Getting your O-1 visa approved is a huge accomplishment. With an approved O-1, you should be granted three years of work authorization, and are eligible for unlimited extensions for the same role at the company. However, many immigrants start thinking about their green card after O-1 approval. How soon is too soon to apply for a green card?
Introduction: Understanding the Adjustment of Status Process
To obtain a green card from within the U.S., you must first get an approved immigrant visa, and then you can "adjust status" (in other words, apply for a green card). You can complete both steps on an O-1 visa.
Step 1: Immigration Visa
An immigrant visa, such as the EB-1 or EB-2, qualifies you to file your adjustment of status application once your priority date becomes current. On an O-1 visa, you can file an immigrant visa at any time. An approved immigrant visa does not give you work authorization, so you must maintain valid O-1 status while the immigrant visa processes and after it is approved until you obtain other work authorization (EAD or green card).
Step 2: Adjustment of Status
The final step is filing an adjustment of status application (also referred to as the green card application, permanent residency application, or I-485). Upon approval, you will receive your physical green card.
Depending on your country of birth, you may be able to file the adjustment of status concurrently with the immigration visa.
While the adjustment of status is processing, you will need to maintain valid O-1 status to continue to work and live in the U.S. However, many O-1 visa holders choose to file Form I-765 with their adjustment of status, which grants you work authorization while your green card is pending.
Many O-1 visa holders also file Form I-131, which gives you the ability to travel internationally.
When Should I Apply For a Green Card After O-1 Visa Approval?
As long as you qualify, you can apply for a U.S. green card anytime. However, there are quite a few things to consider before applying.
Immigrant petition qualifications
Many immigrants assume that an approved O-1 guarantees the approval of an immigrant petition. While the accomplishments highlighted in your O-1 may also translate to an immigrant petition, an O-1 approval does not guarantee an immigrant petition approval.
To improve your chances of approval for an immigrant petition, you may choose to wait a few months or years before starting the green card process. While you wait, you can actively work on strengthening your green card profile.
Travel plans while applying for a green card
Unfortunately, applying for a green card on an O-1 visa makes it impossible to travel internationally for a certain period of time. From start to finish, you can expect to be grounded in the U.S. for up to a year.
Why? The O-1 is a single intent visa. In order to avoid intent issues, many immigration attorneys advise O-1 visa holders to only file a green card 90 days after their last entry in the U.S. Once the green card (and Form I-131 for travel authorization), you'll have to wait until the I-131 is approved to travel. I-131 processing times are constantly changing, but as a general rule, plan to wait between six and nine months.
O-1 validity dates: when to file for a green card
Your O-1 should be valid for three years. Obtaining a green card takes a minimum of a year (often longer). If you want to get a green card before your O-1 expires, you should start at least within the first year and a half on your O-1 visa.
Explore your options: applying for a green card after O-1 visa approval
Even if you aren't ready to kick off your green card application process yet, meeting with an immigration expert can be helpful. Start the conversation today, or check out one of our upcoming permanent residency webinars.