Obtaining a green card without a U.S. sponsoring company is not as unobtainable as many believe it to be. There are available immigration paths to get a green card without a U.S. job offer or a sponsoring company through the EB-1 or EB-2 self-petitioning routes. In this guide, we’ll explore the EB-1 and EB-2 self-petitioning processes, requirements, expert tips, and much more.

Two Paths to Self-Petition: EB-1A and EB-2 NIW

There are two general ways someone can get a green card through self-petitioning: The EB-1A Extraordinary Ability visa and the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) visa. 

The EB-1A is a highly prestigious immigrant visa reserved for only the most extraordinary individuals in the fields of business, education, science, art, and athletics. With that requirement in place, it ends up being one of the most difficult visas to obtain.

To qualify under the EB-1A, you must fit into one of the following groups and provide evidence:

1. Demonstrating that you have won a major international award that is widely recognized (i.e., a Nobel Prize, Olympic Gold Medal, Pulitzer Prize, etc.)


2. Proving that you have fulfilled at least three of the following alternative criteria:

  • Earned a lesser award that is either nationally or internationally recognized
  • Maintain membership in a distinguished organization that requires extraordinary ability to enter.
    • 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(h)(3)(ii), association membership should not be part of someone’s employment. If the evidence in the record does not establish that an association of which the petitioner is a member requires outstanding achievements, the AAO has shown that it is willing to consider additional supporting documentation, as was the case in a sustained appeal by a water skier who did not initially meet the membership criterion.
  • Show that there has been material published about your work in a reputable publication. This can include future materials, as long as it can be shown that it has been officially accepted for future publication.
  • Having been an official judge of the work of your peers in your field (i.e., peer-reviewing manuscripts for scholarly journals, reviewing conference papers, etc.). This can either be done on a panel or individually. Serving as a graduate dissertation committee member can also be applicable.
  • Demonstrating that you have made significant contributions to your field of a scholarly or scientific nature.
  • Having written scholarly or research articles published in major trade publications or journals.
  • Playing a critical role in a reputable organization in your field.
  • Commanding a large salary that indicates your extraordinary ability.

It’s important to also mention that in the event that you do have a sponsoring employer, you can also obtain an EB-1A that way. Other green cards that allow self-petitioning include the EB-5 for investors and the EB-2 NIW.

EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW)

Essentially, what the NIW allows is for individuals with exceptional abilities to forego the job offer and labor certification requirements if they can demonstrate that their work is in the national interest of the U.S. This national importance can be shown as merit in the areas of business, science, technology, health, culture, or education. While there does not need to be quantifiable evidence of economic impact, it may very strongly help your case.

Since a job offer is not required (though is greatly helpful), you must show evidence that the U.S. would benefit “on balance” to waive the job offer criteria for an EB-2 (such as the EB-2 PERM). This means that the advantages of waiving the job offer requirement outweigh the advantages of not waiving it. Discuss this further with your immigration attorney. Immigration officers will evaluate whether your case has substantial merit through the evidence you provide.

Recommended: EB-1 Green Card vs NIW All Key Differences Explained

Differences Between EB-1 Green Card and the EB-2 Green Card

There are multiple differences between the EB-1 and EB-2 green cards. In general:

EB-1 Green Card

  • Managers
  • Executives
  • Extraordinary achievements
  • No labor certification needed
  • EB-1 self-petitioning possible
  • High standard of eligibility

EB-2 Green Card 

  • Advanced degree holders
  • People with exceptional ability who obtain an NIW
  • Lower standard of eligibility

More details on these differences can be found here. You should speak with an experienced immigration attorney to find the best option for your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I self-petition for EB-1?

Yes, you absolutely can self-petition through the EB-1A, an immigrant visa that is valid for a period of 10 years. If your country of origin is backlogged for more than 10 years to file an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status for your green card (as may be the case with India and mainland China), you must renew your EB-1A after 10 years. As long as you properly maintain your status, you should not have a problem renewing your green card. Get started with one of our EB-1 self-petition immigration attorneys today! 

Who can self-petition for a green card?

Individuals who can demonstrate exceptional ability or whose work is of national importance to the U.S. (requirements outlined above) are eligible to self-petition. Due to the complexity and challenges that may arise in a self-petitioning case, it is highly recommended to enlist a qualified EB-1/EB-2 self-petition lawyer.

How hard is it to get an EB-1 green card?

While it can pose some challenges, with the right immigration team on your side, you can obtain approval for an EB-1A. Examples of evidence that we have submitted for our client’s cases and gained approval on include receipt of major prizes or awards, membership in distinguished professional associations, published material about the individual’s work, evidence of original contributions in their field, participation as a judge of the work of others, evidence of commercial success, and testimonials from experts in the field.

How long does a self-petition green card take?

The overall I-140 processing time will depend on which center is processing your petition, but on average it can take anywhere from 10 months to 2 years or longer, depending on the type of I-140 and a visa to become available. Premium processing is an available option for an added fee of $2,500 to have your petition adjudicated within 15 calendar days. Also, keep in mind that there are annual limits for EB-1 and EB-2 Green Cards depending on the applicant’s country of birth and the preference category.

How We Can Help

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If you don't have a U.S. job offer or a sponsoring company you can still obtain an EB-1 or EB-2 via the self-petitioning route! The VisaNation attorneys are ready to assist you in a timely manner! The fastest way to get started is to schedule a consultation with one of our immigration professionals today.