The journey to obtaining a green card in the United States can be long and certainly complex. If you currently hold an O-1 visa and are considering applying for an EB-1A green card, you may be wondering if your O-1 visa status automatically qualifies you for this green card category for which you can self-petition without a job offer or lawyers.
In this article, I will dive into the details of both visa categories and clarify the relationship between the O-1A visa and the EB-1A green card.
Understanding the O-1 Visa and the EB-1A Green Card
Before getting into the qualifications, let’s briefly discuss the key aspects of both the O-1 visa and the EB-1A green card.
The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa designed for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This visa allows its holders to work temporarily in the United States for a specific employer or agent.
The EB-1A green card, on the other hand, is an immigrant visa reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Unlike the O-1 visa, the EB-1A green card grants permanent residency and allows its holders to live and work in the United States indefinitely.
Similarities between O-1 visa and EB-1A green card
There are a few things that make these two immigration processes look somewhat similar. For example, both the O-1 visa and the EB-1A are targeted to individuals with extraordinary abilities in their field of work.
In fact, USCIS uses very similar language when it comes to describe this extraordinary ability. The applicants in both O-1 and EB-1A must provide evidence of their “sustained national or international acclaim” and of being “one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field”.
In both categories, USCIS provides a list of criteria from which the applicant must meet at least 3 of them. While the list is not identical for both categories, there are some similarities and the required number of criteria to meet is the same in both O-1 and EB-1A: at least 3 must be met.
Additionally, in both categories the applicants need to prove they will enter the United States to continue working in their field of extraordinary ability. In other words, they do no allow the petitioner to switch fields.
Differences between O-1 and EB-1A
Even though these two processes have things in common, they also present different traits. The most basic one is the fact that the O-1A is a nonimmigrant visa, therefore temporary in nature. The EB-1A visa is a green card, and that means it grants permanent residency status to the holder.
While EB-1A includes individuals working in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, the O-1A visa is only focused on sciences, education, business, or athletics. Therefore arts is missing from O-1A, but artists can apply for O-1B instead.
In addition to that, it is important to understand that the O-1 visa requires sponsorship from a company, whereas the EB-1A green card can be self-sponsor. This offers a significant advantage to the EB-1A over the O-1 visa, because it does not require a job offer. Moreover, an applicant can submit an EB-1A petition without using a lawyer if they choose to do so.
Finally, the criteria provided by USCIS to prove extraordinary ability for EB-1A and for O-1A are not exactly the same. In fact, there are 8 criteria for O-1A and 10 criteria for EB-1A. The next section talks more in detail about the requirements for each category.
Comparing O-1A and EB-1A Requirements
Although both the O-1 visa and the EB-1A green card target individuals with extraordinary abilities, the list of criteria provided by USCIS for each category is not exactly the same.
O-1A has 8 criteria, while EB-1A has 10. The eight criteria from O-1 visa are essentially also eight of the ten criteria in EB-1A. However, the green card list of criteria includes two items quite specific to artists that are not in the O-1A list. This includes “evidence that your work as been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases” and “evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts”. It is true that artists can apply for O-1B instead of O-1A, where these two (and other) criteria are found.
Do O-1 Visa Holders Automatically Qualify for an EB-1A Green Card?
The short answer is no, O-1A visa holders do not automatically qualify for an EB-1A green card. While holding an O-1 visa may mean your chances to get an EB-1A green card are higher, it does not provide automatic approval for the permanent residency status. Since the the two processes are completely independent, O-1 visa holders must still submit a petition to meet the specific criteria for the EB-1A green card.
However, having an O-1 visa could potentially strengthen your EB-1A application, as it shows that you have previously been recognized for your extraordinary abilities. USCIS will evaluate your EB-1A application independently of your O-1 visa status, considering your achievements, ongoing work, and potential contributions to the United States. If you want to read more about the EB-1A requirements I have a separate blog post that discusses that.
In conclusion, while an O-1 visa holder does not automatically qualify for an EB-1A green card, their extraordinary abilities and accomplishments may give them an advantage in the application process. It is essential to understand the specific requirements for each category and gather sufficient evidence to demonstrate your eligibility. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help clarify your options and guide you through the complex process of applying for a green card based on your extraordinary abilities.