Here’s another edition of “Ask Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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What do you think about applying for an EB-1A straight away without first using the O-1A as a stepping stone?
— Extraordinary Engineer in Escondido
Yes, it’s definitely possible to apply for an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card without first using the O-1A extraordinary ability visa as a stepping stone! Allow me to give you some context so that you can think about whether this path could be best for you.
In general, O-1A visa holders typically have an easier time getting an EB-1A compared to people who are currently outside the U.S. or those with another type of immigration status in the U.S. such as an H-1B. To hear more about the EB-1A requirements, check out my podcast on Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp.
This is simply because the eligibility requirements for the O-1A and EB-1A overlap and those who have gone through the exercise of preparing an O-1A visa have already gathered a tremendous amount of paperwork and letters of recommendation evidencing their success.
However, I know from personal experience that many individuals can go directly to an EB-1A green card while they were on visas other than the O-1A, or even outside the United States. That means the EB-1A is possible for individuals currently working temporarily in the U.S. on visas such as the E-2 treaty investor visa, the E-3 visa for Australian professionals, the H-1B specialty occupation visa, L-1 multinational transferees and the TN (Treaty National) visa for Canadian and Mexican professionals.
Please keep in mind that if you are traveling on a visa that requires nonimmigrant intent (such as an F-1 or B-1/B-2), going straight for an EB-1A could be a blocker to subsequent U.S. entries, because it would be your burden at entry to demonstrate to immigration officials abroad and at U.S. ports of entry that you intend to eventually return to your home country. Starting a green card process (especially by self-petitioning an I-140 in the EB-1A category) is likely to be considered strong evidence of immigrant intent.
The ultimate “golden ticket”
Because the EB-1A green card is a first-priority employment-based green card, the wait time for this green card category is typically the shortest compared to other employment-based green cards.
According to the Visa Bulletin for May 2023, the EB-1 category is the only one that has green card numbers currently available for all countries except China and India. Both the U.S. Department of State, which oversees consular processing outside the U.S., and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which adjudicates visa and green card applications and oversees the process within the U.S. Most of the time, the Visa Bulletin issued by the State Department mirrors the one issued by USCIS.