Playboy playmate Shera Bechard receives US `Genius` Visa

Updated: Jul 01, 2012, 18:08 PM IST

London: Shera Bechard, the Canadian-born former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, has been granted a special visa by the US government, which is reserved for “individuals with extraordinary ability.”

Playboy magazine crowned Bechard Miss November in 2010, and she also started an online photo-sharing craze called ‘Frisky Friday.’

Neither seems quite on the level of an “internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize,” which the government cites as a possible qualification.

But Los Angeles immigration lawyer Chris Wright argued that Bechard’s accomplishments earned her a slot, and the government ultimately agreed.

That kind of success has put Wright on the map as the go-to visa fixer for both Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

It also highlights the use of so-called genius visas known as O-1s and EB-1s, which have largely escaped political controversy and are now the immigration solution of choice for many entrepreneurs.

As many immigration lawyers see it, the paucity of immigration options for the most entrepreneurial foreigners mean they must use any avenue they can.

This approach, along with seeming flexibility in Washington on what constitutes “extraordinary ability,” means the O-1 is gaining traction in technology circles. Wider use could ultimately land it in political trouble.

For example, the H-1B visa, which allows employers to hire foreigners temporarily in certain specialized fields like technology, has drawn accusations from union groups and others that companies use it to bring in lower-skilled labor.

The O-1 visa allows individuals of ‘extraordinary ability’ to come to the United States for up to three years, and can be extended.

Wright, himself a South African immigrant, dismisses the notion that some of his clients might not rise to the level of “extraordinary ability.”

“There’s nothing in those regulations that requires you to be a genius,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

“It’s quite condescending to say, ‘Oh, the idiot Playboy Playmates, they don’t qualify’,” he added.

Bechard said that immigration officials “want to give (a visa) to someone who shows business skills.”

She also threw in such qualifications as her role as a mute Russian in a 2009 movie, ‘Sweet Karma,’ which won her a best actress award at the cult Fantastic Film Festival in Austin, Texas.