Navigating the U.S. Immigration landscape can be difficult, especially knowing how to compare the different benefits associated with a wide variety of visa types. Even if you’ve done the work to understand and pursue the right visa for your immigration case, it’s not unusual to find yourself in a position where you need to change your visa status. Oftentimes, the reasoning behind a change in visa status simply comes down to a realization that the type of work visa you were initially pursuing may not be the best option available to you. When applicants are making the change from one visa type to another, it comes down to their need to make a pivot in their own case; whether because of new information regarding visa availability, pending application deadlines or personal reasons relating to the difficulty in pursuing certain visa types. With all that being said, how does one actually go about changing their visa status in the U.S.?
How is O-1 different from H-1B?
If you look back to our recent blogs, you’ll see that we break down the key differences, benefits and challenges of both the O-1 and H-1B visas. There isn’t necessarily a “better” choice between the two visa types - proper visa selection is based on your unique immigration needs and what you’re trying to accomplish while in the U.S. While pursuing a change from O-1 to H-1B, it’s important to keep in mind the reason why you’re doing it. For a quick recap on the key differences between the O-1 visa and the H-1B visa, click here to read an earlier blog titled “H-1B Visa vs O-1 Visa: Which One Is Better?”
So, how does one go about applying for a change of status from an O-1 visa to an H-1B visa? Changing your status from an O-1 visa to an H-1B can be done abroad or while residing in the U.S. Both of these visa types are classified as nonimmigrant visas, and the process of changing from one visa to the other is fairly simple, whether you do so while in the U.S. or outside of it. Before starting the change of status process, it’s important to determine whether or not you are eligible to do so. Your employer is able to apply for a change in your nonimmigrant status if you can meet all of the following criteria:
- You are lawfully admitted into the U.S. through your current work visa.
- Your current nonimmigrant work visa status remains valid.
- You have not committed any crimes.
- You have not violated the conditions of your admission into the U.S.
- Your passport will remain valid throughout the entire duration of your stay.
Once you’ve determined that you are eligible for a change in your nonimmigrant status, the steps for filing a change of status are fairly straightforward:
- Your employer must complete and file Form I-129; the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
- Pay the $460 filing fee.
- Provide all required evidence and supporting documentation that is necessary for the proper filing of your change of status request.
After you’ve done the necessary work to file your change of status request, the following series of events will take place:
- Your employer will be sent a confirmation that your petition has been received.
- If applicable, a biometric services notice will be sent along with the confirmation.
- If required, your employer will be notified of your need to appear for an interview.
- Your employer will be notified about whether or not your request has been approved.
As you navigate changing from one visa type to another, keep in mind that we’re here to help you on your journey. Our expert attorneys can help you with the intricacies of submitting a valid and complete petition. We’ve helped hundreds of startup founders - and members of their teams - get the approvals they need in a quick and streamlined process. By pairing smart software with smart people, we can help you get your visa approval - or change of status - in a third of the usual time.