EB-1A: Extraordinary Ability 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.” 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 be able to demonstrate how his/her 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.

EB-1A Documentation:

1. Evidence of national or international acclaim. 

  • The EA recipient has national or international acclaim that can be 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 he/she must provide evidence of at least three of the following:
  • The applicant has received an award or prize of a slightly lesser national or international recognition.  
  • 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 artistic exhibition or show.
  • Media success with regard to 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 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 of the other employment-based green card categories require you to have a job offer from a U.S. employer. That employer has to go through an extensive recruitment process to obtain a PERM Labor Certification, which can greatly 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. The applicant is able to 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 in order 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 Processing Time

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 for their priority date to current, the EB-1 category tends to have all current dates, meaning that you can adjust your status as soon as your I-140 is approved.

However, this is not always the case, and there have been instances where the dates have retrogressed for the EB-1 category. Be sure to check the most recent bulletin to be sure.

As for your I-140 processing time, this heavily depends on the caseload of the service center that processes your petition. On average, however, it tends to be around 6 months. 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, you will be refunded your premium processing fee.

What If I’m Outside the U.S.?

Changing your status is only an option available to those who are 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 will need to go through 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.

Keep in mind 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

Green Card Extraordinary Ability Advantages

The EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category has a number of 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 are able to 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.

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

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

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.

How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help

  • Our EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Lawyers are experienced in identifying if you qualify under one of the Extraordinary Ability categories. 
  • We can advise you If you are unsure if your evidence of achievement meets EB-1 requirements.
  • An EB1 Extraordinary Ability lawyer at SGM Law Group can assist you in implementing a strategy that gives you the best chance at obtaining the EB-1 Green Card.

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