Playboy Playmate Receives O-1 Visa, Stirs Controversy

Posted on Jul 05, 2012

After a Playboy Playmate was granted an O-1 visa for extraordinary ability late last month, many perspective immigrants are wondering exactly how extraordinary ability is determined – and whether an O-1 visa may be a good option for a wider array of personalities and entertainers than previously thought. 

Canadian-born Shera Bechard was the November 2010 Playboy Magazine centerfold – and also the ex-girlfriend of Playboy’s founder, Hugh Heffner. In addition to her work as a nude model, Bechard also began the “Frisky Friday” Twitter contest, in which female microbloggers post suggestive photos online and Playboy picks a weekly winner. 

Unlike many other immigration visas, there are no caps on how many people can acquire an O-1 visa each year. Last year, over 12,000 were issued to entertainers, businessmen, and athletes. As more and more businesspeople, engineers, and skilled workers struggle to gain entry into the country through hard-to-get HB-1 visas, and as the federal government struggles to pass immigration reforms, many people are turning to the O-1 visa. 

Traditionally, O-1 visa applicants must prove that they are active on the international stage, have won major awards, or compete on an international level. When asked about how a Playboy Bunny fits into this mold, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that they decide who qualifies on a case-by-case basis. 

Whether or not experts agree whether a nude model should qualify for an O-1 visa, most agree that the O-1 is an excellent avenue for talented foreigners who want to live and work in the United States – and that especially when many visas are increasingly hard to secure, the O-1 may be a good option for entrepreneurs, artists, and those who shine in their fields. 

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