Choosing Between the EB-1 Visa and the O-1 Visa For Extraordinary Ability

You are at the top of your field. You’ve received industry-wide accolades; you’ve been profiled in national newspapers and magazines; you’re a member of all the important organizations related to your field. You know you have extraordinary ability, and you know you want to travel to the United States. What you don’t know is which visa for extraordinary ability is right for you: the EB-1 visa or the O-1 visa. 

These two visa options have a number of similarities: both are geared toward individuals who are exceptional at what they do. Both require the applicant to prove that they are nationally or internationally recognized in their field. And both allow you to legally and freely live and work in the United States. However, that’s where their similarities end. Here are the major differences between these two types of visas: 

  • Immigration visa vs. non-immigration visa. The EB-1 visa for extraordinary ability is an immigration visa. It assumes that the applicant would like to live and work in the United States permanently. The O-1 visa is a non-immigration visa. It assumes that the applicant is traveling to the United States to work temporarily and will then return to his or her country of origin. 
  • The employee sponsor. All people petitioning for an O-1 visa need an employee sponsor to apply. For the EB-1 visa, those with extraordinary abilities in the athletics, the arts, and sciences do not need an employee sponsor, whereas notable executives and researchers must have an employee sponsor. 
  • The film and television industry. If you have an extraordinary ability in motion picture or television arts, the O-1 visa is appropriate. The EB-1 visa is tailored more toward athletes and other types of artists. 
  • The level of your extraordinary ability. While both the EB-1 and O-1 visas for extraordinary ability are not easy to acquire, the O-1 visa is generally more difficult to qualify for. 
Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney