas are those which allow foreigners to live and work in the U.S. if they can prove they have extraordinary abilities in their fields. The O-1 “extraordinary persons” visa lasts for one to three years and can be renewed; the EB-1 version leads to permanent citizenship. Tens of thousands of people apply for each type every year, from Italian filmmakers to Moroccan hair stylists, often paying thousands of dollars in lawyer and application fees. Here are the stories of three visa applicants who successfully received the “extraordinary person” designation.

Josu de Solaun is a world-renowned classical pianist from Spain. He applied for his EB-1 visa over two years ago, and then made the mistake of leaving the country. For one year, while his visa was being processed, he couldn’t re-enter. He lost concert gigs, students, and the way of life he’d grown accustomed to.  Now, de Solaun has finally made it back to New York, with his “extraordinary” status intact, but he says the convoluted experience left a bitter taste in his mouth.

The visa requirements have come under fire from business leaders and immigration lawyers in recent years for being vague, subjective, and forever changing, depending on who happens to be making decisions at USCIS at any given time. But for people who dream of calling New York and the United States home, the visas, and the bureaucratic pain still associated with them, are often their only hope.

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For more “Extraordinary Ones,” view part one of our series here, and part two here.

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