Canadian Model and Playboy Shera Berchard Gets O-1 Visa for US


Canadian-born Shera Berchard is the ex-girlfriend of Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner.

Shera Bechard is not a nobel prize winning scientist.  She is not a brilliant linguist.  She’s also not a Pulitzer Prize winning writer.  Still, Bechard, the Canadian-born former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner is by nonetheless considered to be a genius.

Well, she is in terms of USCIS’s policy on issuing O visas. At the end of the day, the government agreed that Berchard’s achievements have earned her a great deal.

Bechard, who was Playboy’s Miss November 2010 and started an online photo-sharing craze called “Frisky Friday” qualified for an O visa – thanks to the help of her Los Angeles immigration lawyer who successfully argued that Bechard’s accomplishments qualified her for an O visa which is reserved for “individuals with extraordinary ability.”

Obtaining an O-1 Visa

Frequently known as a genius visa, the O visa has thus far escaped political controversy and are being seen as the immigration solution choice for many entrepreneurs.  According to many immigration lawyers, immigration options for a majority of entrepreneurial foreigners mean that they will use any avenue that they have available.  Although formally used in technology circles, using O visa has put immigration lawyers on a creative course of action to service the needs of their entrepreneurial clients.

The visa allows individuals who are able to display “extraordinary ability” to come to the United States for up to three years which can be extended.  The visa was used by Piers Morgan when he replaced Larry King on his TV show on CNN.

Because there is no cap on the number of O visas that the US government can issue each year, 12,280 were approved in 2011- up from 9,478 in 2006.  In addition O visas are starting to be viewed as a fallback for businessmen and technologists who cannot obtain H1-B visas.

Take 20-year-old British-born entrepreneur Josh Buckley for example.  Buckley, who received his O visa last year, applied for such type of visa because the traditional H1-B visas are often with limits.  Also, because the O visa does not require a college education, many young entrepreneurs who are flocking towards Silicon Valley are finding the visa a very attractive option.

Similar to O visas, EB-1 requires “extraordinary ability” as among the qualifications for approval as well as being a multinational executive or an outstanding professor or researcher. Instead of a temporary stay, EB-1 will result to an acquisition of permanent residency in the country. While foreign investors and entrepreneurs have another option, that is by traveling to the US under Immigrant Investor Program or EB-5 visa, this will however cost them a minimum of $500,000 along with the provision for creating at least 10 full time jobs in the US.

While the O visa is certainly becoming a popular option, the visas do require a lot of effort on behalf of an immigration lawyer.  According to a USCIS spokeswoman, USCIS examined each O visa request on a case-by-case basis relying on the law and evidence provided for that case.  There are numerous factors that influence the number of visa applications received and approved from year to year.

LA Immigration Lawyers for O-1 Visas

By making the O visa become more of a reality, Berchard’s immigration lawyer noted that he is hopeful that immigration reform will make it easier for talent immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States.  Immigrant entrepreneurs claim that instead of taking away jobs from Americans, the O visa is allowing them to create jobs by finding companies that may end up employing hundreds if not thousands of people.

By making it easier to bring educated, talented, and enterprising foreigners to the United States, the O visa will most likely remain a vital option for many immigrant entrepreneurs. Our Immigration Lawyers for Los Angeles believe so too. And you don’t necessarily have to be an attractive model to qualify 🙂

** Niren and Associates, is a firm with immigration law offices all across North America and Canada, specializes in Canadian and US immigration matters. Book an appointment to discuss your visa options!

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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