Are you an extraordinary foreign national—or are you looking to hire one?
The best and brightest from abroad can get O-1 visas quickly to live and work in the U.S. if they have an employer sponsor. The EB-1A green card provides the next step for O-1 visa holders who want to stay permanently in the U.S., or the first step for “extraordinary” foreign nationals who don’t have an employer to qualify for an O-1.
There are two categories of O-1 visas:
- Candidates for an O-1A visa must demonstrate “extraordinary” ability in science, education, business, or athletics.
- Candidates for an O-1B must demonstrate “extraordinary” ability in the arts, or “extraordinary” achievement in movies or television.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines an “extraordinary” individual as one who is at “the very top” of their field and and is highly acclaimed and recognized. They must demonstrate they are coming temporarily to the U.S. to continue working in their field.
An application for an O-1 visa must be filed by an employer on behalf of a candidate. It must be filed at least 45 days but no more than one year before the date of employment. USCIS processes some O-1 petitions in as little as two weeks even without premium processing. Premium processing expedites an application and sends email and fax notifications on the status of the application.
An O-1 visa candidate must have received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, Pulitzer, or Olympic medal. A candidate in the arts must have received or been nominated for a significant award, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award.
Candidates who have not received a major award—or nomination for one—must meet at least three of eight other criteria, such as receiving other recognized awards, a high salary compared to others in their field, and coverage in major newspapers or publications.
USCIS will usually grant an O-1 visa for the time it will take the employee to complete the work for the employer. The O-1 visa expires in three years, but can be renewed in one-year increments.
EB-1A Green Card
Individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics are eligible for an EB-1A immigrant visa—or green card . The 10 criteria for an EB-1A green card are similar to the O-1 visa, but the standards are slightly different. For instance, it’s not enough to have been nominated for an Oscar or Grammy award.
Individuals with extraordinary ability may petition for an EB-1A themselves, since a job or job offer are not required to apply. Employers may petition for an EB-1A on behalf of employees or job candidates as well.
Individuals who petition for an EB-1A themselves enjoy some benefits:
- The application process is faster because an individual applicant does not need a Labor Certification. Labor Certification requires an employer to prove to the U.S. Department of Labor that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position sought by the foreign national.
- The flexibility to change jobs much earlier than if an employer applied on behalf of the individual.
- A broader range of job opportunities available than if an employer applied on behalf of the individual.
USCIS stopped issuing all EB-1 green cards as of Aug. 1, 2016 to candidates from China and India since the annual cap had been reached. This halt is expected to last until the start of the new fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, 2016. Normally, the processing time for an EB-1A runs at least six months.
Individuals may have an easier time getting an EB-1A if they already have an O-1 visa. But individuals who already know they want to live and work permanently in the U.S. should go straight for the EB-1A just as those who do not have an employer sponsor.
A benefit of the EB-1A is that when you apply concurrently for the EB-1A petition and adjustment of status application in the U.S., you and your spouse can get work permits while you’re waiting for the green cards.