Though many similarities exist between the two non-immigrant visas: O1 and H-1B, there are three major differences to understand if you’re shopping around for the best visa for you. Depending on your situation, you may find that the O1 visa is the most beneficial to you.
Requirements for Obtaining O1 vs H-1B
In order to obtain an O1 visa, you must fall under the category of possessing “extraordinary” talents, illustrated through evidence such as receiving nominations or awards, scholarly publication or being recognized by the media or press. Contrarily, in order to obtain an H-1B visa, you do not have to show evidence of possessing exceptional ability in a field, but instead, you are employed to work in the U.S. temporarily in a “specialty” occupation. Specialty occupations are typically jobs in fields such as business, engineering, and math. Normally, you are also required to have received at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
The H-1B visa is granted initially for a three-year period, with opportunities to extend your stay in the U.S. for another two years, and possibly one more. But, if you’re looking to extend your stay beyond that, you’re pretty much out of luck. Past that, you lose your legal alien status. However, the O1 is granted for an initial period of three years, with opportunities to extend your stay in the U.S. incrementally one year at a time. What’s great about the O1, is that the USCIS determines your length of stay by the nature of your work. Jobs in the creative field have the most leeway here, due to the fact that the length of time needed for projects is often unpredictable. The O1 alien status could be extended indefinitely if it’s determined that the employer has given sufficient evidence of their necessity to stay in the U.S. to work. How long you plan to stay in the U.S. and the nature of your work is something to consider when deciding with visa is correct for you.
65,000 per year. That’s the annual quota for H-1B visas. Once that quota is met (usually before the year is up), very rarely are more applicants granted the H-1B visa, unless by the rare occurrence that they qualify for an H-1B cap-exemption. So, even if you have a strong case, you’re out of luck if the USCIS has met their annual quota. On the other hand, there is NO annual quota for the O1 visa. If you qualify for the O1 visa, it’s available to you no matter how many others the USCIS has granted in that year particular fiscal year. It will always be available to those who can meet the requirements. For those of you who meet the requirements for H-1B and have discovered that the quota has been filled, schedule a consultation to check if you might also qualify for the O1 visa.