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The Extraordinary Ones (Part I)

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.

In 2010, Anisha Dadia came to New York from the U.K. to pursue a career in acting. After graduating from a two-year conservatory program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she wanted to stay in the city. Juggling student film auditions and babysitting gigs, Dadia kept working on her acting portfolio so she could apply for an O-1, which would allow her to extend her stay in the United States until 2015.

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 two of our series here, and part three here.

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