Are you considering advancing your career and creating a life in the United States? The EB-2 visa is an effective gateway for many highly-skilled foreign nationals to realize their dreams. However, the road can be bumpy if you don’t have guidance from a qualified immigration professional. In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about EB-2 visa eligibility, including frequently asked questions, how to prepare a compelling petition, the review process, USCIS requirements, and more.

EB2 Visa Qualifications

The employment-based second preference category is for foreign nationals with an advanced degree or exceptional ability. Those with EB-2 visas are lawful permanent residents. Before petitioning for the EB2 visa, the sponsor (typically the employer) must apply for the PERM labor certification. The form used to apply through the Department of Labor is Form 9098 Application, Application for Permanent Employment Certification. 

form 9098

The Application for Permanent Employment Certification protects domestic workers while allowing foreign talent to fill specialized positions. The PERM labor certification ensures that no qualified U.S. worker is available for the job the foreign national seeks. The sponsoring employer must conduct a comprehensive recruitment campaign demonstrating a need for the foreign national’s skills and qualifications. The PERM labor certification links the employer’s needs and the EB-2 visa applicant’s exceptional abilities. It validates the significance of the foreign national’s expertise and paves the way for a successful EB-2 visa application.

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EB-2 Visa: Advanced Degree versus Exceptional Ability

The chart below outlines the difference in evidence required between the advanced degree subcategory and exceptional ability. Suppose you opt for the advanced degree option. In that case, the job you apply for must require an advanced degree or its foreign equivalent (a baccalaureate or equivalent foreign degree plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience in the field). What’s more, you must meet any other requirements specified on the labor certification as applicable as of the priority date.

The eligible evidence includes documents that include any of the following:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a U.S. advanced degree or an equivalent foreign degree
  • Official academic record showing that you have a U.S. baccalaureate degree or
  • Equivalent foreign degree and letters from current or former employers showing you have at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in the specialty.

To qualify under the exceptional ability subcategory, you must show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The criteria to demonstrate as evidence are outlined in the chart below. You must meet at least three of the requirements. Discuss the best path with your immigration attorney.

eb2 eligibility criteria

National Interest Waiver Requirements

The EB2 PERM Labor Certification process can be bypassed by establishing that the foreign national qualifies for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). The NIW allows a foreign national to self-petition and file an I-140 on their behalf without an employer’s involvement and a labor certification application.

The primary requirement for the NIW is demonstrating that the proposed endeavor by the foreign national holds substantial merit and national importance. This merit can be established in various fields such as business, science, technology, health, culture, or education. While quantifiable evidence of economic impact is not mandatory, it can bolster your case.

It is important to note that meeting this requirement does not guarantee automatic approval, as the U.S. government will evaluate each application individually.

The second NIW requirement entails the foreign national’s ability to advance the proposed endeavor. The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) will consider factors such as educational background, experience, relevant skills, past achievements, current progress, and a well-defined plan for success.

Petitioners are not obligated to prove the success of their endeavor but rather to demonstrate their preparedness to make it successful if given the opportunity.

The final NIW requirement necessitates presenting evidence that the United States would benefit overall by waiving the job offer requirement for an EB-2 visa. “On balance” means that the advantages of waiving the job offer requirement outweigh the advantages of not waiving it.

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Step-By-Step Process

The EB2 visa criteria are outlined below:

  1. Employer files the PERM Labor Certification via the Program Electronic Management Review System (see NIW requirements if you wish to bypass this step). The employer must certify through the process that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position.
  2. Employer conducts extensive recruiting process outlined in the PERM requirements.
  3. The Department of Labor will issue the PERM form if all requirements are met. In 2023, the average processing time for PERM Labor Certification is about four months for preparation, then six months for the application to be processed.
  4. When USCIS receives the PERM form, the sponsoring employer files Form I-140—the petition for the EB-2 visa. Once the petition is received, the applicant must wait for their EB-2 priority date to be eligible to proceed to the next step. The priority date depends on when USCIS receives the application.
  5. FIle I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Have additional questions about EB-2 visa eligibility?

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the EB2 visa education requirement?

The EB2 is for foreign nationals with an advanced degree or exceptional ability. The section above outlines the specific EB2 educational requirements.

Is it hard to get an EB-2 visa?

It can be a complex process, but with an experienced immigration team on your side, it can go quite smoothly.

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When my priority date becomes current, how long will it take to get a green card?

The best way to find out is to check your wait time by looking at the monthly Visa Bulletin. Look at the  Employment-Based Preferences chart under the EB-2 category. You will compare the cutoff date to your priority date (when USCIS received or I-130 or when DOL received the labor certification from the employer). If the section on the Dates for Filing box chart is marked “current,” your priority date is current, and visas are available. Once you see it’s current, you can contact the National Visa Center to move forward.

How long will the whole process take?

The I-140 processing time varies based on your country of origin and the service center handling your case. On average, the petition takes around six months to process. Suppose you need a PERM Labor Certification. In that case, the timeline can extend from eight months to two years, depending on whether your employer undergoes an audit following the recruitment process. Collaborating with an immigration attorney can help increase your chances of avoiding an audit. Expedite the process: You have the option to consider premium processing. This service, provided by USCIS for an additional fee of $2,500, expedites your petition processing time from approximately six months to 15 calendar days.

How much does an EB-2 visa cost?

The I-140 filing fee is $700, and you may also need to pay the additional $85 biometrics fee. The I-485 filing fee depends on the applicant’s age and can range from $750 to $1,140. The DS-260 filing fee is $230, and the Affidavit of Support is $88.

How many years does it take to get a green card in EB2?

This will depend on several factors, including the PERM Labor Certification, the service center processing your case, the priority date, and several other factors.

Can I apply for EB2 on my own?

You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer that requires an advanced degree or equivalent or exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

What are the criteria for EB-2 and EB-3? 

This EB2 vs. EB3 guide breaks down all the similarities between the two employment-based options.

eb2 vs eb3

Can my wife and children be eligible if I have an EB-2 visa? 

If USCIS approves your I-140, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may qualify for entry into the U.S. under the E-21 and E-22 immigrant statuses.