The EB-1 is the most prestigious employment-based green card available. Its main advantage lies in the fact that the wait time is usually much shorter than that of other green cards. Because the processing time depends on so many different factors, it is important to know what may cause delays for your EB-1.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: There is a significant advancement of Priority Dates in EB-3 India category in October 2020 VISA BULLETIN. If you are considering downgrading your petition from EB-2 to EB-3, read THIS ARTICLE.
EB-1 Green Card Application Steps and Processing Times
The EB-1 green card application involves various steps that will amount to the overall processing time depending on the subcategory you are pursuing. If you qualify for the EB-1A for extraordinary ability, you can self-petition for your visa, meaning you don’t need a job offer from a U.S. employer. For the other two categories, you must first get an employer who is willing to sponsor your visa. Whether you have a sponsoring employer or you are self-petitioning, the next step will be to file the I-140.
I-140 Petition for Immigrant Workers
For all EB-1 visa applications, the first thing is for the petitioner to file an I-140 Petition for Immigrant Workers with the USCIS. If filed by an employer, it must demonstrate that employer’s continuing ability to pay you the agreed wage as of the priority date.
Applicants for the EB-1 category need to file an I-140 Immigrant Petition and supporting evidence with the appropriate service center. Processing times vary between the different service centers where the immigration petition and supporting documents may be filed.
Filing times vary based on whether the applicant shall be filing hard copies or whether the application shall be e-filed and ultimately whether the applicant will be requesting premium processing.
E-filing the application and supporting documents will allow USCIS to automatically reroute the documents to the appropriate service center based on the applicant’s intended state of employment.
On average, the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) and the Texas Service Center (TSC) have similar processing times; however, the NSC is known for delayed processing times.
Unfortunately, applicants cannot choose service centers as USCIS has predetermined filing locations dependent on the applicant’s intended state of employment and the jurisdiction of the service centers. Information pertaining to the appropriate processing facility can be found at the USCIS website.
The USCIS reports the most current EB-1 processing times. Generally, the government processing time for the EB-1 Visa is about 8 months. Once the EB-1 has been approved, the government takes about 6 months to issue permanent residence.
These times are only available if the EB-1 category is current. Applicants can check category status at the DOS Visa Bulletin. If the EB-1 category is not current, there will be an extended amount of time to receive visa numbers. Again, these times are just estimates.
If the applicant incurs any delays with applications or misfiling, this process will be prolonged. Case status checks are available for applicants online. The online application provides applicants with a better determinant for case-specific processing.
Known as Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, the I-485 is the next line of action after I-140 petition if the beneficiary is in the United States. This simply means you have been in the U.S. under a qualifying nonimmigrant status and applying to adjust to permanent resident status. You will need to wait until your priority date becomes current before submitting your I-485 petition to the USCIS. It takes an average of six months to process I-485 form, but as we’ll see later on in this article, waiting for the priority date to be current can drastically change the overall processing time.
EB-1 Green Card Concurrent Filing
Concurrent filing is the process of filing both I-140 and I-485 forms together for them to be adjudicated at the same time. It is one of the most practical ways to shorten the overall processing time for the EB-1 green card. However, it is only allowed in certain situations.
To be eligible for concurrent filing of your I-140 and I-485 forms, your priority date must be “current.” This means that a visa number is available and you can file for adjustment of status. With this opportunity, you will significantly reduce the overall processing time.
EB-1 Green Card Consular Processing
If you are outside the U.S., the process will be different. Once your I-140 form has been approved by the USCIS, you will have to go through consular processing in your home country. This requires submitting a visa application and going through a one-on-one interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. After a successful immigration interview, you will be issued a visa to travel to the U.S. and get your green card.
The consular processing also involves various steps which include a visa application, a medical examination, and interview appointments. The overall processing time for all of these will depend on the workload at the embassy or consulate and your personal preparedness.
This first preference level is broken down into three subcategories:
EB-1A: for foreign nationals who can demonstrate that they have an extraordinary ability
To qualify for the EB-1A green card, you must show that you possess extraordinary ability in either the science, art, athletics, business, education, television or motion picture industries. It is the most prestigious of all the three subcategories and requires a substantial amount of evidence, such as publications in major media, membership of professional associations, and awards for your extraordinary achievements.
EB-1B: for outstanding researchers and professors
The EB-1B green card is next to the EB-1A in terms of prestige and requirements. You must demonstrate international recognition for your outstanding achievements in your academic field and have at least three years experience researching and teaching in that field. Your reason for coming to the United States must also be for the purpose of teaching or researching in the same or similar position at an institution of higher education.
EB-1C: for multinational executives and managers
To be eligible for an EB-1C green card, you must have been employed by a foreign organization on a full-time basis for at least one full year in the three years leading up to your green card petition. Also, the U.S. organization you will work for must have a qualifying working relationship with the foreign organization for at least one year and must be ready to employ you in an executive or managerial role.
Keep in mind that the processing time for all three of these subcategories is ostensibly the same. However, based on your level of eligibility for the green card that you are pursuing, the approval process may take more or less time. Your immigration attorney can better assess your particular situation.
As with most employment-based immigration cases, the processing time to obtain an EB-1 green card typically depends on the applicant’s ability to complete the required documentation accurately. Unfortunately, a lot of documentation can be filled out incorrectly or submitted to the wrong location.
This will extend your EB-1 processing time and could risk filing past due dates. The processing time also greatly depends on how quickly the government (USCIS) is able to process the applicant’s material. The following is an outline of EB-1 processing times. To receive the most accurate information it’s advised to contact one of our EB-1 green card lawyers or an immigration law professional.
For those who are visual learners, take a look at this short but helpful video!
If you are considering applying for an employment green card, be sure to check out the comparison of EB-1 and EB-2 categories.
While qualifying for an EB-1 can be difficult and requires above-average qualifications, the benefits are well worth it. There are a number of privileges you receive while on an EB-1 immigrant visa including:
- Decreased waiting times for priority dates
- EB-1A and EB-1B holders do not need an employer to sponsor them and can self-sponsor
- Ability to live and work in the U.S.
- Ability to travel freely in or out of the U.S.
- Option to apply for dependent visas for your spouse or unmarried children
- Ability to pursue citizenship in the U.S.
It is important to note that these advantages also tend to come along with increased scrutiny for your case. To ensure that you have the best chance for approval in the fastest way possible, consult with your immigration attorney.
If you do not qualify for an EB-1 green card, you may want to consider a lower preference level. While the waiting time might be longer, they still provide you with the ability to live, work, and travel in and out of the U.S. as well as apply for visas and green cards for family members.
How Do Priority Dates Work for EB-1 Visa?
For most green cards, the largest factor that determines the processing time is the priority date. Most green cards are subject to the priority date system, so it is important to be familiar with it before beginning your EB-1 journey.
Your EB-1 priority date is personal to your case and is the date that the USCIS receives your EB-1 petition. This date does not change and should be written down.
The Department of State releases a monthly visa bulletin listing the “final action dates” according to each green card and country of origin. The final action date moves from month to month according to how many people from each country apply for the same green card. Because there is an annual limit to each green card, the relative number of petitions will determine if the final action date goes forward, stands still, or retrogresses (moves backward).
For example, if the number of Indian petitions for the EB-1 is lower than the annual limit, then the final action date will move forward. If the number of petitions is equal to the limit, then the date will not move. If there are more petitions than the limit allows, then the final action date will retrogress.
You need to monitor these bulletins to see how your priority date matches up to the final action date in your category. This can take anywhere from no time at all to upwards of 5 years. Applicants from countries with large populations such as China and India should expect a longer EB-1 priority date waiting time while other smaller countries may enjoy priority dates that are already current. If this is the case, then you will be able to move onto the next step as soon as your I-140 is current. Once the dates match or your EB-1 priority date passes the final action date, then a visa number will become available and you can move onto the next step of the EB-1 process.
It is important to note that there is no difference between the EB-1A, EB-1B, or EB-1C final action dates as the Department of State makes no distinction and gives one final action date for all EB-1 green cards.
Keep in mind that if your EB-1A or EB-1B priority date is current, then premium processing may be advantageous to you since these green cards allow for this option. Keep reading to learn more about how premium processing can speed up your EB-1 processing time.
Why Is the EB-1 Processing Time Longer for India?
This is a question we often get, as it can often seem that foreign nationals from India are forced to wait longer than applicants from any other country in the world. Some suspect hidden nationalistic or discriminatory agendas at play, but the reality is much simpler.
As we mentioned earlier, there is a limited number of green cards that can be issued in one year to a particular country in a particular category. For employment-based green cards, there are only 140,000 issued annually. This leaves fewer than 30,000 for any one chargeability area (country or group of countries) and is further broken down based on the type of green card.
Because of this, countries that have tens of thousands of applicants pursuing green cards in the United States will exceed the annual limit regularly while countries with far fewer applicants will be less likely to reach the limit.
If the limit is exceeded for a particular green card category and country (for example, the EB-1 for India), then the final action date will either not see any movement or even retrogress, causing much longer waiting times for applicants from those countries. This is known as a backlog, which is currently building up in the EB-1 category. Other countries (for example, Japan) have far fewer applicants, so the annual limit is never reached for any particular green card category, causing their dates to move forward more rapidly or remain current.
Therefore, applicants from India will see longer waiting times than other countries as long as they continue to oversubscribe their green card categories. There may be legislation in the future that expands or eliminates the limit, but, for now, the limit remains the same, which means that applicants from India will have longer EB-1 processing times.
Adjustment of Status vs Consular Processing
Once your priority date is current, there will be two options that may be available to you based on whether or not you are in the U.S. under a valid nonimmigrant status.
If you are already living in the country through a nonimmigrant visa, then you have the option to either apply for adjustment of status or go through consular processing. With adjustment of status, you can simply file an I-485 application to adjust status or register permanent resident with the USCIS. This form will add about six months to your EB-1 processing time and premium processing is not available. If approved, your nonimmigrant status will be “adjusted” to immigrant status and your green card will be issued in the mail soon afterward.
If you are not in the U.S. or under a valid nonimmigrant status, then you will not be able to adjust your status and must go through consular processing. This involves making an appointment with a designated U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country. At that appointment, you will need to take part in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer who will ask you questions to determine whether or not your EB-1 case is legitimate. If you pass this interview, then your passport will be taken and your EB-1 green card will be attached to it and sent back to you.
EB-1 Premium Processing
Receiving approval for your Extraordinary Ability petition via form I-140 can take up to six months from the time of filing with USCIS. Since this processing time may vary depending on the regional service center’s caseload you might want to consider premium processing.
This service shortens the processing decision down to 15 calendar days. However, there is an additional $1,440 fee for selecting this option. Depending on your case, it may be wise to select this option. Remember that this service does not increase your chances of having your petition approved. It only decreases the amount of time it takes for the USCIS to come to a decision.
However, keep in mind that the priority dates are not always current. If a backlog builds to a substantial amount (sometimes it can be years), then getting premium processing will not decrease your waiting time. The USCIS may postpone adjudicating your petition until it gets closer to your priority date becoming current.
Which EB-1 Visas Qualify?
EB-1 visas that are allowed to receive premium processing services include extraordinary ability (EB-1A) as well as the outstanding professors and researchers visa (EB-1B).
It’s necessary to note that multinational executives and managers are not able to receive premium processing and the NIW visa (EB-2) cannot receive premium processing. Therefore, the EB-1C wait time has the potential to be significantly longer than the other EB-1 visas. To get a better indication whether or not your case qualifies for premium processing it’s best to contact an EB-1 green card lawyer.
PERM Labor Certification
A PERM Labor Certification is required in many visa cases by the Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure that there are no U.S. workers who are willing and able to fill the position. However, labor certifications are not required for the EB-1 visa but are necessary for EB-2 and EB-3 visa applications unless the EB-2 applicant is applying for an NIW.
Have you received a PERM Labor Certificate Audit? Consult one of our green card lawyers to learn more about the proper procedures for responding.
EB-1 Processing Time Delays: RFE
One of the ways that your EB-1 processing time can be increased or delayed is through a USCIS Request for Evidence (or RFE). This happens when the officer who is evaluating your petition believes that there is missing evidence in your petition. This can be something as simple as a missing passport copy or something more complicated like proof of extraordinary ability for the EB-1A.
The USCIS will give you a list of evidence that is requested as well as a window of time in which to respond. The first thing you should do is take your EB-1 RFE to your attorney in order to make sure that your response is both adequate and timely. If not, there is a large chance that your EB-1 petition will be rejected.
The USCIS may also send you a Notice of Intent to Deny (or NOID) if the situation is more serious than that of an RFE. With the latter, not responding with all of the required evidence may still end up with a favorable outcome. However, not responding to a NOID exactly as requested will almost certainly result in denial. Both NOIDs and RFEs should be brought to an immigration attorney as soon as possible to ensure that the best and most timely response is given to the USCIS.
How Our EB-1 Green Card Lawyers Can Help
Our Fort Lauderdale immigration lawyers specialize in employment-based cases. We thoroughly evaluate your qualifications and the supplementary documentation to determine whether you satisfy the requirements for EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card.
Want the best chance of acquiring a green card? Our EB-1 lawyers can help you come up with a great strategy to highlight your specific qualifications and accomplishments.
Don’t worry about preparing a petition, we’ll take care of all the details on your behalf. We’ll make sure it methodically demonstrates that your professional background and experience meet the criteria for EB-1 green card.
Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience in EB-1 cases and offer extensive consultations. We ensure that all the required and supplementary documentation is complete and free of errors so that no unnecessary delays will occur.