The H1B Visa and the O-1 Visa are employment visa types that can be used to hire foreign workers who possess the right skills and experience needed by a US employer. Specifically, the H1B Visa is intended for workers who fall under specialty occupation workers while the O-1 Visa is for workers with extraordinary talent. Below we discuss these two types of visas.

H1B Visa

The H1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa type that allows you to temporarily enter, stay and work in the US for a given period of time (usually 3-year period and can be renewed to a maximum of 6 years.) It does not give permanent residence status. Every year many U.S. employers petition foreign workers through the H1B visa.

Eligible under the H1B visa are foreign workers with at least a Bachelor’s Degree or demonstrated experience in the specialty occupations the US employer is hiring for. The H1B visa is most commonly used by employers in the fields of mathematics, business, engineering, or computer programming. Compared to the O1 visa, the H1B visa has a lower threshold ability and education requirement.

The H1B visa has an annual cap which limits the number of available visas under this category to 85,000 per year. The total of available visas is divided into 65,000 for regular applicants (with some earmarked for specific countries) and 25,000 reserved for applicants with Master’s or Higher Degree.

The employer initiates the filing of the H1B visa in behalf of the foreign worker. The filing period starts in April, although the visa becomes effective only in October of the same year. The number of available visas is typically oversubscribed shortly upon opening of the filing period. In the past years, the government resorted to “lottery” to select who gets an H1B visa.

According to an H1B immigration attorney in New York, preparing a complete and thorough paperwork, and submitting it on time is only the first step of securing an H1B visa. The USCIS goes through the potential employee’s qualifications, the position offered, and the capacity of the employer to pay wages. It can be a tedious process that requires meticulous preparation of documentary evidence.

O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa and the H1B visa have some overlapping characteristics. They are both non-immigrant, employment-based, and do not give permanent resident status. They mainly differ in the foreign worker’s credentials. Unlike the H1B visa, O-1 visa is intended for foreign workers with extraordinary talent or ability to work on a particular event, position or project.

Eligible for the O1 visa are those with proven extraordinary ability in the fields of athletics, business, education, art, sciences, and those with extraordinary achievements in motion pictures and television production.

To be considered a professional with “extraordinary ability or achievement,” the foreign worker must show sufficient documentary evidence that they are at the very top of their professional field, such as having scholarly publications, a high salary, or be a recipient of at least one major international award or several unique accolades. The international awards are of the level of an Olympic medal, a Grammy or a Nobel Prize. Typically, O-1 visa recipients have a degree higher than Bachelor’s level, such as a Ph.D. or multiple degrees.

A key difference between O1 and H1B visa is that the O1 visa does not have an annual limit. As such, a US employer can petition an eligible foreign worker at any time during the year. However, the petition must be lodged not more than one year in advance of the commencement of the job.

Unlike the H1B visa which has a maximum of 6 years, the duration of the O-1 visa is dependent on the duration of the job or project. It can be extended for one year at a time but doesn’t have a maximum limit. The EB-1 immigrant visa is a possible immigration route for O-1 visa recipients since they have nearly identical eligibility requirements. Perhaps, you can explore this route with an immigration lawyer.

Each of these two visa types has unique requirements, advantages, and disadvantages. To increase your chances of securing a US visa, it is vital to review your case including your qualifications and the job description. This should help determine the best visa route to take.