Transferring an O-1 Visa to a Green Card

The O-1 visa closely resembles the H-1B visa, as both require an employer’s petition. However, the O-1 visa imposes significantly more extensive requirements. Due to these rigorous criteria, only a select few manage to secure an O-1 visa, which permits holders to reside and work in the United States within their field of expertise for three years. In addition to this advantage, O-1 visa holders also enjoy an extra benefit.

The O-1 visa is classified as a dual intent visa, allowing its holders to apply for a Green Card.

Which Green Card Can I Obtain With an O-1 Visa?

Various Green Card categories exist, ranging from Employment-Based and Family-Based Green Cards to the Diversity Visa. For O-1 visa holders, transitioning to an Employment-Based Green Card is typically the most suitable route. Since the initial O-1 visa application necessitates employer sponsorship, it’s logical to proceed within the same employment-based category when pursuing a Green Card.

Within the Employment-Based Green Card category, several options are available. The most fitting option is often the EB-1 visa, which is reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities and achievements.

This visa is commonly known as a Green Card for outstanding professors, researchers, as well as individuals with extraordinary expertise in fields like science, art, athletics, business, and education. It is also accessible to executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a US company in the past three years.

Given that the O-1 visa represents the nonimmigrant counterpart for extraordinary achievements, transitioning to the EB-1 visa makes the most sense for those seeking permanent US residency.

For those applying to switch from an O-1 visa to a Green Card, researching health insurance plans for Green Card holders in the United States is advisable.

How Do I Apply for a Green Card With an O-1 Visa?

The initial step towards obtaining a Green Card with an O-1 visa involves reviewing the requirements and verifying your eligibility. If you do not meet the criteria, it may be more prudent to work on fulfilling them rather than risking rejection by USCIS. If you meet the criteria, there are three methods to apply:

  1. Employer Petition: Just as your employer petitioned for your O-1 visa, you must find an employer willing to file a petition for an EB-1 visa. This petition is submitted via Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, along with the requisite fees and supporting documentation to establish your eligibility. USCIS processes this petition, and if approved, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC ensures all documents are in order and waits until your priority date becomes current. When invited to apply, you must follow the application steps outlined in the EB-1 Visa article.
  2. Self-Petition: USCIS permits individuals with an O-1 visa to self-petition for the EB-1 visa. This means you do not need an employer to sponsor you since you already have a job. To self-petition, you can submit Form I-140 to USCIS and await processing, with subsequent steps resembling those for obtaining an EB-1 visa through employer sponsorship.
  3. National Interest Waiver: Another option to apply for a Green Card from an O-1 visa is to demonstrate that your work is of “substantial intrinsic merit” due to your achievements, and its benefits have a national scope. You must also convince USCIS that waiving the Labor Certification or employer petition requirement is in the US national interest. If approved, you receive an EB-2 visa, designed for professionals with advanced degrees and individuals with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, or business. You must then proceed based on the steps outlined in the EB-2 Visa article.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card With an O-1 Visa?

The duration to obtain a Green Card from an O-1 visa varies depending on whether the annual visa quota has been met. If the annual limit has not been reached when you apply, processing may take just a few months. However, if the annual limit has been met, your application might be processed in the following year. In some cases, high application volumes could lead to delays exceeding one year.

What’s the Difference Between an O-1 Visa and a Green Card?

The O-1 Visa: The O-1 visa offers certain benefits and limitations:

  • It’s a nonimmigrant visa, allowing a stay of up to three years with the option to request an extension or return to the home country.
  • Requires employer sponsorship, with approval not guaranteed.
  • Does not lead to US citizenship even after many years.

The EB-1 Green Card: The EB-1 Green Card has distinct advantages and constraints:

  • It’s an immigrant visa, providing permanent residency in the US.
  • Allows indefinite residence anywhere in the US, issuance of US documents, and property ownership.
  • Offers flexibility to change employers without requiring them to submit documents to USCIS.
  • Eligible for US citizenship and a US passport after five years.
  • Subject to an annual cap; only 40,000 EB-1 visas are issued annually.
  • Demanding eligibility criteria, often requiring achievements like winning an Oscar, Pulitzer, or Olympic Medal, or meeting at least three of the specified criteria.

While the visa involves relatively fewer requirements, transitioning to the EB-1 Green Card necessitates meeting more extensive criteria. Even with an O-1 visa, not everyone qualifies for the EB-1 Green Card. However, if you meet the criteria, you can apply for and obtain the EB-1 Green Card.

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After obtaining a Green Card from an O-1 visa, the immediate step is to adjust your status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS. Once processed, you will receive your Green Card by mail.


The O-1 visa and the EB-1 Green Card represent distinct paths for individuals with exceptional skills and achievements who wish to live and work in the United States. While both require employer petitions, the EB-1 Green Card presents a permanent residency option with numerous advantages, including the ability to live anywhere in the US, obtain US documents, and apply for US citizenship after five years.

However, the EB-1 Green Card is significantly more challenging to obtain due to stringent eligibility criteria, such as winning prestigious awards or meeting multiple specific criteria. In contrast, the O-1 visa offers a more accessible entry point but remains temporary, with a three-year duration and no path to US citizenship.

Individuals considering the transition from visa to a Green Card should carefully assess their qualifications and the Green Card application process, which includes employer sponsorship, self-petitioning, or demonstrating national interest. Additionally, they should be prepared for potential delays in the Green Card processing timeline, as annual visa caps may impact the timeframe.

Ultimately, the choice between the O-1 visa and the EB-1 Green Card depends on individual circumstances, long-term goals, and the ability to meet the rigorous criteria for permanent US residency

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