The O-1 visa is a U.S nonimmigrant visa for those who have extraordinary knowledge in science, business, education, athletics, or art. Additionally, they must also have international recognition for their work.
The O-1 visa has two types:
- O-1A visa for those with extraordinary knowledge and abilities in science, business, education, and athletics
- O-1B visa for those with extraordinary knowledge and abilities in television, film, and arts
The O-1 visa is comparable to the H-1B visa as they both require a petition from an employer, but the O-1 visa requirements are much more extensive.
Because of these extensive requirements, few people manage to get the O-1 visa which allows the visa holders to stay in the U.S and work for 3 years in their field of expertise. Besides this advantage, O-1 visa holders also get an additional benefit. They are allowed to apply and go from an O-1 visa to Green Card.
The O-1 visa is a dual intent visa, which means that its holders are allowed to apply for Green Card.
Which Green Card can I get With an O-1 Visa?
There are different categories of Green Cards, from Employment-Based and Family Based Green Cards to the Diversity Visa. For the O-1 visa holder, it is more appropriate to get an Employment Based Green Card. Since when you first apply for the O-1 visa, an employer must petition for you, it is better to go into that category from O-1 to Green Card.
Within the Employment Based Green Cards, there are several other visas. The one which fits the most is the EB-1 visa. The EB-1 visa is the Green Card for extraordinary abilities and achievements.
The visa is known as a Green Card for outstanding professors, researchers, as well as people with extraordinary abilities in science, art, athletics, business, and education. Additionally, it is also given to executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S company in the past 3 years.
Since the O-1 visa is the nonimmigrant visa for extraordinary achievements, the EB-1 visa is the U.S immigrant visa counterpart. So if you want to become a permanent resident in the U.S, it is best to go from an O-1 to EB-1 visa.
What is the difference between an O-1 visa and a Green Card?
The O-1 Visa
There are multiple benefits to going from an O visa to a Green Card. First, the O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that it is temporary. It only allows the holder to stay in the U.S for 3 years and then they can either request an extension or return to their home country.
With an O-1 visa, the person is bound to needing an employer to petition for them to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the visa and it is not guaranteed whether USCIS will approve it. Finally, with an O-1 visa, the holder will not be able to get a U.S citizenship even if they stay in the country for many years.
The Eb-1 Visa
On the contrary, the EB-1 Green Card is a U.S immigrant visa, which means that it is permanent. The person who has it can stay in the U.S as long as they want to and live anywhere in the country. They can get U.S issued documents and purchase property.
With the EB-1 visa, the person can change employers as many times as they want to and only the first one can petition, while the others do not need to send documents to USCIS. Finally, the biggest benefit is that after 5 years with an EB-1 visa, the person who has it can apply for a U.S citizenship and get a U.S passport.
A drawback for the EB-1 visa is that it has an annual limit on the number that can be issued each year. More specifically, only 40,000 EB-1 visas are issued each year from the U.S immigration authorities. This means that if you apply, there will be a long wait until your turn comes to be processed.
In addition, getting the EB-1 visa is extremely difficult since the requirements are much more extensive than for the O-1 visa. While the O-1 visa only requires winning prizes or publishing in the field of study and only one of the criteria mentioned above, the EB-1 visa is for those who might have won an Oscar, a Pulitzer, or an Olympic Medal, or who fulfill at least 3 of the criteria below:
- You have received a national or international award for your achievements and excellence;
- You are a member of a group or association in your field of study which continuously expects advancements from their members;
- You have been recognized in journals and the media for your published work;
- You have been asked to evaluate the work of others in your field of study;
- You have contributed to your field of study in a significant way;
- You have written articles or books which were published in trade publications or major media;
- You have been featured in exhibitions or other showcases for your work;
- You have performed a significant or crucial role in a distinguished organization in your field of expertise;
- You have received a high salary in the past and are expected to get significantly higher compensation compared to those in your field;
- You have received commercial success in the performing arts.
As can be seen from the requirements, even if you have fulfilled the criteria and have an O-1 visa, you might not fulfill the criteria for the EB-1 visa. However, if you do, then you are eligible to apply and get the EB-1 Green Card.
How to apply for a Green Card with an O-1 visa?
The first step towards getting a Green Card with an O-1 visa is to go through the requirements and confirm your eligibility. If you do not fulfill the criteria then it is better to work and achieve them rather than try and get rejected by USCIS. If you fulfill the criteria, then there are three ways to apply:
- Employer Petition
- National Interest Waiver
Just as your employer filed a petition for you to USCIS for an O-1 visa, you must find an employer who is willing to file a petition for an EB-1 visa. This petition is filed through Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. There are fees and supporting documents that must be attached to the petition to prove your eligibility.
USCIS will process this petition and if approved, they will send it to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC will confirm that all documentation is in order and then will wait until it is your turn for getting the visa. This is called a priority date. So the NVC will invite you to apply for the visa through the U.S Embassy when your priority date becomes current.
When you are invited to apply, then you follow the application steps outlined in the EB-1 Visa article.
Since this visa is extremely prestigious and difficult to obtain, USCIS has also allowed people to self-petition. This means that you do not need to wait for an employer to agree to sponsor you. If you have an O-1 visa, this means that you already have a job so you will only change your status from an O-1 to an EB-1 visa without changing your job.
To self-petition for the EB-1 visa, you can file Form I-140 to USCIS and wait for processing. The rest of the steps will be similar to getting the EB-1 visa through an employer petition.
National Interest Waiver
The final way through which you can apply for a Green Card from an O-1 visa is to prove that the U.S has a national interest in your work. You must prove to USCIS that your work is of “substantial intrinsic merit” through your achievements and that its benefits are of national scope.
Finally, you must also convince USCIS that waving the Labor Certification or employer petition requirement must be in the U.S national interest.
If USCIS approves this, then you will not get an EB-1 visa, but an EB-2 visa. The EB-2 visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and people with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, or business. You will have to apply according to the steps outlined in the EB-2 Visa article.
How Long Does it Take to get a Green Card With an O-1 visa?
Since the immigrant visas that the person with an O-1 visa qualifies for have annual caps, the O-1 visa to Green Card processing time can be quite long. If the yearly limit was not reached when you apply, then your visa will be processed within a few months.
However, if the yearly limit was reached, you might get processing next year. There might be cases when there are too many applications, so the Green Card processing could be delayed by more than one year.
What to after you go from an O-1 visa to a Green Card?
If your visa gets approved based on employer petition, self-petition, or National Interest Waiver, then you are allowed to permanently live in the U.S.
Immediately after you get approval, you must file to adjust your status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The form is filed to USCIS and after they process it, you will get your Green Card in the mail.
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