Over the past several months, BAL has seen a sudden and steep increase in requests for evidence (RFEs) issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in O-1 visa petitions (for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics).

This is consistent with an overall upward trend in RFEs in other types of cases, including H-1B and L-1 visa petitions. A recent report by the USCIS Ombudsman found that RFEs have risen in the past two years for H-1B petitions, and in the first half of fiscal year 2014, USCIS issued RFEs in 43 percent of L-1A petitions and 50 percent of L-1B petitions. The increased scrutiny on O-1 petitions may be related to the record number of individuals seeking alternatives to H-1B cap-subject petitions.

The surge in O-1 RFEs began in April and in some areas has affected more than 40 percent of filings. The RFEs are generic and do not appear to target specific questions or qualifications. BAL is working closely with our clients to gather the additional documentation and evidence needed to overcome requests for evidence.

BAL Analysis: We are advising that O-1 petitioners and beneficiaries should not be surprised or disheartened by RFEs as they become increasingly common. Petitioners should also anticipate adding four to six weeks to their time frames to accommodate delays caused by requests for evidence.

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