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US O-1 Visa to EB1 Green Card

You have been working in the USA on your extraordinary non-immigrant O-1 visa and now it’s time to upgrade to an immigrant EB-1 Extraordinary Green Card as an alien of extraordinary ability – here are 10 Steps to keep in mind.

Table of Contents

  • 1 – Dissect your O-1 Petition
  • 2 – Understand the Qualifying Criteria
  • 3 – Put it to Work
  • 4 – Keep Files
  • 5 – Affiliate Peers and Experts in your field
  • 6 – Sustained Acclaim
  • 7 – Benefit to the United States
  • 8 – Be familiar with the Two-Step Kazarian Analysis
  • 9 – Adjustment of Status
  • 10 – Know your Current Visa Limitations

For the O-1 visa you were required to collect evidence, submitted your application through your sponsor, received your approval, attended your immigration interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate and landed in the USA successfully past the US Border Control!! You have worked very hard in your career and you have been rewarded with the O1 visa.

You have been working in the US and either discovered the restrictions of the O-1 non-immigrant visa or you have booked a job that will require you to stay longer than the O-1 visa valid time and wish to ‘upgrade’ to the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability permanent residence Green Card. Having this status will allow you to work without restrictions. 

The major benefit of the EB-1 is that you don’t have to wait for your ‘priority date to become current’ – there is usually a visa number available for extraordinary ability visa applicants for all countries.

There is no time to rest on your laurels. If you have won a Nobel Prize or an Oscar then this process will be a cinch, if not, PREPARE TO WORK

The requirements for O-1 status overlap those of the EB-1. The main difference is, of course, that the O-1 standards apply to those seeking a non-immigrant status, while the EB-1 standard is for those seeking permanent immigrant status meaning you will need to be MORE! Your application will be subjected to a higher level of ‘scrutiny’.

An O-1 nonimmigrant does not automatically qualify for EB-1 approval. 

For the O1 you proved yourself as a person who *has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement, an individual who is in the small percentage that has risen to the very top of your field you will need to have built on this.

This might seem like an impossible application but we are testament that it is very much attainable. We have gone through this process, helped many others with our unique knowledge of the criteria from your specialist perspective. 

Here are a few steps to guide you on this path –

1 – Dissect your O-1 Petition

The best place to start is by reading your O-1 petition. Visa applications are paper applications. As you well know your Immigration Officer/Case Examiner doesn’t have time to sit down to watch your demo reel or look through your portfolio. They read your petition letter and recommendation letters and adjudicate your level of ability from them. Understanding how you identified your uniqueness and argued that as extraordinary and outstanding in your original O-1 application is pertinent to the next steps. If you wrote your own O petition letter then you are already ahead of the curve.

2 – Understand the Qualifying Criteria

Examine the O-1 criteria that the USCIS used in your petition to qualify you as visa worthy and compare and contrast those to the EB-1 criteria. You will use the USCIS EB-1 criteria to build for your case. Understanding the requirements allows you to focus your work to fulfill the criteria. Read break down here.

3 – Put it to Work

Put your understanding of the criteria to work by applying yourself with targets in each area.

Concentrate on your three strongest criteria, work on expanding those beyond, for example
Memberships criterion: join Women in Film and get elected to a committee
Leading Critical Role criterion: Give back to the community using your specific skill
Judging criterion: Offer to Judge within your field for an organization of importance

All the while you do this work make sure you have press campaigns running. This should satisfy the Publicity criterion. Know that the key to a good petition is QUALITY not QUANTITY. Don’t chase criteria that take you away from your true self. Contain yourself to your strongest criteria and build your solid case from that. 

4 – Keep Files

Keep your curriculum vitae/resume updated to log your progress and print copies of your achievements as they come including updating your printed citation index if you have any scholarly articles. Familiarize yourself with the necessary evidence required for each section and diligently collect it in a new evidence file to bolster the evidence you submitted for your O-1. Remember all evidence must be in English so keep on top of the documents needing translation.

5 – Affiliate Peers and Experts in your field

Expand your network. You will need fresh and exciting recommendation letters from super high up important industry people testifying to your brilliance so get out there and network at your industry events. It is beneficial too, of course, if they offer you a promise of work too. Be bold and ask for photos with them. Photos with your industry peers are a fantastic positive in any application. Upload these to online platforms eg IMDb, your personal website.

6 – Sustained Acclaim

A large part of EB1 success is proving to the USCIS that you have “sustained acclaim”. This can be proven with evidence of more recent publicity, awards, work and recommendation letters. They will prove longevity of your career.

7 – Benefit to the United States

The USCIS ask that you prove that you will ‘substantially benefit prospectively the United States’ – recommendation letters and job offers should certainly help you qualify this. You can argue how important your artistic work is especially if your form is culturally significant or unique.

8 – Be familiar with the Two-Step Kazarian Analysis

We explore these findings in our guides – essentially the first step is when your USCIS Immigration officer evaluates your evidence to determine whether the initial evidentiary requirements are met by you and you qualify in three of their listed criteria. 

In the second step of the analysis, your USCIS Immigration officer reviews the evidence as a whole to determine whether you meet the overall eligibility standard of excellence for the EB-1 EA category – ‘final merits determination’. This is why it is imperative that you go beyond in your career. It’s not enough to simply fulfill the criteria you have to ensure that you can impress on paper that you are indeed critical to your art form and are in the small percentage that has risen to the very top of your field. 

9 – Adjustment of Status

On an O visa you can go through the process called ‘Adjustment of Status’. This allows you to apply for a temporary green card that allows you work and travel while waiting for the USCIS decision on your application. For the full Process read here

10 – Know your Current Visa Limitations

Check the details of your O-1. Were you given an O-1 visa as an actor but have since directed a piece of award winning theater? Even though this is still within ‘your field of expertise’ it may be contra to your visa. You can apply to ‘Amend’ your O-1 if you so choose to take the job. Just be aware that this might be an issue later on. As part of the visa application you must provide the last 5 years of work history so please don’t break your visa restrictions. Know the end date of your visa and be sure to submit your greencard in time. You may need to extend your O visa with your same sponsor in case you have little time left on your current O-1. You, perhaps have found that you have been getting more work through a manager rather than your petitioning agent – consider filing a Change of Sponsor O visa before applying for the greencard.

Fitting our art into boxes makes what we do seem so clinical but as this application is purely paperwork this is your only way to prove your extraordinary ability use these step to build a solid foundation to build a strong and compelling case. 

You can never be too extraordinary or have too much evidence, so keep aspiring to do more, whether that means publishing, performing, submitting your work to competitions for awards, or developing new products. A big collection of documents may be edited down to what is strongest. For example, if you already have a large collection of press clippings, then identify the articles in major publications that mention you by name or discuss you and your work in detail. If you already have an O-1 visa, keep in mind that the legal standard for EB-1 is much higher, especially if you work in the arts, and documents sufficient for approval of an O-1 petition may not be enough for a green card.

After you have been a permanent resident for 5 years you may apply for US citizenship this is dependent on time spent in the US.

The EB1 greencard application might seem like an impossible application. We were told it was impossible while we stood there with our greencards in our hands!! In our EB-1 guide we go through each of the criteria thoroughly ensuring you build a paper rich extraordinary career. We give examples of how to construct unique credible recommendation letters that are specific to each criterion so don’t read like a ‘template’. We didn’t use attorneys – our guides show you how. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need an O-1 before you apply for the USA EB-1 Greencard?

No. Having an O visa has no bearing on being approved according to the USCIS.

Is the O petition similar to the USA EB-1 Greencard petition letter?

Yes. The format is the same. The requirements are more specific. You can read them here.

Do I need a sponsor for the USA EB-1 Greencard?

No. This is a self sponsor visa. You don’t need a sponsor.

Do I need a job offer for the USA EB-1 Greencard?

No. A job offer is not necessary, however, a job offer is an excellent way to prove ‘benefit to the United States.’

Can I work while waiting for the EB-1 decision?

You can apply for the temporary green card which acts like a full greencard. Many visas allow you to ‘Concurrently File’ your Adjustment of Status. This answer needs more. Read the Process here.

Do I need to use an attorney?

No. We didn’t. You can use our guide to file or use the basis of your O petition to DIY your EB-1 Greencard application.

I’m not on an O visa but another non-immigrant visa can I follow the same process?

Mostly, yes. If you are in the USA on a visa that required you interview at the US Embassy or Consulate then you should be able to follow this process.