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Ask Me Anything About O-1 and EB-1A “Extraordinary Ability” Visas

Ask Me Anything Got questions about O-1 and EB-1A “extraordinary ability” visas? I’ve got answers!

This is an ongoing AMA – use the “Leave a Reply” box below to post a question.

Please limit discussion to O-1 and EB-1A visa topics. Also please note, the US visa process for the arts and entertainment is a very specialized area, not addressed here – the site Artists from Abroad is a great resource for this.

I’m a licensed attorney, and I do know my stuff, but this isn’t legal advice, and I don’t represent you.

Thanks for stopping by! A special welcome to friends from Hacker News.

I’ll start it off with a few commonly asked questions, then open the floor to you.

 

This Post Has 10 Comments
    1. The O-1 and the EB-1A look similar, in that they both require evidence of achievement in 3 of the same 8 categories: original contributions to your field, prestigious leadership jobs, media coverage, awards, publications, judging, high salary, and exclusive memberships. But “what you get” in each status is different.

      The O-1 visa is a temporary work visa, like the H-1B, the L-1, and the TN. Your first O-1 visa can be valid for up to 3 years initially. You can renew it indefinitely in 1-year increments. There’s no limit to the number of renewals, and there’s no cap, but the O-1 is always a temporary status.

      The EB-1A is an “immigrant visa,” AKA a green card. You can apply for it while you’re in the United States in a temporary status, like F-1 or O-1, or you can apply from overseas. Green card holders can live here forever, travel freely, work at any job or no job, start businesses, and sponsor relatives for green cards. Green card holders can also apply for US citizenship after 3 to 5 years.

      The O-1 and the EB-1A both have the same 8 categories of proof, but O-1s are often approved on lower volumes of evidence, while EB-1As are usually held to a higher standard. The O-1 visa can be used as a trial case for the EB-1A. You can work in O-1 status, while building up your O-1 evidence package to EB-1A quality.

    1. Yes. O-1 is one of the few categories that can be structured so that your startup company can sponsor you for a work visa. The “bigger” your company looks, the more smoothly this process goes. For example, a standard Delaware C-corporation, with multiple founders and investors, is a better structure than a single-member LLC.

      The O-1 does require a separate entity as the petitioner. Self-sponsorship isn’t permitted.

  1. Q: I’m from India. I’m here in H-1B status. My employer sponsored me for an EB-2 green card and it got approved in 2016. But the EB-2 category has an 8-year wait, minimum, for my priority date to become current. If I file a new petition for the green card in EB-1A status, which has no wait, will it jeopardize my approved EB-2?

    1. No, it won’t. Your EB-2 green card petition approval stands on its own. It won’t be revoked or jeopardized by a later green card petition in the higher EB-1A category. If your EB-1A is approved, congratulations! Your priority date is now current, and you can get your green card right away.

      Even if your EB-1A is denied, though, it won’t affect your EB-2 approval, or change your place in line.

      In some situations, it’s actually routine to file multiple green card petitions simultaneously in different categories, then use the approval that’s most beneficial. You just have to let the Service know which one you’re using.

  2. Q: Aren’t these O-1 and EB-1A categories reserved for geniuses and Nobel Prize winners? I don’t think I qualify.

    1. No, these visas are not just for the “1%.” There’s a lot of understandable confusion about the standards for “extraordinary ability.” There’s no resource that really lays this out in a practical way.

      OK, the super-top people in their fields definitely qualify. But LOTS of other talented folks do too! It’s a question of understanding how the adjudication process works, below the 1% level, and how examiners decide these cases.

      Look at it this way. Below the Nobel-Prize level, applicants must meet a minimum of 3, out of 8 categories showing “extraordinary ability.” So in any given field, from the top 2% to, say, the top 20%, the adjudicator will be checking off boxes.

      Original contributions, check. Awards, check. Media, check. Publications, check. Judging, check. Salary, check. There’s high-quality evidence in all these categories. Hey, this person must be extraordinary. Approved!

      Maybe you’ve noticed that the 8 categories are kind of arbitrary and rigid. You’d be right. They are. And that can work to your advantage. Understanding the template, and helping the adjudicator check off as many boxes as possible, is WAY more important than being a “genius.”

      For more on this topic, check out the “O-1 VisaBuilder Quick-Start Guide” in the sidebar. It goes into more detail about the strategies for structuring a winning case.

  3. Q: I’ve been working in the United States in O-1 status for 5 years. Have I accrued any “time” or “points” toward an EB-1A green card?

    1. No. The “process streams” for the O-1 and the EB-1A are completely different and separate from each other. USCIS calls these “product lines.”

      There’s a distinct set of product lines for nonimmigrant, or temporary, work visas, like O-1s, H-1Bs, L-1s, and TNs.

      There’s a totally different set of product lines for immigrant visas, or green cards, like EB-1A extraordinary ability, EB-1C multinational manager, and EB-2 specialty worker.

      These lines don’t cross. There’s no procedure for accruing “credits” toward a green card, by holding any nonimmigrant status for any period of time.

      That said, the accomplishments that got you the O-1 visa, and that you continue to achieve in O-1 status, can be used as evidence for your EB-1A green card petition. It’s just a completely separate filing procedure.

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