How to Make a Transition from an O1 Visa to Green Card
If you have an O1 visa, you’re in rare company. This type of visa is reserved for individuals with “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or even for someone who has “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement” in the film industry, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Like the H-1B visa, obtaining an O1 visa requires a petition from an employer, but as mentioned above, the requirements are quite difficult to meet. While you may obtain an H-1B visa if you meet certain criteria required for a high-level job, an O1 visa is reserved for only the highest levels of professional or artistic achievement.
While obtaining the O1 visa is very difficult, it comes with some major perks. These visa holders are able to stay in the U.S. and work for 3 years in their field of expertise.
Another huge benefit of the O1 visa is that it’s a dual intent visa, which means that its holders are allowed to apply for Green Card. In this article, we’ll discuss all the steps and details associated with transitioning from O1 to Green Card. If you happen to be skilled (or lucky) enough to have obtained an O1 Visa, the information below will serve you as a comprehensive guide to leverage your amazing achievements into permanent residency in the United States.
So if you’re asking the question, can O1 Visa apply for Green Card? The answer is definitely yes.
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What Kind of Green Card Can I Get with an O1 Visa?
The type of Green Card you apply for matters, since there are several different categories of Green Cards. The different types of Green Cards, officially known as Permanent Resident Cards, are:
- Family-Sponsored Green Cards
- Employment Sponsored Green Cards
- Returning Resident Green Cards
- Diversity Visa Green Cards
If you’re an O1 visa holder, it makes the most sense for you to apply for the Employment Sponsored Green Card. Since an employer must have petitioned for you to get your O1 visa in the first place, it makes the most logical sense for you to try to stay in that category while transferring from O1 visa to Green Card.
Of the Employment Based Green Cards, the ideal fit for an O1 recipient is the EB-1 visa, which is the Green Card reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities and achievements (similar to the O1).
With the EB-1 visa, an individual can obtain U.S. documents such as a driver’s license, they can own property, continue their education, and even get married and have children.
How to Apply For A Green Card With an O1 Visa?
If you’ve decided you want to move forward with applying for a Green Card, you’ll need to confirm your eligibility again. Just because you have an O1 Visa does not mean that the O1 visa to Green Card processing time will be shorter. You’ll need to make sure you fulfill the criteria to avoid getting rejected by the USCIS.
One of the most important criteria to remember is that you must remain in the same field of expertise throughout the entire application process.
In addition, you must be able to prove that you meet, at a minimum, 3 of the criteria below in order to quality:
- You are the recipient of a national or international prize or award for your achievements and/or excellence in your field of expertise.
- You are an active member of a professional association for your field of expertise.
- You have published papers or research in your field of expertise which has been recognized in accredited journals or in the media.
- You have been asked to evaluate the work of other individuals in your field of expertise, either by yourself or as a member of an experts' panel.
- You have made a significant contribution to your field of expertise in some sort of verified scholarly, scientific, artistic, athletic, or business-related way.
- Articles that you have written have been published in trade publications or major media outlets.
- You have had your work featured in prestigious exhibitions or other showcases.
- You have some sort of evidence that you have played an instrumental role in a distinguished professional organization related to your field of expertise.
- You receive a relatively high salary compared to others in your field of expertise.
- You have received notable commercial success in the performing arts field.
Once you’ve confirmed that you fulfill the criteria, you effectively have three ways that you can choose to apply for your Green Card. We will describe the process for each below:
OPTION 1: Employer Petition
You’ve already been through something similar to this as your employer filled out a petition to get your O1 Visa. Similarly, you can ask your employer to file the petition for an EB-1 Visa via the form I-140, which is the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. In addition to the form itself, there are fees and some supporting documents associated to prove your eligibility.
You’ll have to wait to hear back from the USCIS and if you get approved, they’ll send it over to the National Visa Center (NVC). Assuming all the documentation is in order, the NVC will then determine your priority date, which is essentially the date when it’s your turn to get the visa. Once your priority date arrives, the NVC will invite you to apply for the EB-1 Visa.
OPTION 2: Self Petition
Unlike what was required to obtain your O1 Visa, you have the ability to apply for a Green Card via self petition. If you choose to do this, you’ll need to make sure you have all of the official documentation that shows your professional accomplishments in your field of expertise. With an O1 Visa in hand, this should be a relatively smooth transition to an EB-1 Visa.
In order to do this, you’ll need to fill out and file form I-140 to the USCIS. After that, it’s simply a waiting game. Similarly to option one, you’ll have to wait for USCIS to pass the info over to the NVC and follow the steps.
OPTION 3: National Interest Waiver
There is yet another way to convert O1 to Green Card, which essentially involves proving that the U.S. has a national interest in you and your work. You’ll have to prove to USCIS that your work meets the qualifications of having “substantial intrinsic merit” and that the benefits of you continuing to work within the United States are of national scope and benefit.
You’ll also have to convince the USCIS that forgoing the Labor Certification or employer petition requirement would be in the U.S. national interest as well.
If you’re able to get that approved, you’ll receive an EB-2 Visa rather than an EB-1. This visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and/or extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, or business.
The Difference Between an O1 Visa and a Green Card
The key difference between an O1 Visa and a Green Card is that the O1 is a non-immigrant temporary visa where you can only stay in the U.S. for up to three years, whereas a Green Card is typically for permanent residence. After three years with the O1 Visa, you can either return to your home country or petition for a visa extension.
With an O1 visa, you’ll have to get an employer to offer a petition for the visa-holder to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, and there’s no guarantee that officials will approve the petition. This is not the case if you have a Green Card.
Then there’s the possibility of citizenship. With an O1 visa, no matter how long you stay in the U.S., you won’t have the ability to become a U.S. citizen. But with a Green Card, the path to citizenship is certainly possible.
With an O1 visa, you may be able to get financing for the purchase of property, but the O1 to Green Card time may be lengthier and more difficult compared to what it would be if you had a Green Card.
There are several more benefits to having a Green Card vs. an O1 Visa, including the following:
- You’ll be able to come and go from the United States as much as you want without the risk of being denied entry.
- There is no expiration of your legal stay. A Green Card is valid for life.
- You can apply for financial aid for education.
- You can work for any company in U.S. territory without needing sponsorship.
- You have the ability to start your own business.
- You can even sponsor your spouse and/or children (children must be under 21) to also obtain permanent status.
- You won’t have to worry about possible changes in immigration law
If any of these benefits sound appealing to you, or if you intend to stay in the United States permanently, then it’s clear that a Green Card would be preferable for you to have.
If you’ve already obtained an O1 Visa, you’re in an enviable spot when it comes to your chances of obtaining a Green Card. Nonetheless, it’s absolutely critical that you follow the right steps and have all the correct documentation. With our experienced O1 Green Card lawyer team and immigration attorneys, we can provide you with the support and guidance you need to make your already excellent beginning to your residence in the United States end up being permanent. Contact us today to get in touch with one of our legal immigration experts.