Editor’s note: this interview was published, in Russian, in the January 2018 edition of the Russian Speaking Newspaper.
Not many attorneys focus on the sports aspect of Extraordinary Ability immigration. Can you tell us how you got started in sports immigration law?
Well, I’ve always loved sports and respected not only the physical, but also the intellectual discipline required of athletes. That said, I was never athletically gifted, so in college, rather than playing sports, I tutored athletes at my university. I also became close friends with two runners, who went on to complete and win medals at multiple Olympic Games (Deedee Trotter – 400m) and Justin Gatlin (100m and 200m). It was through my friendships with them that I discovered my love for Track & Field. When I became an immigration attorney, it seemed natural to combine my interest in sports with my profession. My first sports immigration clients were runners, but since then, I’ve branched out into other sports – bodybuilding, martial arts, figure skating, and others.
Would you say you become a fan of the athletes you work with?
Definitely! I think it’s impossible not to! When I’m doing my research on the client and start making lists of all their accolades for the legal brief I’ll be submitting with their case, sometimes it’s difficult to believe, to wrap your mind around what they’ve accomplished. Only 124 men in the history of humanity have run the 100-meter race in under 10 seconds and 4 of them are my clients! That feels surreal. And I must confess that when I’m watching the Olympics or World Championships, I’m not only cheering for the Americans. I traveled to London earlier this fall to watch my clients compete at the World Championship, as well as to meet with other athletes, coaches, agents and Nike representatives.
So, do you work only with athletes?
No, not at all. While athletes certainly make up most of the clients in my Sports and Extraordinary Ability practice, I do also work with people of extraordinary ability from other fields. US immigration law makes Extraordinary Ability visas and green cards available to those who have achieved very high levels of acclaim in Business, Education, Science and Arts, in addition to Sports. In the last year, for example, we have worked with a fantasy author and with a permanent makeup artist. It can be any field that broadly fits under one of those three categories. Extraordinary ability immigration isn’t just reserved for famous athletes, singers and actors.
How “extraordinary” does someone have to be to get an extraordinary ability visa or green card?
It depends on the immigration category. The law provides several options. The P visa for athletes and entertainers is the most easily attainable option of those available. It requires that the applicant be “internationally recognized.” Every case and every field is a little different but as an example, someone ranked in the top 10% in their country in their sport, and who competes internationally in major competitions, might qualify for a P visa. For the O visa, the level of distinction required is higher than the P. It requires “sustained national or international acclaim.” For example, I have gotten the O visa for an athlete who was a national record holder, and who had competed in the Olympics, but had not won a medal. For the green card, the standard is also sustained national or international acclaim, but as a practical matter, getting the green card is still a bit tougher than the O. We were successful with an extraordinary ability green card for a continental record holder in multiple events, who had advanced to the Olympic finals. Candidates with major internationally recognized awards in their field generally have a good chance of winning an extraordinary ability green card, but the final analysis is case-specific.
What about individuals from somewhat obscure fields? Can they qualify?
Yes, they can, though their cases are tougher. It’s fairly easy to explain why someone who runs at record-breaking speed is extraordinary, but the less known or more complicated the field, the more difficult it becomes to explain to the immigration officer how a particular candidate stands out among others in his or her field. It’s important to remember that the field itself doesn’t have to be well-known or even extraordinary; the requirement is that the applicant has to stand out as among the most accomplished and recognized in his or her field. In theory, one could qualify as one of the world’s leading specialists in waste management. The challenge is in identifying the evidence that meets the requirements of the law and fully conveys the applicant ‘s accomplishments.
What’s the most unusual Extraordinary Ability visa you have seen be granted?
A humanist educator.
What strategies do you use with applicants from these “nonstandard” fields?
I start with hours of research on the field of endeavor. With these cases, I almost have to become an expert in the field. I have to understand how the field works, it’s politics and hierarchy, the client’s body of work and how it fits into this larger structure. Then, I develop the case strategy accordingly. I think that’s why I have had so much success in the Track & Field area of my Extraordinary Ability immigration practice. Of all the fields I have worked with throughout my career, that is the field I know and understand best.
From what we hear, you have a pretty astounding win record. To what do you attribute that?
Thank you. I am proud of our Sports and Extraordinary Ability immigration practice and the results I’ve been able to achieve for my clients. I think certainly part of it is that my clients’ achievements motivate the perfectionist in me. I also personally develop the case strategy and manage each of my Sports and Extraordinary Ability cases cases. I don’t have paralegals or assistants drafting my legal arguments or making critical case decisions. My clients come for me, they pay for me, and they get me; not an associate or a paralegal. The clients appreciate this approach and I think it results in a better filing.
Speaking of filings, we’ve seen pictures of massive stacks of paper on your firm’s social media pages. How thick is an average Extraordinary Ability case?
I’d say average is probably 400-600 pages.
What’s your record?
29 lbs of paper.
If you could file an extraordinary ability case for anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Hmmm, good question! Probably Justin Trudeau. I’m a huge fan! Too bad there’s not a category for Extraordinary Ability in politics!
If you would like to find out whether you qualify for extraordinary ability immigration to the United States, call us at 407-705-3345 today to set up your case analysis with our award-winning Orlando immigration lawyer, Ksenia Maiorova!