O-1 and J-1: An Alternative to H-1B Visas

Annually, you get one chance to apply for the H-1B visa, and the H-1B cap for 2016 has ended. If you were not selected for the H-1B lottery this year, there are alternative options you can try, such as the O-1 and the J-1 visas. An individual may qualify for more than one kind of nonimmigrant work visa, and it is important that they choose the right one.

The O-1 Visa

Individual who applies for the O-1 does not necessarily have to be an entertainer or an athlete. The O-1 visas are for individuals that qualify for having an “extraordinary ability” by sustained national or international acclaim in the fields of sciences, education, business, athletics, and arts. This means that the individual needs to be a part of the small percentage at the top of the profession or field of work he or she is in, or in the arts industry, the individual needs to show a distinction. Due to the higher standards, the O-1 visa requires much higher evidentiary standards than the H-1B visas. Recently, USCIS adjusted their policy guidance to have “comparable evidence” as an alternative if the petitioner has evidence that the listed criteria for achieving the O-1 visa does not apply for the petitioner’s profession or field of work. Here is a link to our blog with more details on how to achieve an O-1 visa: http://goo.gl/FLSyyp

The Comparison

First, unlike the H-1B visa, which has an annual quota of 65,000, the O-1 visa has no annual quota on restrictions or limitations on the number of visas issued. The O-1 visa can also be applied for at anytime by the employer. Second, while the H-1B visa can be extended up to six years total, the O-1 visa can be extended indefinitely, as long as there is proof to show the USCIS that it is necessary for the employee to stay in their specific position for their employer. Third, the processing times differ. The H-1B requires around 2-6 months of processing time compared to the O-1 visa’s 2-3 weeks. With premium processing, the both visas will get a decision for issuance within 15 days.

The J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa is for individuals who are considered exchange visitors, sponsored by an exchange program, coming to the United States with the purpose of receiving training. The J-1 visa is considered a trainee or an intern visa which is only valid for up to 18 months stay in the United States. The J-1 visa has lower standards compared to the H-1B and the O-1 visas, which may make it easier for the beneficiary to qualify. This allows the beneficiary time to reapply for an H-1B visa in the 18 months of time the J-1 visa gives them.

For More Information

For more information, check out the USCIS website, or contact us!


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