EB1-A – An Employment-Based Green Card Guide

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • EB1-A visa for immigrants with extraordinary abilities in various fields.
  • Does not require labor certification and allows self-petitioning.
  • Advantages include no need for a job offer, faster processing, and flexibility.
  • Qualifications include evidence of extraordinary abilities, reputation, and intent to continue working.

People that have extraordinary abilities are a great asset to every country. Whether their talent revolves around sciences, arts, business, athletics, or education, all of these people have a lot to offer.

This is why the EB1 visa is such a popular choice among people coming to the United States looking for a job. With an EB1-A visa, you may get your green card – and all will be based on your talents alone.

What Is an EB1-A Visa?

The EB1 visa is a visa for immigrants that are particularly gifted in a certain industry. To be more specific, this kind of visa goes to those whose abilities are considered to be extraordinary in the fields of athletics, education, science, art, and business.

In order to get such a visa, you need to prove that your ability is that of extraordinary heights and that you have risen at the top of your field. Anything from awards to high salaries in comparison to others – all of these can prove to the processing agent that you are worthy of receiving a visa.

EB1-A vs. EB1-B

The EB1 visa breaks down into two categories: The EB1-A visa and the EB1-B visa. The similarities between them lie in the fact that neither needs a labor certification and that both of them require you to have some sort of extraordinary ability and talent in your field.

At the same time, there are a few significant differences between the two of them. For instance, while the EB1-A visa applies to a variety of professional fields, the EB1-B only applies to those in sciences – or otherwise scholarly fields.

Similarly, while you won’t need to currently have a job, this doesn’t apply to job offers as well. With the EB1-A visa, you won’t need employee sponsorship with a job offer that corresponds to it – whereas the EB1-B will need both of them. In other words, the latter will need you to be in some form of permanent research position for you to be accepted.

Technicalities also differ: with the EB1-A, the person seeking the visa can petition for this visa (although an employer might do so too if they wish). With the EB1-B, the person seeking to employ you will have to be the one to petition. Last but not least, while the EB1-B visa has a minimum of 3 years’ worth of work experience, the EB1-A has no such minimum requirements.

Alien of Extraordinary Ability

An alien with extraordinary abilities has proven that they are above the other people in their field and that they are generally successful in their endeavors. Since these people have proven to be successful in the past, it is likely that they might also become assets in the future.

EB1 Extraordinary Ability Examples

No matter if you have a potential employer or not, a person with extraordinary abilities is someone who has proven to be successful in a particular field – most of the time, even during the college education.

For example, a person that has a Ph.D. in physics may not seem like much – but if you add 25 journal articles, 15 invited presentations at meetings and conferences, along with employment or internship at several world-renowned institutes – then you could say that he/she is a person that possesses extraordinary abilities.

A person that has received a major internationally-recognized award, for example, could also be deemed as someone with extraordinary abilities. People that have previously won a Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer Prize, or the Academy award could easily apply for a visa.

EB1-A Advantages

The EB1-A Extraordinary Ability visa comes with a variety of advantages, among which are the following:

  • Not needing a labor certification or a permanent job offer in the United States.
  • The process is generally quicker than the LCA, as you can file both your petition and your permanent residency application – all at the same time.
  • It features greater flexibility as compared to the labor certification process, and you can change your job much faster.
  • You can self-petition, as compared to most visas that require an employer to petition for you.

The only drawback here is that you have to clearly prove that you have extraordinary abilities – something that is difficult to do sometimes. Normal or good does not suffice, and to put it simply, you will need to prove that you are a special kind of person.

EB1-A Requirements

In order to qualify for an EB1-A, an applicant will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Ability to provide proof of extraordinary abilities in particular fields such as arts, business, sciences, athletics, or education
  • Be reputable in your field and have documented confirmation of your success
  • Obtain international or at least national acclaim
  • Intend to continue working in that particular field

Once these requirements are met, you may go ahead and begin working on your documentation gathering.

EB1-A Documents

To be eligible for the EB1-A, you will need to gather the following documents:

Proof of national or international acclaim

In this case, you may present an internationally renowned document (e.g. a Nobel, Pulitzer Prize, etc.) – and if that’s not possible, at least three of the following:

  • Proof of a slightly smaller national or international prize
  • Assessment of the work of others
  • Proof of membership in a prestigious organization, with a high rank
  • Proof of significant contribution to your field
  • High media achievements with publications in major trades
  • Works displayed in an important show or exhibition
  • Media reports in regards to your success (e.g. for performing arts)
  • Proof of a comparably high salary

Form I-140 from USCIS

Many visa applications require an employer to fill in for you in a petition. However, with form I-140, you may self-petition as a means of obtaining a green card.

Form I-485

Once the form I-140 has been approved, you will need to submit the form I-485 as well – which is your application to register as a permanent resident. If the application is approved, you will be given a green card and be recognized as a permanent resident of the United States

How to Apply for an EB1-A Green Card

To apply for the EB1-A green card, you will have to gather the documents listed previously and send them to the address provided by the USCIS website. You may decide to mail these papers electronically, via email – for which the processing time may become shorter – or you may decide to go with the traditional mail. In this case, it might take longer until your documents reach the address and you receive your confirmation.

EB1A Petition Letter Sample

Below is an example letter of an approved case for someone that requested a green card under the EB1-A petition.

“Dr. Jonathan C. has obtained his Ph.D. in the biological field in Germany, doing cancer research. During his time there, he has obtained 15 publications – among which 7 had him as a first author, 9 conference abstracts, 90 citations, and one journal review. He has demonstrated that he is a published individual that would highly influence the medical field of the U.S.A.

Moreover, Dr. Jonathan has become a regular member of the high science society. And to become a member, he had to obtain sponsorship from the other two members – one of which is a Nobel Prize winner. Dr. Jonathan has obtained extensive knowledge in the field, due to which he does not need sponsorship from an employee – and may prove to be a great asset to the economy of the United States.”

How the letter will look may depend from one case to another. For this reason, you may want to work closely with an immigration attorney.

Cost of an EB1-A?

The cost of the EB1-A will depend on whether you are applying as a change of status (from inside the U.S), or through consular processing (outside the U.S.).

If you apply from inside the U.S, you will have to pay $460 for the basic I-140 filing fee, $750-$1,140 for the I-485 fee – and if it applies, $85 for the biometric fees and $1,440 for the premium processing fee.

If you are applying from outside the U.S, you have to pay the basic $460 filing fee for Form I-140, the DS-260 $230 fee, the $88 Affidavit of Support fee – and if applicable, the $85 biometrics fee and the $1,440 premium processing fee.

EB1-A Green Card Processing Time

The processing time depends on the number of applicants during a particular time. In most cases, this processing time revolves around 6 months – but sometimes, it may take more whereas other times it may take less.

EB1-A Approval Rate

As long as the petitioner presents a complete list of documents, the approval rate is nearly 100%. In 2010, that approval rate was at 62% – but it has steadily risen to the near 100% we have today.

Wrap Up

As a person with extraordinary abilities, you may be entitled to enter the United States on a visa. However, to be certain that you have what it takes and that your request is not denied, you might want to work with an immigration lawyer.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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