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I am a postdoctoral scholar at a top ranked US University and I am on a J1 visa. I have received an offer for a position in a company, which should be filled by May 2016. The company told me that they may sponsor me for a H1B visa, but the asked me to check whether it may be faster to apply for a green card with a self-petition as an academic of Extraordinary Ability (EBI-1A). Time is what counts most for them now, and they won't be able to hire me if I don't get this done before May- which I think it will be tough.

I would appreciate to receive your advice on this. I moved recently to the US, and I am still misinformed and very naive on this issue.

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    You are unlikely to qualify for that type of Greencard. When I graduated from my US PhD, I asked my adviser if I did, and he set me up to talk to a friend who is an immigration lawyer. If the rules haven't eased up (and I doubt that very much), merely having a PhD, and having done some research, doesn't help. You'd need to be an international scientific celebrity; this is for truly exceptional candidates (concert pianists, famous actors, Nobel laureats, and such). The H1B is fast though. – gnometorule Dec 10 '15 at 0:33
  • Thanks for your prompt reply. So I think I misunderstood the visa category I would be eligible for. A friend of mine of my same nationality an equivalent achievements told me that she got her green card in 5 months. I guess it was probably under an EB2-NIW. Do you know how long it may take to get a sponsored H1B? And will it be more difficult to get a green-card afterwards once I leave academia? – Lucia Dec 10 '15 at 0:38
  • You should confirm with your friend - if she got her greencard under the exceptional clause, by all means give it a try; 5 months turn-around sounds about right for the sponsored greencard though (used to be much longer). When I needed an H1B, it was immediate - my company sent me to Toronto, where I was able to get it right away (don't ask how and why; all I know is that it was perfectly legal); but things have changed, and I'm unsure. Your company should know this though. – gnometorule Dec 10 '15 at 0:46
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    This isn't the type of question that you should ask of people here. Rather, you should retain an immigration lawyer to get an answer that you can depend on. The exact circumstances of your case are going to be very important here and you really haven't provided the level of detail that would make it possible for a lawyer who specializes immigration law to answer your question... – Brian Borchers Dec 10 '15 at 3:21
  • @gnometorule: I think you should turn these comments into an answer. – Wrzlprmft Dec 10 '15 at 9:54
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US immigration processes are a chancy and fast-moving target, as well as being subject to arbitrary interference from the political system. I have been peripherally involved with an "extraordinary ability" application before, and my understanding from that process is that it's awesome if you can get it, but highly unpredictable. I would thus strongly recommend against counting on EBI-1A.

On the other hand, H-1B also has its downsides: the number of available H-1B visas is capped through a highly complex formula. You also can end up "hostage" to a poor employment situation because you go immediately out of status if you quit or are fired. You also count as a non-US person, subject to export controls and potential limitations on the types of work that you can do---with some companies this is no constraint, with others it severely limits your career.

Instead, the first thing I would recommend is to get a trustworthy immigration lawyer involved to help you through the process. See if it's possible to do a "belt and suspenders" approach where you simultaneously aim for the extraordinary ability green-card (since getting a green-card gives you more personal and professional flexibility) and the H-1B route with the company for backup. Even with the company taking charge of an H-1B, it's good to have a US lawyer advocating for you also, because if a random low-level clerical mistake at the company may be "Oops, too bad!" for them but a wrenching restructuring of your life plans for you.

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For J1, it will very very tricky to get GC though NIW, unlike F1 holders. For J1, you can get I-140 approved, but to change your status from J1 to GC holder (form I-485), you can get it approved until you satisfy the 2 years rule (if you have it) or waive it (you need a court visit/order). So basically, you can get your I-140 approved in 4-6 months (you need to check processing time posted by USCIS). If you do not need to satisfy the rule, then things might be easier. My advise it to get an immigration attorney to look over your case, most consultations for immigration purposes are free.

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