While the ultimate goal for many foreign nationals is permanent residency (aka the ‘green card’), the reality is that many foreign nationals will need to maintain a valid nonimmigrant (NIV) status before they obtain the green card. A nonimmigrant status allows individuals to remain in the U.S. for a specific purpose and for a prescribed period of time. This may be sufficient for those who simply want to gain training and/or experience in the United States and ultimately intend to reside outside the U.S. For those who do wish to pursue permanent residency, maintaining a nonimmigrant status is necessary before petitioning for the green card, and may be recommended even during the pendency of the green card application. Understanding the requirements of the different nonimmigrant classifications is key to strategizing for both long term and short term goals.
The H-1B Visa
Of the non-immigrant statuses that authorize employment, the H-1B probably has the broadest applicability. It is available to those who will be working in a position that requires at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a specific field, otherwise referred to as a ‘specialty occupation.’ In recent years, one of the biggest issues with the H-1B is the quota on the number of H-1Bs available every fiscal year. We have experience advising on H-1Bs that are exempt from the cap, changing from a cap exempt employer to a cap subject employer, and alternatives to the H-1B. We also have expertise in extending the H-1B beyond six years, based on ‘buying back’ time outside the U.S., or based on immigration petitions pending with USCIS.
The O-1 Visa
The O-1 is a non-immigrant status for individuals with recognized achievements in their field of expertise. It is not restricted by occupational classification, but rather by whether the beneficiary meets the regulatory criteria that define the O-1. This may vary somewhat depending on the field, but includes such factors as publications in peer reviewed journals, material published about the beneficiary, citation history, important roles the beneficiary has held, et cetera. The O-1 is a very detailed petition, but is a useful classification for those who are subject to the two year home residency requirement or to those who are near completion of six years in H-1B status.
While the O-1 may not be available to everyone, we handle many such petitions with a tremendous amount of success; our approval rating is upwards of 95%. Our success with these petitions is based on the time we spend understanding the nature and significance of your achievements, translating very technical concepts into terms that the immigration adjudicators can understand and appreciate. These detailed explanations, accompanied by corroborating documentation, provide a picture of your accomplishments as they comport with the regulatory criteria. The overall effect is to facilitate immigration’s understanding of just how extraordinary you are.