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The EB-1A Green Card Explained in 2022

Posted on August 30, 2022
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By Heather Beliles, M. Ed.

What is an EB-1A Visa?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines the EB-1A visa as an employment-based subcategory. As the 1 denotes, it is a first-preference category designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities in education, business, science, arts, and/or athletics. Applicants who satisfy the requirements are approved for permanent residency in the United States (a green card).

What is an EB-1A Green Card?

An EB-1A green card is an official and legal authorization for applicants with exceptional ability (in their field) to live and work permanently in the United States. The permanent residence status is commonly referred to as a green card, and is granted by the USCIS.

EB-1A Green Card Requirements and Eligibility

Foreign nationals may be granted an EB-1A visa if they meet they following criteria:

  1. The applicant must possess an extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business, or athletics
  2. The applicant must be in or moving to the United States to continue working in his or her field (of extraordinary ability)
  3. The applicant must be entering the United States solely because his or her work will be of substantial benefit to the United States as a whole

EB-1A visa applicants are eligible, provided they can:

  • Provide supporting evidence of extraordinary ability in the aforementioned fields 
  • Provide supporting evidence of his or her achievements - because they are seen as reputable in their field 
  • Will continue to work in the same recognized field
  • Provide evidence they have obtained acclaim, either nationally or internationally 

More information on EB-1 and EB-1A eligibility criteria can be found on the USCIS’ employment-based visas website.

EB-1A Documentation:

As each applicant and their endeavors differ, there will be some variance in required documentation. In general, the following must be supplied:

  • Copies of the applicant’s passport, as well as any applicable spouse or child(ren)
  • Résumé or CV
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Any applicable endorsements from experts or professionals in the same field
  • Evidence of the applicant’s endeavor he or she will be doing

The following documents will also be needed, in order to apply for an EB-1A green card:

1. Supporting documentation of receiving national or international acclaim

three or more of the following:

  • Performing arts success, recognized in the media
  • Exhibitions of professional works of art
  • Perception as an expert in his or her field, therefore being granted membership in organization(s) or association(s) prestigious in nature
  • Possession of a national or international recognition slightly lesser than a Nobel Peace Prize
  • Supporting evidence he or she has professionally assessed others’ works
  • Original contribution with great significance in scholarly works, science, or the arts
  • Evidence of his or her achievements having been published in significant trade and/or the media, or citations of works
  • Supporting evidence such as pay stubs indicating comparably high salary

2. Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140)

As this type of visa does not require a labor certification or even a current job offer, applicants can self-petition on the I-140 form. This petition for foreign nationals to have lawful work authorization in the U.S. Going this route saves time, resources and money, making the process of obtaining a green card much shorter for EB-1A applicants.

3. Permanent Resident Application

Another vital component to the EB-1A green card petition process is the Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status (Form I-485). This application is in place for employment-based visa holders to change his or her status to that of an EB-1A. Once approved, the foreign national will be granted lawful permanent residency in the United States. As such, it is reserved for applicants who are at the highest points in their profession.

The applicant must intend to continue working in the same field and demonstrate how their expertise would benefit the U.S. If you are unsure whether you fall in the extraordinary ability category, it’s best to consult an immigration attorney to determine if you qualify.

EB-1A Green Card Processing times

The I-140 form processing timeframe is usually around six months. Applicants should note the processing time is also dependent on the amount of petitions at the relevant service center’s office. Premium processing is an option for applicants needing an expedited adjudication. This expedited service shortens the processing time down to 15 calendar days, and costs $1,410.

Advantages of an EB-1A Green Card 

The EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category has several advantages including:

  • No job offer is required
  • No labor certification (PERM process) is required
  • No requirement for an employer to petition on the applicant’s behalf (can self-petition)
  • Petition and application for permanent residency can be filed simultaneously
  • More flexibility than in the labor certification process

How to Apply for an EB-1A

  • Submit Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker
  • Submit all requisite EB-1A documentation
  • Check the Department of State’s visa bulletin for the final action dates (Priority dates are the date of the I-140 petition)
  • Once the petitioner’s priority date matches or passes the final action date, a visa number will become available, which is the time to file Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residency

How hard is it to get an EB-1A green card?

This type of green card is the most difficult employment-based green cards to get. A Nobel Peace Prize, Academy Award, Pulitzer Prize, OSCAR, or an Olympic medal is generally required, in order for a foreign national to be granted an EB-1A green card.

What is the difference between EB-1A and EB-1B?

The EB-1A subcategory is for applicants with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. EB-1B, on the other hand, is only for applicants in scientific and scholarly fields. 

Conclusion of EB-1A Green Card

This visa subcategory is reserved for alien workers who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in his or her field and/or demonstrate international recognition in their profession. The green card develops the status of employment-based immigration visas into permanent and lawful residency in the United States. 

The USCIS defines the required parameters the extraordinary ability green card

petitioners must have. Here are some ways the applicant can prove extraordinary ability:

  • Internationally recognized prizes
  • Business-related contributions
  • Published material
  • Major trade publications
  • Scholarly research contributions, such as scholarly articles, scholarly journals, etc.
  • Professional publications
  • Critical role in field or profession
  • Comparable research position
  • High salary compared to comparable individuals in a similar role
  • Major significance in sciences, arts, education, business, athletics
  • Artistic exhibitions
  • Internationally renowned awards
  • Major achievements recognized in other major media
  • Other outstanding achievements in their field
  • Evidence of other significantly high remuneration
  • Other comparable evidence
  • Have a leading or critical role in a distinguished organization(s)

Fortunately, because EB-1A applicants can self-petition, a PERM labor certification is not needed, nor is a permanent job offer required. The worker must simply continue working in their field, therefore an EB-1A must be the reason he or she plans to enter the United States.

The length of time for this type of green card takes about six months, though petitioners can elect premium processing, which expedites the process and takes up to 15 calendar days.

In conclusion, the petitioner must give evidence of sustained national or international acclaim, that his or her accomplishments have been recognized in the petitioner’s profession – by submitting any supporting evidence of a one-time achievement, or by satisfying three out of the 10 evidentiary criteria listed above.

Frequently Asked Questions About EB-1A Green Card

Who can apply for an EB-1A green card?

According to the USCIS first-preference, employment-based visa requirements chart, “Applicants must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.”

How can I demonstrate extraordinary ability?

EB-1A applicants must prove he or she has sustained national or international acclaim by submitting the evidence either of a one-time achievement, like the Nobel Peace Prize, or any type of nationally and/or internationally recognized award, or satisfy three out of the 10 evidentiary criteria (outline above).

How do USCIS officers determine whether to approve an EB-1A petition?

The USCIS determines whether to approve EB-1A petitions by first identifying the evidentiary threshold, and then determining the petitioner’s final merits.

What if I'm outside the United States when I apply for an EB-1A green card?

Applicants must undergo consular processing by first making an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in his or her home country, and then scheduling their interview with a consular officer there. Form DS-260 will also need to be completed prior to the interview.

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