Can O1 Visa Holders Apply for a Green Card?
Yes. Individuals who are in the United States under an O1 visa can apply for a green card that will allow them to obtain lawful permanent resident status.
What Types of Green Cards Should I Apply For?
O1 visa holders are in the United States because they have received national or international recognition for their skills. Fortunately, there are green cards available for similarly-positioned individuals.
The EB1A Immigrant Visa
The EB1A visa is an immigrant visa (green card) that allows individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to permanently come to the United States for employment within their field of expertise.
Even though the O1 visa and the EB1A visa have similar qualifying criteria, individuals must still submit evidence that they qualify for the EB1A visa if they already have an O1 visa. Generally, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is more strict about EB1A visa requirements because, unlike the O1 visa, it allows individuals to live in the United States permanently.
The EB1A has nearly identical requirements to the O1 visa. To qualify for the EB1A visa, applicants must be able to prove through evidence:
- The applicant has extraordinary ability and expertise in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
- The applicant’s extraordinary ability is the subject of sustained national or international acclaim;
- The applicant’s achievements are recognized in his or her field; and
- That the applicant is coming to the United States or adjusting status to continue work in his or her area of expertise.
The EB1B Immigrant Visa
The EB1B visa is an immigrant visa (green card) that allows outstanding professors and researchers to permanently come to the United States if they demonstrate international recognition for outstanding achievements in a particular academic field and have at least three years of experience in teaching or researching within that field.
O1 visa holders should consider applying for the EB1B visa because, similar to the O1 visa, it requires applicants to have extraordinary achievements in their particular field. In order to qualify for the EB1B visa, an applicant must prove through evidence:
- He or she has outstanding achievements in a particular academic field;
- The applicant has at least three years of experience in teaching or researching in his or her respective field;
- The applicant is seeking to enter the United States to pursue tenure, a tenure track teaching, or comparable research position at a university or other higher education institution;
- The applicant has a job offer from a university, higher education institution, or a department, division or institute of a private employer before applying for the EB1B visa.
The EB2 National Interest Waiver
EB2 visas allow certain qualified individuals to permanently come to the United States for employment. Typically, employers must lead the application process for EB2 visa applicants to seek entry from their advanced degree or exceptional ability.
Under the National Interest Waiver, some EB-2 visa applicants are eligible to file their own application without a job offer or labor certification, if their proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance to the United States; the applicant’s qualifications positions them to advance their proposed endeavor; and their proposed endeavor will benefit to the United States.
The EB5 Investor Immigrant Visa
The EB-5 visa allows certain investors to permanently come to the United States if they make a necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and are planning to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Generally, a business investor must invest $1.8 million or the lower amount of $900,000 if made in a targeted employment area in order to qualify for the EB-5 visa. Moreover, the investment must be in a new commercial enterprise to qualify under the visa.
Family or Marriage Based Sponsorship
Individuals who are the spouse, parent, or child under the age of 21 to a United States citizen may become lawful permanent residents in the United States by obtaining a Green Card. Other family members are not deemed “immediate relatives” for Green Card purposes and are subject to different priority to receive a Green Card. There is no limit on the amount of immigrant visas available for immediate relatives.
O1 visa holders who have U.S. citizen or green card holding immediate relatives who live in the United States can apply for a green card in order to be with their immediate relatives in the United States.
How to Apply for an Immigrant Visa?
Individuals with an O1 visa who want to obtain a green card are already in the United States must apply for a green card by adjusting their immigration status. Individuals who are outside the United States at the time they apply for a green card must use consular processing. Below are the steps to apply for a green card visa through adjustment of status and consular processing.
Step One: Applicant Files Form I-140
Green card applicants must complete and sign Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers according to the form’s instructions. The form is submitted with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After completing and signing the form, it must be submitted with the applicable filing fee and documentary evidence showing the applicant meets the qualifications for the immigrant visa.
Submit Evidence with Form I-140
When submitting Form I-140, applicants must provide evidence that they meet the qualifications of the immigrant visa they seek.
Adjustment of Status: Submit Form I-485 Concurrently with Form I-140
Green card applicants who are already in the United States may be able to file I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status with the USCIS concurrently with Form I-140.
Extra Requirements for EB2 National Interest Waiver
Instead of having an employer-led application process and required labor certification, an applicant for the National Interest Waiver EB-2 visa must complete and sign Form ETA-750B and Form I-140 according to the forms’ instructions. Both forms are submitted to the USCIS with the applicable filing fees and documentary evidence showing the applicant meets the advanced degree or exceptional ability qualifications.
Extra Requirements for EB5 Visa
An applicant must first complete Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS approves the petition, it will be sent to the National Visa Center where a case number will be assigned.
Other Requirement for Family or Marriage Based Sponsorship
Instead of filing Form I-140, the applicant’s U.S. citizen family-member will need to submit the applicant’s immigration petition Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Step Two: Applicant Files Online Form DS-260 and DS-261
EB-1A applicants who are outside of the United States at the time they apply must also submit the online Form DS-260 and DS-261 application and pay the associated fee.
Step Three: Applicant Schedules Visa Interview
After submitting Form DS-260, applicants must then schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them. At their interview, applicants will be required to have their biometrics taken and will be asked questions about their background, experience, and interest in coming to the United States permanently. Applicants must bring the following items to their interview:
- Copy of printed Form DS-260;
- Copy of Form I-140;
- A valid passport;
- A photo conforming to the United States Department of State’s photo requirements;
- Evidentiary documents proving the applicant’s qualifications;
- The applicant’s CV or resume;
- An affidavit of support from the applicant’s employer
Step Four: (Consular Processing Only) Applicant Files Form I-485 with the USCIS
Applicants who are overseas at the time they apply must wait until his or her priority date is current in order to apply for legal permanent resident status. Once the priority date is current, the applicant must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status with the USCIS. Once Form I-485 is approved by the USCIS, the applicant will officially be a lawful permanent resident in the United States.