The O-1 visa is designed for those who are considered extraordinary. Its numerous benefits give holders many advantages, but this visa is not easy to obtain. Because the definition of “extraordinary” spans several groups of people, the USCIS has divided the visa into two subcategories: the O-1A and the O-1B. Keep reading to learn how hiring O-1A visa lawyers can save you both time and money in the application process.
Who is Eligible for an O-1A?
The difference between the O-1A and the O-1B is that the former is meant for people who can demonstrate extraordinary achievement in the areas of science, education, athletics, or business. The O-1B is meant for those who are extraordinary in the areas of art, television, and film.
Most O-1A visa lawyers will tell you that the main idea is to prove that you have risen to a level indicating that you are part of a small, distinguished percentage of people in your field. You need to be entering the U.S. with the intention of working temporarily in your area of extraordinary ability.
According to the USCIS, here are the criteria for being considered eligible for an O-1A visa. You must show that you have earned an internationally-recognized prize such as the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. In the absence of this, you can submit proof of at least three of the following items:
- A lesser award that is either nationally or internationally recognized
- Exclusive membership in an organization that requires extraordinary ability to enter
- Professional publications with your published material relevant to your field
- Genuine significant contributions to your field
- Scholarly articles that you have written in your field
- Commercial success or a large salary
- Having been a judge of the work of your peers
- Having held positions that are critical to reputable organizations in your field.
It is important to note that this is not a comprehensive list. The USCIS may take supplementary evidence to demonstrate your extraordinary ability. However, if this is your strategy, it is advisable to work closely with your O-1A visa lawyers to make sure that your evidence qualifies.
What is the O-1A Processing Time?
The O-1A process is relatively short and so the processing time is also manageable. The first step, like many nonimmigrant visas, is to have your employer file an I-129 form with the USCIS. This petition should include all of the necessary evidence to demonstrate your extraordinary ability.
On average, the I-129 takes about 6 months to process, though this does depend heavily on the service center that is processing your petition. If you are currently in the U.S. on a different visa, then your status will automatically change as soon as your petition is approved.
However, many O-1A applicants are abroad when they petition and so must go through consular processing. This means that you must make an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to have a one-on-one interview with a consular officer.
The amount of time you will need to wait for your appointment varies greatly depending on how busy the consulate or embassy is. Some applicants only need to wait a few weeks while others find themselves waiting several months.
Can Premium Processing Help?
If the six-month processing time is too long, you can opt for the premium processing service. This optional feature is provided by the USCIS and allows petitioners to have their petitions processed within 15 calendar days for an extra fee.
It is important to note that this will not increase your chances of being approved. It also does not affect any other part of the process, only the petition.
How Long Can I Stay?
Once your O-1A visa is issued, you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for an initial period of up to 3 years. However, unlike many other visas, the O-1A allows holders to extend their stay indefinitely in increments of 1 year. All they need to do is provide evidence that the work they intended to do under the visa requires more time to complete.
To file for an extension, you will need to have your employer file another I-129 petition along with your I-94 arrival/departure card and a letter demonstrating the need for more time.
O-1A Visa to Green Card
Fortunately, the O-1A visa is considered a “dual intent” visa by the USCIS. This means that you can pursue legal permanent resident status (green card) while working with your O-1A. The most common green cards for O-1A holders to apply for is the EB-1A or the EB-1B.
The EB-1A green card is for, you guessed it, workers with extraordinary ability. Because of this, the requirements often overlap with the requirements for the O-1A. To qualify, you can submit evidence of renowned prizes, scholarly articles, exclusive memberships, or commercial success, to name a few. Work with your O-1A lawyers to determine if this green card is a good fit for your situation.
The EB-1B green card is meant for outstanding researchers and professors. This also falls under the same general requirements for the O-1A. Awards, evidence of original research, and published material will all be considered as supporting documents for your green card.
O-1A to Green Card Processing Time
To apply for one of these green cards, you will need to have your employer file an I-140 petition on your behalf. However, if you are applying for the EB-1A, you do not need to have an employer and can self-petition.
The day that you file your petition will become your priority date. Once that date becomes current with the final action date given in your category in the Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin, you will be able to file for an adjustment of status.
For most people filing for an EB-1, the date is already current and you will be able to adjust your status as soon as your I-140 is approved. However, this may not always be the case. Be sure to check the bulletin before making any decisions.
Overall, the I-140 should take about 6 months to process. This can be expedited using premium processing. The I-485 application to adjust status, however, also takes about 6 months and cannot be expedited with premium processing.
How Much Will it Cost?
Here is the breakdown of the fees and costs associated with getting your O-1A visa:
- I-129 basic filing fee: $460 (your employer pays this)
- Optional premium processing fee: $1,225 (either you or your employer can pay this)
- DS-160 fee: $190 (you pay this only if you are using consular processing)
- Attorney fees: These costs vary widely. Our O-1A lawyers charge a flat fee for their services.
How Our O-1A Visa Lawyers Can Help
Understanding the complex nature of immigration law takes a lifetime of work. Fortunately, there are those out there that have taken the time to master this field and are ready and willing to help applicants work their way through the immigration journey. When it comes to something as delicate as choosing the right evidence for your O-1A visa, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance.
Here at SGM Law Group, our O-1A visa lawyers have a long track record of success helping extraordinary people work in the U.S. through the O-1 visa. If you would like to know that your case is in the best hands, fill out our contact form so that we can schedule your consultation today.