EB-1A Visa Lawyer: Extraordinary Ability Green Card

When USCIS defines the EB-1A for a “small percentage of individuals,” you know it isn’t the most accessible green card to acquire in 2023. Although seemingly difficult, an EB-1A green card is possible to get. Each year, USCIS makes 40,000 visas available under the EB1 category, and the approval rate is high if the petitioner can prove they meet the qualifications. This guide will cover every EB-1A requirement, criteria, cost, and more.

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. 

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What is the EB-1A Visa?

EB-1A (Extraordinary Ability) is a subcategory of the EB-1 Employment-Based green card. EA qualifies a “small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.” To qualify for the EB-1A category, the individual must be a leader in at least one of the listed areas:

  • Sciences
  • Arts
  • Education
  • Business
  • Athletics

The applicant must intend to continue working in the same field and demonstrate how their expertise would benefit the U.S.

Did you know there are less common or “unusual” criteria can be used to satisfy at least 3 of the 10 listed criteria for demonstrating “extraordinary ability? Check out this guide on Unusual Criteria for EB-1A Petitions. 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.

Why You Need EB-1A Visa Lawyer 

There are some key character traits to consider when selecting an EB-1A attorney. Keeping these in mind will help you make an informed decision.

  • Experience and Credentials – Look online to verify the lawyer’s credentials, such as their education, professional memberships, and certifications.
  • Specialization in Business Immigration – Has the attorney handled many EB-1A cases before, or do they primarily specialize in deportation cases? The answer to that can significantly impact the type of service you receive and, ultimately, the outcome of your case.
  • Upfront Communication – Choose a lawyer who will be responsive to your questions and be able to keep you updated about your case.
  • Legal Fees – Look for lawyers with transparent billing structures, and make sure you understand the costs involved.

Our Experience with EB-1A Visas

Our lawyers have years of experience with obtaining EB-1A visas for foreign workers. We pride ourselves on outstanding service and exceptional client care. This is what our leading business immigration lawyer Shilpa Malik said about our EB-1A services:

The EB-1A visa process demands a compelling case built on undeniable evidence of extraordinary talent and professional achievements. The many approvals we’ve received for clients are a testament to the collaborative efforts and strategic approach that we navigated these cases with.

This recent EB-1 success story involved a business seeking to bring a foreign worker on an EB-1A green card. Other attorneys could not overcome the challenges of the case, but we successfully detailed evidence proving the individual had fulfilled more than three of the EB-1A requirements. The USCIS requested extensive evidence, and our lawyers spent hours addressing each issue and submitted the response through premium processing to expedite the hiring process. USCIS approved the case, proving that VisaNation Law Group rises to meet challenges and provides dedicated professional help even in difficult immigration situations.

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EB-1A Requirements in 2023

An applicant wishing to qualify for the EB-1A must be:

  • Able to provide evidence of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • Reputable in your field and have documented confirmation of the applicant’s achievements.
  • Continue to work in the recognized field.
  • Obtain national or international acclaim.

Below is a chart with the EB-1 Green Card process eligibility criteria and EB-1A criteria:

EB-1A criteria in 2023

Source of the table.

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EB-1A Green Card Processing Time

EB-1A processing time can range from 4 to 7 months depending on which USCIS service center is processing the case (with premium processing optional). Another invaluable benefit of the EB-1A is the expedited processing time. Other green card categories require an employer to go through the PERM process and have backlogs that can substantially increase the wait time.

When you file your I-140 petition, that date becomes your priority date. Each month, the Department of State releases a visa bulletin that gives the “final action dates” for that particular month. If your priority date matches or passes the final action date in your country, a visa number will become available, and you can file your I-485 application.

While applicants of some other green card categories must wait several years, the EB-1 priority dates often tend to be current.

However, dates can retrogress. So be sure to check the most recent bulletin to be sure.

As for your I-140 processing time, this heavily depends on the service center’s caseload that processes your petition. On average, however, it tends to be around six months. But, again, if this is too long for you, you can opt for premium processing.

This service provided by the USCIS will shorten your petition’s processing time to 15 calendar days for an extra fee. If the USCIS does not meet this deadline, they will refund your premium processing fee.

Have a PdD? Learn about how to obtain a Ph.D. Green Card with EB-1 in this guide.

What If I’m Outside the U.S.?

Changing your status is only available to U.S. workers under a different visa (such as the O-1). If this is not the case and you are outside the U.S., you must undergo consular processing.

This means you must make an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country and schedule a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. You must also complete the DS-260 online immigrant visa application and bring the confirmation page to the appointment.

The timeline for consular processing depends on the consulate or embassy you use. Some applicants wait several months while others only wait a few weeks. Once you arrive for your interview, you will be asked questions about your experience, education, career, and work in the U.S. to determine whether your application is legitimate and qualified.

Remember that each EB-1A case is unique and may have different processing times. Work with your EB-1A lawyer to determine exactly how long you must wait for your green card.

EB-1A Documents

EB-1A Criteria

1. Evidence of national or international acclaim. 

  • The EB-1A recipient has national or international acclaim proven with documentation. An example of international acknowledgment demonstrating extraordinary ability would be the Noble Peace Prize or an Academy Award. If the applicant does not possess an internationally renowned award, they must provide evidence of at least three of the following:
  • Received a slightly lesser national or international recognition award or prize
    • Doesn’t have to carry the same level of recognition and prestige as a Nobel Prize or other significant award. Examples of qualifying awards include those from well-known institutions, doctoral dissertations, awards from internationally recognized conferences, etc.
  • Obtained membership in prestigious associations and organizations/institutions
    • Membership in these associations must not be based solely on payment of a fee, a requirement by certain occupations, etc.
  • Assessed the work of others
  • Contributed highly significant original artistic, scientific, or scholarly works in the field (i.e., newspaper articles, academic journals, major online publications, etc.)
  • Had achievements published in major trade and media announcements
  • Participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field for the specific classification
  • Works displayed in an art exhibition or show
  • Performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • Media success in the performing arts demonstrated in box office receipts or entertainment sales
  • Commanded a high salary, or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to the field –  USCIS does not interpret the phrase “has commanded” to mean that the person must have already earned such salary or remuneration in order to meet the criterion. A credible contract or job offer showing prospective salary or remuneration can establish the compensation.

As you can see, many of these EB-1a requirements are very similar to those of the O-1 visa. This is why many foreign nationals who qualify for the O-1 subsequently qualify for the EB-1A.

2. USCIS I-140 Petition Form

Most other employment-based green card categories require you to have a job offer from a U.S. employer. In addition, that employer has to undergo an extensive recruitment process to obtain a PERM Labor Certification, which can significantly increase your green card processing time.

One of the main benefits of the EB-1A is that it does not require a PERM Labor Certification or a job offer from a U.S. employer. Instead, the applicant can file a “self-petition” on the USCIS I-140 form. This is one of the speediest methods of receiving a green card.

3. USCIS I-485 Application

Once your I-140 is approved and your priority date is current, you must submit your I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status to change your status to EB-1A. If the USCIS approves this application, you will officially be a legal permanent resident in the U.S.

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EB-1A Cost

Here is a breakdown of the fees that go along with petitioning and applying for a green card:

Inside the U.S. (Change of status)

  • I-140 basic filing fee: $700
  • I-485 fee: $750-1,140. This fee changes depending on your age. See this chart to find out where you stand.
  • Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500

Outside the U.S. (Consular Processing)

  • I-140 basic filing fee: $700
  • DS-260 fee: $325
  • Affidavit of Support fee: $120
  • Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500

EB-1A Green Card Extraordinary Ability Advantages

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

  • Not requiring a permanent job offer in the U.S. or a labor certification.
  • Typically faster than the LCA process because you can file a petition and your application for permanent residency simultaneously (also known as concurrent filing).
  • There is greater flexibility than the labor certification process, and you can change jobs sooner.
  • Self-petitioning is permitted, meaning it doesn’t require the signature of someone at the institution or company you work for.

There are some disadvantages to be made aware of. First, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability, so being average or good will not suffice. Sometimes, it can be less predictable than the labor certification process. However, this depends significantly from case to case.

Because the USCIS defines extraordinary ability on a case-by-case basis, it is essential to have an EB-1A lawyer work with you to ensure that your case is solid.

comparison of eb1 subcategories

EB1 Green Card Process – Extraordinary Ability Approved Case Example

Below is one example of an approved case under the Green Card Extraordinary Ability category:

Dr. James obtained his Ph.D. from Russia. His work deals primarily with mechanical engineering in a way that can positively affect the U.S. economy. He demonstrates a range of accomplishments in the field and has received national recognition for his work.

Moreover, Dr. James is an active contributor to scholarly journals and has published many that are in circulation. He qualifies under Extraordinary Ability because he is a foremost authority in the field. Dr. James does not require an employer’s sponsorship assuming he can continue his work in the country.

Alternatives to EB-1A

If you do not meet the qualifications of the EB-1A, the good news is that there are alternative visa options.

  • EB-2 visa is made for foreign workers with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities
  • EB-3 visa is mainly used to employ foreign workers that are either professional, skilled, or unskilled
  • EB-4 visa is designed for religious workers and special immigrants
  • EB-5 visa was created for investor immigration to the United States
  • H-1B visa was designed to help American companies to hire talent from abroad in specialty occupations
  • L-1 visa allows multinational companies to transfer their employees from foreign offices to their U.S. offices
  • E-3 visa is only for workers from Australia who fall within the specialty occupation category
  • TN visa is only for Canadian or Mexican residents within a well-defined occupation list
  • O-1 visa is ideal for bringing workers with extraordinary abilities to work in the U.S.
  • P visa is for athletes, artists, and entertainers seeking to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis
  • R visa allows foreign workers of nonprofit religious organizations to work temporarily in the U.S.
  • J-1 visa was explicitly created for exchange visitors looking to work or study in the U.S.

EB-1A Green Card Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions related to the EB-1A green card. We highly advise you to double-check with your immigration attorney about the best course of action for your specific case.

What is an EB-1A?

The EB-1A is a subcategory within the employment-based immigration first preference category for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. A green card will be awarded if an applicant meets all the EB-1A criteria and is approved.

How do you prove extraordinary ability in EB-1A? 

You can demonstrate extraordinary ability with at least three of the ten EB-1A criteria mentioned in the section above titled EB-1A Documentation. For other types of visas (i.e., O-1B petitions) requiring demonstration of extraordinary achievement, proof of a one-time achievement (e.g., Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic Medal) plus evidence demonstrating that the type of work will continue in the United States is sufficient.

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

The main distinction is that the EB-1B criteria are strictly for scientific and scholarly fields. On the other hand, the EB-1A category applies to the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

How long does an EB-1A take? 

While you may experience additional EB-1A processing time due to backlogs, it has traditionally taken about eight months to process an EB-1 petition. However, after an I-140 approval, USCIS will issue a permanent resident card in about six months.

How long does it take to get an EB-2 visa?

The EB-2 visa processing time is typically longer than the EB-1A green card processing time and is affected by your country of origin and the service center that processes your I-140. The EB-2 time frame is approx. 18 months. If you need a PERM Labor Certification, that range can be eight months to 2 years depending on whether or not your employer is audited after the recruitment process.

Do I need a sponsor for EB-1A? 

You do not need a sponsor for the EB-1A (Employment-Based First Preference – Alien of Extraordinary Ability) visa category. The EB-1A is a self-petitioning category, which means you can apply for this visa without an employer or sponsor. It is designed for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics and who have demonstrated sustained national or international acclaim in their respective fields.

How We Can Help – EB1 Green Card Process

VisaNation Law Group’s EB-1A Extraordinary Ability lawyers are experienced in identifying if you qualify under one of the Extraordinary Ability categories. In addition, they can advise you if you are unsure if your evidence of achievement meets EB-1 requirements.

Book consultation today with a VisaNation attorney for a comprehensive evaluation of your eligibility for an EB-1 green card.