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I am an Indian citizen, I obtained PhD in the US. I work in a industry job relevant to my expertise, I have been with my current employer for ~2 years and I current have an industrial (non-exempt) H1-B for about 6 months now. I just got a research job at an university which starts late summer. I would like to know what my VISA options are going forward. Assume that I am qualified for O-1 status: good citation profile + awards + expertise demonstration etc in my field.

I have read on the internet that O1 or an academic (cap-exempt) H1 is a possibility. I would love to hear from people who have done either. More specifically:

  1. Should I apply for an O1 or an academic H1 in order to transition? How long does either take, given that I would want to start my academic job mid-summer? A pro/con list would also be great!

  2. Do universities generally help in the transition process or is it something that I have to do independently?

  3. How long do I get after I "quit" current job? I haven't disclosed anything to my current employer since this is very recent. But given that I have 3-4 months at most to start my next job, I am trying to this what a decent timeline would be for leaving my current job - applying for VISA etc.

  • A pro/con list based on what criteria? What exactly do you want to know / need help with? – Traveller Mar 6 at 15:18
  • ^ Made some clarifying edits. – throwaway123 Mar 6 at 15:45
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As you probably know, the O-1 visa is reserved for people on the very top of their fields. They need to prove "extraordinary achievements". That said, be aware that you have the burden to prove that your accomplishments are enough to fit USCIS' criteria for the O-1 visa. If you are able to, the benefit of having an O-1 is that the visa can be renewed indefinitely as long as your are employed. Also, if you qualify for an O-1 you may qualify in the future for an EB-1 (Green Card), which is the fastest way to get an employment green card and is a self-sponsored category.

1) It depends if you qualify as explained above.Changing employees on H1-B is a simple process and you can start you new job as soon as you have you receipt number. While applying for O-1 means changing non-immigrant status. So the waiting time for O-1 will be a few months while H1-B only a few weeks. Also, H1-B is way more common than an O-1 which means that universities will have a streamlined process for the H1-B and might not know how to a apply for an O-1, which may delay the process. Finally, it will take time for you to compile the O-1 documentation while you probably have everything almost ready for an H1-B petition.

2) I would assume that the university will help you transition. They usually have advisers dedicated to assist you with the process.

3) If you stay as an H1-B you should be able to start the new job as soon you have a receipt number. You don't have to wait for the petition to be approved. If you decided to go the O-1 route and since you only have 3-4 months to start the new job, you won't be able to change non-immigrant status in the US. So you will need to end your H1-B and apply for the O-1 abroad according to the timeline that the university provides.

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  • Thanks for your response. To clarify, I have a pretty healthy citation profile + awards from my PhD and two years back when I applied for a university job, I was considered "qualified" for O-1. But, I see your point regarding the timeline. One question: Is it easy or difficult to transition from industrial H-1 to academic H-1 ? The one I have now is cap non-exempt, but the academic one is cap-exempt I think. Does this affect the transition process ? – throwaway123 Mar 6 at 16:45
  • You're welcome. There's no "industrial" or "academic" H1-B. There's only a difference in the cap, which you've been through already, which means that you don't have to go through the cap anymore. So going to a cap-exempt institution is irrelevant just as going to another or back to cap-compliant institution is also irrelevant. – IanDan Mar 6 at 20:09

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