Accomplishing the prestigious task of obtaining your Ph.D. is no easy feat. However, using it to get a green card may prove to be almost as challenging without help. Keep reading to view the requirements for an EB-1 Ph.D. Green Card and the best way to qualify for this distinguished immigrant visa.
EB-1 Green Card
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-1 is the topmost preference level for employment-based immigration. If you qualify for one, your employer won’t go through the PERM process. The EB-1 has three categories: the EB-1A, the EB-1B, and the EB-1C.
This category is reserved for individuals who exhibit extraordinary achievement in business, art, athletics, science, or education. You must present evidence of an international award, such as the Nobel Prize, to prove this extraordinary achievement. Instead of such an award, three of the following will suffice:
- A smaller award that is still internationally or nationally recognized
- Significant contributions to your practice
- Scholarly articles that have been published in a professional or trade journal
- Membership in an organization or association of distinguished reputation that requires its members to have an extraordinary ability
- Material written by others that details your ability
- Having been a judge of the work of others in your field on a panel or individually
- Playing a critical role in a reputable organization
- Having a large salary indicative of your ability
The USCIS also presents applicants with a catch-all phrase indicating, if you have evidence that does not fall into the above groups, you may be able to submit it as comparable evidence. Work with your attorney to determine what qualifies as evidence under this rule.
If you qualify for the EB-1A, you will be one of the few beneficiaries who can self-petition. Other than the EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver, the EB-1A is the only green card that does not require you to have a job offer or sponsoring employer, meaning that you only need to prove that you will be doing work in your field once you come to the U.S.
The second category available as an EB-1 Ph.D. holder is the EB-1B for outstanding researchers and professors. This reaches a narrower group than the EB-1A, but the requirements are lower. To qualify, you need to demonstrate that you have done at least two of the following:
- Received a renowned or distinguished prize or award for your efforts in your field
- Participating as a judge of the work of your peers in your area, either individually or on a panel
- Contributed substantial research of a scholarly or scientific nature to your field
- Wrote scholarly articles or books in distinguished publications in your field
- Held membership in an organization in your area that requires outstanding work for entry
- Had material published by others about your work in the field
Again, much like the EB-1A, you can work with your attorney to submit comparable evidence if it is not listed above.
This last category is meant for the managers and executives of multinational companies. To qualify, you must have worked with the company for at least one year in the three years leading up to your green card petition.
The employer must be a multinational company conducting business in the U.S. for at least a year before filing. This is a standard green card for foreign nationals who have come over on an L-1A visa.
Green Card for Ph.D. Holders
The EB-1 green card process for a Ph.D. visa USA is almost identical to other employment-based green cards. The significant difference is that you don’t need to undergo the PERM Labor Certification Process. And if you qualify for the EB-1A, you will also have the luxury of filing your petition yourself. These two factors will significantly expedite the process. That said, whether you are self-petitioning or applying through an employer, the EB-1 green card application for Ph.D. holders involves two steps, which are as follows:
1. File the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
The I-140 form determines whether a green card applicant meets the job requirements for the position they are applying for. It also establishes the employer’s ability to pay the employee the required minimum wage. On average, the USCIS processing time for an I-140 petition ranges from 6-8 months, depending on the service center in charge of your case. However, if you use the EB-1 premium processing service, the petition will be processed within 15 calendar days.
2. File the I-485 Application to Adjust Status
After the approval of your I-140, you will need to file an I-485 to request for adjustment of status from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant (green card holder) status. However, you can only submit the I-485 petition when the priority dates for your EB-1 category and country are “current.” To know this, you must regularly check the monthly visa bulletin released by the USCIS. And once the date reads “C” (that means it is current), you can submit your I-485 petition. You will receive your permanent resident card if your adjustment of status petition is approved.
How Your Ph.D. Can Help
While your Ph.D. does not automatically grant you a green card, you may find that many of the requirements for the EB-1A or EB-1B have been fulfilled throughout your studies. Things like exclusive memberships, scholarly published articles, and acting as a judge are all things that may go along with getting your degree.
However, it is important not to assume anything about immigration law. In the end, it still comes down to the discretion of the USCIS. Only an attorney who has dealt with multiple EB-1 for Ph.D. cases is experienced enough to determine what qualifies as evidence effectively.
EB-1 Processing Time for Ph.D. Holders
EB-1 processing time is 6-8 months for USCIS adjudication without premium processing. The time you must wait does not change if you are a Ph.D. holder. You need to have your employer file an I-140 petition or file one yourself if you are self-petitioning under the EB-1A. n the event that USCIS issues a Request for Evidence or NOID, then this will also add additional time to your case. Again, you can expedite the processing with premium processing for a fee. (Not available for EB-1C.)
You can check exact case processing times by using this USCIS Case Processing Time tool.
Select the form, followed by the form category, and then your field office or service center.
When is my priority date? This is the day USCIS receives your I-140.
Once the USCIS receives your petition, that date is marked as your “priority date.” Each month the Department of State releases a visa bulletin that shows the “final action dates” for green card petitions based on the different kinds of green cards and the country the beneficiary is from. Once your priority date matches the final action date in your category, it will be considered “current,” allowing you to move on to the next step.
Once your priority date matches the final action date in your category, you can move on to the next step.
If you are inside the U.S. when your priority date becomes current, you can submit an I-485 application to adjust your status to permanent resident (green card holder). This step also takes an average of 6 months depending on the service center.
What If I Am Outside the U.S.?
If you are abroad when your I-140 is approved and your priority date is current, you must go through consular processing. This means that you must make an appointment with the designated U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
At that appointment, a consular officer will conduct a one-on-one interview to determine if you are who you are. This will involve asking you questions about yourself, your work, your employer, and your plans in the U.S. If your officer clears you, you can enter the U.S. through your new green card.
The timeline for consular processing depends on how busy the consulate is. They may schedule your interview for a date several months away or only a few weeks. Keep this in mind as you make plans for your work.
Can I Use Premium Processing?
If waiting six months for your I-140 to process is too long, you can opt to have it expedited with premium processing. This service shortens your petition’s processing time to 15 calendar days for an additional fee. However, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Premium processing does not expedite any other phase of the green card process, only the I-140 petition.
- If your priority date is not current for some time, premium processing may not help your case, as the USCIS may decide to process your I-140 closer to the time when your date will be current.
- Premium processing is not available for EB-2 NIW cases or EB-1C cases.
- The current cost for premium processing is $2,500.
Document Checklist for Ph.D. Green Card Via EB-1
Apart from the I-140 and I-485 forms, you may also need to complete the following forms during your application process:
- I-765 form to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- I-131 form, Travel Permit to apply for advance parole or travel document that will allow you to travel abroad while your green application is pending
- GS-325 to provide biographic data
- I-134 Affidavit of Support to demonstrate that green card applicants will not become public charges while in the U.S.
- I-639 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
Completing all these forms can appear complex, especially if you are filing for a green card for the first time. However, these are straightforward forms. That being said, certain complications may arise when it comes to knowing the exact stage of the application process for each form. You may also encounter challenges when determining how to file the forms with the required supporting evidence. The good news is that you can engage the services of an immigration lawyer to make the process much easier for you to improve the chances of approval.
EB-1 Green Card Processing Fees
The overall processing fee for the EB-1 green card for Ph.D. holders will depend on whether you are processing your petition from within the United States or abroad. Other factors will be whether you are using premium or regular processing and choosing an immigration lawyer.
The basic fees are as follows:
- I-140 form: $700
- I-485 form: $750- $1,140 (varies based on age)
- I-907 form for premium processing: $2,500 (optional)
- Consular Processing fee: This may vary depending on the country-specific requirements at each consulate or embassy
Alternatives to the EB-1 for Ph.D.
If the EB-1 is not an option, don’t lose hope. Some other alternatives may be available depending on your qualifications.
The EB-2 usually requires applicants to have a job offer from a sponsoring employer to apply. In addition, that employer must obtain a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. However, with a National Interest Waiver (NIW), you can bypass the job offer and PERM requirements by proving to the USCIS that your work will benefit the United States.
To do this, you must demonstrate these three things:
- Your work will substantially impact American health, culture, education, society, jobs, economy, technology, education, or science.
- You are uniquely qualified to work on and advance the work in the U.S. through your education, past successes, current progress, or business plan for the future.
- It will be to the advantage of the U.S. to waive the job offer and PERM requirements rather than to enforce them.
So if you plan on using your doctorate to start a business in the U.S., the EB-2 NIW is an excellent alternative to the EB-1 for Ph.D. holders.
PERM Labor Certification
If the EB-1 and EB-2 NIW are unavailable as green cards based on your qualifications, applying for the EB-2 visa through a PERM Labor Certification is a solid option. You may only want to consider this after you have worked with your attorney and exhausted your other options.
The PERM is an involved and complicated process that requires many different steps and is easily impeded by errors without the help of an expert. Essentially, the PERM is a process the Department of Labor (DOL) uses to determine if U.S. workers are willing and able to take your position instead.
First, you will need an employer to sponsor you for your green card. Then, you would need that employer to obtain the prevailing wage for your position. Once that has been determined, your employer must conduct a minimum 60-day recruitment process to find local workers. If a qualified U.S. worker applies, your employer will need to hire them in your stead or develop a good reason for rejecting the candidate.
If the DOL is satisfied with the recruitment report and the position has not been filled, your employer can move on to the I-140 and I-485 steps to complete the green card process.
The PERM process is also open to complications through random and targeted audits and supervised recruitment. The best way to avoid these obstacles is to have your immigration attorney handle the minute details of the process. For these reasons, the PERM is a viable but not optimal alternative to the EB-1 for Ph.D. holders.
The EB-3 category is for professionals, including those with advanced degrees, skilled workers, and others. While it may not offer the same level of preference as EB-1 or EB-2, it can still be a viable option for Ph.D. holders who have a job offer from a U.S. employer and meet the requirements of the category.
The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa option for individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. If you can demonstrate extraordinary ability in your field, the O-1 visa can temporarily provide an alternative path to work in the United States.
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. While it is not a direct path to a green card, it can be a starting point for Ph.D. holders to gain work experience in the United States and potentially transition to an employment-based green card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about obtaining a green card with an EB-1.
Is there a direct path to a green card through my Ph.D.?
Unfortunately, there is no direct path. Having a Ph.D. does not automatically grant you an EB-1 or any other green card. It does, however, afford you the opportunities many people lack to fulfill some of the critical requirements for an EB-1.
Do I need to have a STEM degree for a Ph.D. Green Card?
The STEM (or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees help obtain a green card, especially if you apply for the National Interest Waiver. However, the USCIS does not discriminate based on your field. Having your doctorate in English will not hurt your chances of getting an EB-1 for Ph.D. holders in comparison to a STEM degree such as computer science. For the EB-2 category, which requires a job offer and a labor certification, having a Ph.D. in any field, including STEM, can be advantageous. The labor certification process involves demonstrating that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position. A Ph.D. in a specialized field, particularly in STEM, can strengthen your case by showcasing your expertise and the unique contributions you can make to the area.
What should I do if my petition is denied?
The first thing is to know the difference between a rejection and a denial since they are different in an immigration sense. If your petition is missing required information, some information is inaccurate/inconsistent, or the fees were not properly filed, you will likely get a rejection notice. The good news is there is a way to correct the errors and then refile (with a new fee required). Hopefully, you’ve revised the inaccurate information, which can be approved when an officer assesses. If you receive a straight-up denial, refiling is likely not a good choice. Your attorney may way to file an appeal or legal motion instead.
If those options don’t get you anywhere, you may also want to contemplate applying for a green card in a lower preference level.
How many recommendations do I need?
There is no stipulated number of recommendations for a green card applicant. However, it would be best to try getting as many recommendation letters as possible. Remember that you should ensure that the letters are well-written and they are from well-known individuals in your field.
How many publications do I need?
The USCIS does not state the number of publications an applicant must have. However, it will generally help to present six or more well-cited publications. Although there have been instances where petitions with fewer publications got approvals, they must be top-notch, and you may also need other substantial supporting documents to back it up. Keep in mind that publications are only one part of the requirements. The USCIS allows “comparable evidence” when the available documents differ from the listed criteria.
Can I file multiple I-140 petitions simultaneously?
Yes, you can file multiple I-140 petitions simultaneously through an employer or self-petitioning. Many applicants do so to improve their chances of getting an approval. You can even file I-140 petitions for the EB-1 and EB-2 NIW with the hope that at least one will be approved. Additionally, if your I-140 petition is denied, you can always file a new one. Each petition is processed independently, and a decision on one does not affect the other.
Can I apply for a green card as an F-1 student?
You can petition for either the EB-1 or EB-2 NIW employment-based green card as an F-1 student. You also don’t need to wait until the completion of your Ph.D. program to petition; you can apply while still in F-1 status.
Due to the strict EB-1 and EB-2 NIW requirements, most F-1 students don’t consider them a viable route to permanent residency. However, you can be more confident if you can demonstrate the above requirements. The only issue is that the F-1 status is not a dual intent visa. With this caveat, you may be unable to extend your F-1 status while your green card is processed.
One way you can do this for yourself is to change to a dual intent visa, such as the H-1B during your CPT or OPT, and then file a green card petition either by self-petitioning or through an employer. With this, you can maintain a valid nonimmigrant status while the petition is pending.
Learn how to get an H-1b as a PhD Holder.
Why Choosing an EB1 Lawyer is Recommended
VisaNation Law Group EB1 attorneys have helped countless individuals receive a Ph.D. green card. The lawyers will carefully review all your documents to ensure they meet the immigration qualifications and assist you in responding to any RFEs, NOIDs, or other USCIS-requested information. Interested in having your spouse and children come to the United States? We can help you submit the appropriate petitions so your entire family can prosper in the United States.