EB-1A: Extraordinary Ability Green Card

When USCIS specifically defines the EB-1A  for a “small percentage of individuals,” you know it isn’t the easiest green card to acquire. Although seemingly difficult, an EB-1A green card is definitely possible to get. We’ll cover every EB-1A requirement, criteria, costs, and more.

What is the EB-1A Green Card?

Extraordinary Ability (EA) 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. 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 Requirements:

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 EB1 Green Card process eligibility criteria andEB-1A criteria:

EB-1A criteria

Source of the table.

EB-1A Requirements & Documentation:

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:
  • The applicant has received a slightly lesser national or international recognition award or prize.
  • Obtained membership in prestigious associations and organizations. Must be perceived as an expert in their fields.
  • Assessed the work of others.
  • Contributed highly significant original artistic, scientific, or scholarly works in the field.
  • Had achievements published in major trade and media announcements.
  • Works displayed in an art exhibition or show.
  • Media success concerning the performing arts. Can be evaluated based on box office receipts or entertainment sales.
  • Make a comparably high salary.

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 go through 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 will need to 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.

EB-1A Green Card Process Timeline

Another invaluable benefit of the EB-1A is the expedited processing time. Other green card categories not only require an employer to go through the PERM process, but they also 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, then 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 tends 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.

What If I’m Outside the U.S.?

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

This means that you will need to 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 will also need to 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 that you use. Some applicants find themselves waiting 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 if your application is legitimate and that you are 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 will need to wait for your green card.

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: $460
  • 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): $1,440

Outside the U.S. (Consular Processing)

  • I-140 basic filing fee: $460
  • DS-260 fee: $230
  • Affidavit of Support fee: $88
  • Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $1,440

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, which means it doesn’t require the signature of someone at the institution or company you are working for.

There are some disadvantages to be made aware of. First, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability, so being just 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.

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.

EB-1A Green Card Frequently Asked Questions

What is an EB-1A?

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

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

You can demonstrate extraordinary ability with at least three of the ten 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.

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.

Don’t meet the aforementioned criteria? Then, refer back to the main EB-1 Category for alternative green card options.