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O1 Visa to Green Card: Detailed Guide

O1 Visa to Green Card: Detailed Guide


The O1 visa is a type of non-immigrant visa provided for people who possess extraordinary ability in some specific field such as business, art, education, science, or athletics. The O1 visa is approved for people who have demonstrated some exceptional achievements in those fields and who are recognized nationally or internationally for those accomplishments.

What are the benefits of the O1 visa?

Initially, the O1 visa holders are allowed to stay in the United States for three years and work in their field of expertise. An additional possibility for all holders of this visa is the unlimited number of times their O1 visa could be extended, which provides all holders to live legally, stay and work in the United States longer than three years. It is also important to emphasize those holders of the O1 visa are allowed to work for several different employers in the United States. The most significant benefit of the O1 visa, of course, is connected to the status of dual intent visa, which means that its petitioners can have an intent to apply for a permanent Green Card.

The status of family members for the holder of the O1 visa is also specially arranged. Namely, by getting approved for an O1 visa, the spouse and unmarried children up to 21 years old are permitted to accompany the holder of the O1 visa to the United States by issuing them the O3 visa. The regulations of the O3 visa imply that the family members will be considered as dependents and that they will not have the permit to work, but still, they can attend US schools.

Still, because of those extensive requirements, very few people can get this O1 visa. This is the reason why you should acknowledge the tiniest details of the whole process.   

What types of O1 visas are actual, and which standards you have to meet to get an O1 visa approved?

Depending on which type of extraordinary ability you are proving to get the approval of the O1 visa, there are two types of those visas.

O1A visa – that is provided for experts in the field of education, science, athletics, or business.

The petitioners for O1A visa can prove their extraordinary abilities by meeting the standards of One-Time Achievements, such as the Nobel prize or Oscar, Pulitzer, Emmy, or Olympic medal, rewards which are internationally recognized and valued. Another possibility is to fulfill some of the Evidentiary Criteria for the O1A visa.

If the petitioner for an O1A visa hasn’t received any of the major internationally recognized awards, in that case, the specific extraordinary ability should be proven by fulfilling at least three out of eight criteria listed below:

  1. The petitioner will provide the documentation that proves the petitioner’s achievement or awards and prizes that are nationally or internationally recognized for supremacy in their field.
  2. The petitioner will provide the documentation that proves the petitioner’s membership in associations connected to the field  of expertise, which require outstanding achievements of their members
  3. The petitioner will provide published material in professional or other mainstream media that is related to the petitioner’s work in the specific field of expertise
  4. The petitioner will provide evidence of the participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or similar field of expertise
  5. The petitioner will provide evidence of the petitioner’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions in the field of expertise
  6. The petitioner will provide evidence of the authorship in notable publications
  7. The petitioner will provide evidence that the petitioner has been employed in organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  8. The petitioner will provide evidence that he has either received a high salary or will receive it, as evidenced by contracts or other attested evidence.

O1B visa is provided for all the virtuosos that achieved a high level of accomplishment in arts.

Since the term arts means an extensive range of occupations related to an artistic or creative activity that could be related to fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts, the list of artistic endeavors is not limited to the principal creators and performers only. Still, it is expanded to other essential members such as directors, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, choreologists, conductors, orchestrators, musical supervisors, coaches, arrangers,  costume designers, makeup artists, flight masters, stage technicians, and animal trainers.

If the petitioner for an O1B visa hasn’t received any of the major internationally recognized awards, in that case, the specific extraordinary ability should be proven by fulfilling at least three criteria that are very similar to the above-mentioned ones.

Additional O1 Visa Requirements and Conditions

There are other requirements and conditions that have to be fulfilled in order to get approval for the O1 visa.

  • Evidence that shows national or international acclaim was sustained
  • The candidate for the O1 visa approval is obliged to work in a very specific field of expertise that is similar to the field of extraordinary ability.
  • Employment in the United States should be defined as participation in the event that is classified as a very broad-meaning term. Event refers to an activity such as, for example, a lecture series, scientific project, conference, convention, exhibit, tour, business project. For an athlete, the event could be their contract with a sports team.
  • The petition for the O1 visa must be filled by a US employer or US agent.
  • The candidate for the O1 visa has to attach an advisory opinion from a Peer Group, Labour organization, or manager organization 

O1 Visa Application Process

Since very few people can apply for the O1 visa, and since the approval is conditioned on your specific qualifications and the following documentation which can prove your expertise and specialization in the specific field, it is of tremendous importance to get all the documentation carefully prepared. Your best confidential advisor in this whole complex process of getting the O1 visa could certainly be your immigration lawyer, who will guide you throughout the whole case and show you the exact steps to the visa approval. 

After identifying the needed documentation that will prove your extraordinary abilities in the specific field, with the assistance of an immigration lawyer, the very next step is to fulfill Form I-129 for a Nonimmigrant worker. Your immigration lawyer will also file an O-supplement and all the supporting documentation along with the Form I-129. If you are applying for the very first time for the O1 visa, then you will apply for it in the Consulate of your home country. Once your Form I-129 is approved, you will be able to apply for the O1 visa. 

From O1 visa to Green Card and permanent residency in the United States

Although there is the possibility to extend the O1 visa for unlimited number of times, and since the O1 visa is classified as dual intent visa, which means that when applying for the O1 visa, you can have the intent of getting the Green Card, this type of visa is still temporary and a non-immigrant one. This means that the O1 visa is not the direct path to a Green Card and that a holder needs to get into a specific process of obtaining the permanent stay.

If the holder of the O1 visa has determined to apply for a Green Card, in that case, the very first step to be made is converting a non-immigrant visa status to an immigrant visa status. There are several categories of Green Cards you can apply for, and in most cases, those are connected to Employment-based or Family-based Green Cards. That implies that your petition for an immigrant status visa has to be approved at the USCIS, first. After your petition is approved, you can proceed to the Adjustment of Status filing Form I-480, which is the most common solution for the holders of the O1 visa. The second option is heading to Immigrant visa processing, so-called consular processing, which implies petition for an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. After your immigration petition is approved and you get your visa number, you will be required to file Form DS-260 with the Department of State, afterwards, you will have an interview at the consulate or an embassy in your home country, which will be the last step for attaining an immigrant visa status.

Another possibility for gaining a Green Card for the holders of the O1 visa is through other types of visas closely related to work. Those visas are classified like:

  •       The EB1 visa is very similar to the O1 visa. The EB1 visa implies you have an Employer Petition for you and that your employer will file the petition, or rarely, you can go with Self-Petition, which is very hard to obtain.
  •       National Interest Waiver without the need for Labor Certification – this visa requires to prove that the U.S has a national interest in your work. 

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The Chicago lawyers at Sverdloff Law Group can help you understand your immigration options and fight for obtaining the right to live in the United States. Learn the next best steps to take for your green card application. Contact our green card lawyer in Chicago at (312) 238-9090 or schedule a consultation today.


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