As the most prestigious levels of employment-based green cards, the EB-1A and EB-1B immigrant visas share many advantages. However, they do differ in some key areas. Find out which green card is the right fit for your situation through the differences in requirements and benefits.
The EB-1A Breakdown
Policy Update- On September 12, 2023 USCIS updated the manual to offer clarifying guidance on examples of evidence that may satisfy the relevant criteria for employment first-based preference applicants, as well as how USCIS officers evaluate the totality of the evidence for eligibility. See the complete details in this EB-1 policy update post.
The EB-1A visa is designed for people with extraordinary ability. On the outset, this category may seem broad or vague. However, the USCIS has a strict definition of what qualifies as “extraordinary”.
For the most part, the EB-1A has a variety of fields that are available for eligibility including business, art, education, athletics, and science. This allows a broad spectrum of people from a variety of backgrounds to apply. However, meeting the high standards for qualification can be very difficult.
One of the major benefits of the EB-1A in comparison to the EB-1B is the former allows applicants to self-petition without the need of a job offer or employer. This gives EB-1A holders substantial freedom in the nature of their work in the U.S.
The greatest difference between the EB-1A and EB-1B green cards is the list of requirements. For the EB-1A, you need to meet one of two major requirements.
- You must present evidence of an internationally-recognized prize or award such as a Nobel Prize, Grammy, or Pulitzer Prize. or;
- You must have evidence of three of the following examples of your extraordinary ability:
- Having authored scholarly articles in your field that have been published in distinguished professional journals.
- Lesser prizes and awards on a national or international scale in your field
- Having published material that mentions you in a major trade publication
- Participation as a judge in an individual or panel situation in which you critique the work of your peers
- Membership in a distinguished organization or association that requires extraordinary ability in order to be a member.
- Significant scholarly, business, or scientific contributions to your field
- Having your work displayed at a distinguished exhibit
- Commercial success in the arts
- A large salary indicating your extraordinary ability
- Having a critical or leading role in a reputable organization
As you can see, producing the evidence to qualify for the EB-1A green card is not something that many applicants can accomplish. All told, you must demonstrate that you are in a top percentile of professionals in your field. If you can prove this but your evidence does not fall into the above categories, ask your immigration attorney if it can be submitted.
The EB-1B Breakdown
The EB-1B green card, on the other hand, is for outstanding researchers and professors. Again, the word “outstanding” can be interpreted many ways. However, the USCIS provides a defined list of evidence that can be submitted to prove that you are eligible for this green card.
Compared to the EB-1A, the EB-1B has a relatively limited scope of professions that can qualify. Where the EB-1A allows for extraordinary people from the fields of business, art, education, science, and athletics to apply, the EB-1B is only given to researchers and professors.
Unlike the EB-1A, you cannot self-petition for an EB-1B green card. In order to apply, you must have a job offer from a sponsoring U.S. employer who will file a petition on your behalf. While this means that your employer will absorb the I-140 filing fee, it does limit the work you can do in the U.S.
To be considered eligible, you must have at least 3 years of experience in your field and be coming to the U.S. with the intention of gaining tenure or the equivalent in a research position. In addition, you need to present evidence of two of the following:
- Recognized prizes or awards for your abilities
- Having officially judged the work of your peers on a panel or on an individual level.
- Being the author of scholarly books or articles published in distinguished journals related to your field
- Published material that is written about your work by others in a reputable publication.
- Having made significant contributions to your field
- Membership in an organization or association that requires outstanding achievement for entry.
At its core, this list aims to prove to the USCIS that you have “outstanding achievements in a particular academic field”. If you have evidence that supports this idea that is not listed, work with your immigration attorney to see if it qualifies as appropriate evidence.
Because the EB-1A and EB-1B green cards are in the same preference level, there is no difference in their processing times according to the regulations. However, this does not mean that each petition’s processing time will not differ. Each service center has a unique caseload which can cause the waiting time to vary widely. On average, however, the I-140 petition takes about 6 months to process.
Once your I-140 has been approved, you will need to wait until your priority date is current. If you are not familiar with priority dates, here is a quick rundown:
The date that the USCIS receives your petition will become your official priority date. You will need to compare this date with the final action dates given by the Department of State in their monthly visa bulletin. These final action dates are broken up according to green card preference level and country of origin.
When your priority date matches or passes the final action date in your level and country, your priority date ill be considered current, allowing you to adjust your status if you are already in the U.S. or begin consular processing if you are abroad.
Usually, all of the dates for the EB-1 preference level are current, meaning that you would be able to adjust your status as soon as your I-140 was approved. However, as of the June 2017 visa bulletin, a backlog of several years has built up for nationals of China and India.
A common question: can I use premium processing for my petition? The answer, in this case, is yes. Premium processing an optional service that shortens your petition’s waiting time from a 6-month average to 15 calendar days for an additional fee. This fee can be paid either by you or your employer.
If the USCIS does not process your petition within that time frame, then you will receive a refund of your premium processing fee. This is one of the few circumstances where the USCS will issue a refund.
This service is available to all visas and green cards that use the I-140 or I-129 petitions in their application processes. The only exception to this is the EB-1C green card for multinational managers and executives.
Conclusion: EB-1A vs EB-1B
In the end, it all depends on your qualifications. If you are one of the rare individuals that qualify for both the EB-1A and EB-1B green cards, then you may want to consider pursuing the former for the advantages that it holds.
Not needing an employer and job offer can be very liberating depending on the kind of work that you wish to do in the U.S. The EB-1A also encompasses a greater variety of fields and is more inclusive for extraordinary individuals. In addition, the EB-1B requires applicants to have at least 3 years of experience and strictly defines what your intentions must be while the EB-1A does not have such requirements.
In either case, the processing time and fees will generally be the same. If you self-petition, however, you will be responsible for the I-140 filing fee, which essentially makes the EB-1B the less expensive option.
In any case, it is important never to make a large decision like this one without the help of an experienced expert. Just like it’s not a good idea to navigate real estate without an agent, you should always have an immigration attorney in your corner in the world of immigration law.