By Licelle Cobrador, Esq.
Many foreign journalists start in the United States as graduate students or representatives of foreign media. Then they find themselves aspiring to break into the cutthroat industry while concurrently navigating the country’s complex immigration system.
Relying on one’s own online research, talking to friends and learning from other people will not cut it. It must be emphasized (and I always tell those who consult), “Each person is different.” Thus, those hoping to work in the U.S. are advised to consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible.
Although American media outlets proclaim being committed to diversity, some would still hesitate to hire foreign workers. There’s up to 85,000 H-1B visas for specialty occupations available every year. The initial registration period is from March 9 to 25. Assuming the visa is approved, the employment start date will be on October 1. As a general rule, it will be valid for three years and renewable for another three. Those who’ve been through this process will attest that it’s nerve-wracking and unpredictable.
Journalists qualify for the O-1/extraordinary ability visa if they’ve attained the required “distinction” in the field. “Distinction” means a high level of achievement as evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that they’ve been described as prominent, leading or well-known.
Three out of seven criteria must be met. There is no cap to the number of O-1 visas that can be granted in any fiscal year, like there is for H-1B visas. An O-1 visa petition could be filed at any time and it’s renewable indefinitely.
Congress recognizes the need for flexibility for journalists who thrive in non-traditional work environments such as short-term, project and casual employment. Thus, an O-1 sponsor could be a traditional employer or an agent.
Once a journalist has written or reported for a major news organization or covered an event for a major media outlet, she or he could potentially meet at least two criteria.
Documentation, naturally, is the foundation of an O-1 visa petition and testimonials from industry experts serve as the glue the binds the petition. She or he should organize a portfolio, including awards, press, memberships, a media kit showing the reach of the outlets the journalist has published in, including traffic numbers for web outlets, sales and circulation figures for newspapers and magazines, viewership or subscription information for networks, among others.
It would be prudent to meticulously keep track of any reference or republishing of the journalist’s reports and their overall impact.
Finally, a successful petition results from a combination of factors –personal and professional resources, solid, documentation, expert testimonials, a good immigration attorney and a bit of luck. #
This column serves primarily as a guide. It aims to provide general information on immigration law. The information provided is for general guidance and reference purposes only and it is not intended to serve as, nor can it be relied upon, as legal advice to address any specific situation. Those with specific questions are strongly encouraged to contact an immigration attorney.)
*About the author
Born in Manila, Licelle Cobrador has over 10 years of experience in immigration and nationality law. Prior to establishing her own firm, Cobrador & Associates, PLLC, Licelle was an associate at a boutique immigration firm in Manhattan and a leading firm in Manila.
Licelle received her B.A. from the University of the Philippines, Manila (Cum Laude, Top 20 out of 267). After earning her J.D. from Ateneo de Manila University, she was admitted to practice law in the Philippines. She completed her LL.M at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship and was admitted to practice in New York.
Licelle currently serves as Vice President and Executive Director of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund/ FALDEF and as Volunteer Attorney at the Migrant Center of New York. She is a past co-chair of the Cardozo Law Masters Alumni Community. She is also a member of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York/ FALA New York and the National Filipino American Lawyers Association/ NFALA.
Licelle has been selected as TimeIsNow’s Global Filipino Trailblazer. She is recognized as one of Women Today’s Women on the Front Rank, Cardozo Life Magazine’s Movers & Shakers and Cardozo Law’s Outstanding Alumni and has been published in Delaware Law. Licelle is a frequent national and international speaker on U.S. Immigration Law.
(Featured photo: Filam journalists in New York interview former Consul General Claro Cristobal at the Philippine Consulate in NY in 2019)