The first step when seeking an employment-based nonimmigrant visa in the United States is determining which visa is right for you. An experienced immigration attorney can help you weigh the options. You may be deciding between the O-1 visa and the H-1B visa. Each of these two visas has its own unique characteristics and requirements of which foreign nationals and employers should be aware.
An O-1 visa is available for those individuals who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field. They should be well known internationally for their achievements in fields such as science, art, education, athletics, or business (O-1A vis). The O-1 visa is also available to those individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in motion pictures and television (O-1B visa).
An O-1 visa has a long list of evidentiary requirements that are necessary to establish extraordinary ability that must be met by every applicant. Essentially, it is a visa that is available for individuals who can prove that they have risen to the top of their field with extensive documentation and/or major awards. There is no official education requirement; however, simply having a bachelor’s degree is not enough. Just like most employment-based visas, you must have a job offer from a United States employer or a performance scheduled at an event in the United States. Your petition can be sponsored by an employer or an agent.
An H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to certain types of workers. There are categories for “specialty occupations,” DOD researcher and development project workers, and fashion models. Most H-1B visas require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Some specialties require a considerable level of experience in the area.
Just like with an O-1 visa, you cannot self-petition for an H-1B visa. It must be sponsored by a prospective employer with a job offer. Unlike with an O-1 visa, however, your employer is required to get a Labor Condition Application.
Each of the two categories of visas has its own benefits and downsides. The O-1 visa has more stringent requirements than an H-1B visa. Only a few people in their fields will be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability. This makes it unattractive for many foreign nationals who are seeking a nonimmigrant work visa. The H-1B visa only requires a bachelor’s degree.
For H-1B visas, there is a cap on the number of visas allowed each year. There is a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per year, with an additional 20,000 allowed for those individuals who have a master’s degree or higher. The available visas are usually quickly exhausted. However, O-1 visas have no cap, and there is an unlimited number available every year.
The O-1 visa is granted with an initial stay of three years and the opportunity to extend indefinitely in one-year increments as long as your contract and employment in the United States are still valid. The H-1B visa also has an initial stay of three years; however, you cannot extend your visa beyond six years.
The bottom line is that the O-1 and H-1B visas provide a great opportunity to live and work in the United States. Choosing the right one will depend on your individual circumstances. It can be helpful to consult with an immigration attorney who can help you evaluate your options based on your situation.
Making the right decision can be difficult. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine your next step. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.