EB-1A, also called EB1-1, refers to Employment-Based First Preference immigration. Because this category is so selective, backlogs are all but nonexistent. This means that foreign nationals who qualify for this category become immediately eligible to apply for legal permanent residence, regardless of the demand for visas by the rest of their home country.

Does EB1-A require a job offer or labor certification?
EB-1A does not require a job offer or Labor certification but the standards for this category are very high. It is designed for individuals who are at the very top of their field.

Is this category open to any field of work?
While USCIS regulations specifically list fields of endeavor in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, they have also exercised broad interpretation of how specific occupations fit into these fields; even animal trainers who meet the extraordinary ability standards have been approved as aliens of extraordinary ability in “the arts”.

What are the criteria?
In order to qualify as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”, an individual must show either a one-time achievement (such as receipt of a major internationally recognized award of the caliber of the Nobel Prize or an Olympic Medal), or meet at least 3 of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally and internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by experts in the field
  • Published materials about the individual in professional or major trade publications, or appearance/published materials about the individual in other major media
  • Participation, either individually or as part of a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the field (including requests to serve as a reviewer/referee for articles to be published, invitations to serve on discussion and advisory panels, etc.)
  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, as published in professional or major trade publications or in other major media
  • Display of the individual’s work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Serving in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • Commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field
  • Commercial success in the performing arts, such as box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk and video sales

The USCIS may also accept additional types of documentation if the above mentioned factors do not readily apply to the individual’s field of expertise.

What type of evidence is required?
This varies greatly depending on the applicant’s field and the criteria that he or she meets. It is essential that all claims are supported by hard, documentary evidence. Each item should help demonstrate that the individual has a sustained national or international reputation.

All petitions must be supported by letters from peers and colleagues in the individual’s field of expertise, including independent references who have never worked with the applicant. Independent letters help substantiate the claim that an individual is known outside of his or her circle of collaborators.

How long does case processing take? Is expedited service available?
Approval of an Extraordinary Ability petition, filed with USCIS form I-140, is currently taking at least 4-6 months from the date that the initial petition is submitted to the USCIS. Please note that processing times may vary depending on caseload and administrative delays at regional USCIS Service Centers, and you can check estimated processing times at the USCIS website.

Expedited service, known as “Premium Processing,” is available on EB-1A applications. Premium Processing requires an additional $1225 fee, and in return the USCIS will make an initial decision on the case in 15 days.  If additional evidence is requested, a final decision will be made within 15 days of filing the evidence.  Note that a petition can be upgraded to Premium Processing, even if it was not originally filed with the $1225 fee.

At what point may I apply for work and travel authorization? What about a green card?
It is possible to either 1) wait to file the permanent residence application after the EB-1A application is approved or 2) file the permanent residence application at the same time as the EB-1A application. Either of these can be done from within the U.S. or at a U.S. consulate abroad.

The benefit of filing the applications at the same time is that while you wait for your EB-1A application to be approved, USCIS will begin processing your work and travel authorization. Once the EB-1A is approved, your green card processing can take place. However, if the EB-1A application is denied for any reason, your work and travel authorization will be revoked and your green card application will be denied. This can be costly, so many people prefer to wait to file once they get approval on the EB-1A.

Is there an equivalent temporary visa option?
The O-1 is a temporary employment visa that is a good first-step to obtaining permanent residency based on Extraordinary Ability. Please see the O-1 visa section for details.

What else can I do to help my case?
Apart from sending us your documents and telling us about your area of expertise, there are a few things you can do to increase your likelihood of success, particularly if you are a researcher/academic. See a list of resources here.