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How to Qualify for EB2 without an Advanced Degree

EB-2 Without Advanced Degree

One of the most common employment-based green cards is the EB-2 on account of it’s relatively short priority date waiting times. The requirements are attainable, but can seem difficult depending on your situation. While most applicants petition based on having an advanced degree, this may not be an option for you. Learn how to qualify for an EB-2 without an advanced degree.

The EB-2 immigrant visa is a second preference employment-based category. The visa is intended for foreign nationals that satisfy at least one of the following:

  • he/she has earned an advanced degree and employment offer from a U.S company. Acceptable degrees are Master’s, Ph.D, law degree, and M.D.
  • he/she holds an ‘exceptional ability’ in the arts, business, or sciences. The foreign national must have either an employment offer from a U.S. company or qualify under the National Interest Waiver.  
  • he/she is a certified physician who complies to practice in an underserved area within the United States.

Foreign nationals who do not hold an advanced degree often turn to the EB-3 green card. The EB-3 green card is meant for workers with bachelor’s degrees, skilled workers with a minimum of two years work experience, or unskilled workers with fewer than two years of experience. However, the EB-3 typically incurs longer processing times because of the amount of applicants. The EB-2 is generally faster—depending on your country of origin—and there is still the possibility of qualifying for the EB-2 without an advanced degree. However, you should check the latest visa bulletin to see what the priority date waiting times are for your visa category.

How to Get an EB-2 without an Advanced Degree

Just because you don’t have a master’s degree or above, doesn’t mean that the EB-2 is off limits. There are still a few other qualifications that can land you this highly sought-after immigrant visa including demonstrating exceptional ability, meeting the criteria for a National Interest Waiver, and being a physician in an underserved area. Let’s go through your options:

Exceptional Ability

It is important not to confuse exceptional ability with extraordinary ability, which is a requirement for the EB-1. The requirements for the EB-1 green card mandate stricter criteria. Though to qualify under Exceptional Ability without an advanced degree, the foreign national must demonstrate how superior his/her skills are compared to others in the field. The exceptional ability is required to be in the arts, business, or sciences. His/her skills must also be of economic, educational, or cultural interests to the United States. To satisfy exceptional ability requirements, the foreign national is required to hold at least three of the following:

  • A license or certification in the indicated field. It must pertain to the profession.
  • A degree, or its equivalent, from a college or university. An institution within the indicated field of exceptional ability will also suffice.
  • Documentation of full-time experience for a minimum of 10 years. The experience is required to be in the profession in which he/she is applying. Recommendation letters are accepted pieces of evidence.
  • Documentation of awards, achievements, and contributions to the field.
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Documentation of salary in accordance to the area of exceptional ability.

The requirement of an employment offer and a PERM Labor Certification may be waived if the applicant’s ‘exceptional ability’ is of national interest. The PERM is a facet of the Department of Labor that exists to prevent employers from taking advantage of the immigration system to replace U.S. workers with underpaid foreign workers. It involve having your employer determining and paying you the prevailing wage as well as going through a relatively extensive recruitment process to see if any qualified U.S. workers would be displaced by your arrival.

But what if the PERM isn’t an option for you?

National Interest Waiver

The ‘exceptional ability’ category for the EB-2 immigrant visa requires an employment offer or PERM Labor Certification, as is the case for the advanced degree category and all categories beneath the EB-3 green card. However, if the abilities of the applicant can benefit the United States, the employment offer requirement and the PERM requirement may be waived by the National Interest Waiver (NIW). Additionally, this allows EB-2 NIW applicants to self-petition, something not extended to other EB-2 applicants. This is usually a good avenue for entrepreneurs or physicians that are looking to start their own business or practice in the U.S., and so would be blocked by the job offer and PERM requirements.

To qualify for an NIW, you need to show that your work will benefit the country and be in the national interest. There are three main requirements for the NIW:

  1. Your work must have “substantial merit and importance”. This is a subjective requirement through which the USCIS will judge whether your work greatly benefits areas such as science, technology, education, culture, business, or health. You do not necessarily need to show that your work will have an economic benefit, but it could help.
  2. You must be in a position to do the work you propose. This means that you should have credentials such as education, licensing, certificates, business plans, past successes, current work progress, relevant skills, and/or overall experience in the field. The USCIS essentially wants to make sure that you are the right person to benefit the national interest.
  3. Lastly, you need to show that the U.S. would benefit “on the balance”. What this means is that the PERM and job offer requirements serve to protect U.S. jobs and workers. Waiving that requirement for you is a sacrifice, so you must show that the U.S. benefits more from your work than it does by enforcing these requirements.

If you and your endeavor meet all three of these requirements, then you will need to gather the necessary evidence, collect letters of recommendation from colleagues or professional peers, and submit an ETA-750B form along with your EB-2 I-140 petition.

However, applicants should be aware that the USCIS closely monitors Exceptional Ability and National Interest Waiver cases. In the case of an NIW, it is important to note that premium processing is not available. It takes extra time to process these cases, so keep that in mind as you proceed.

EB-2 NIW for Physicians

Additionally, if you are a physician who is working in an underserved area in the U.S. or a hospital associated with the Veterans Administration for the first five years of your stay in the country, you may qualify for an EB-2 NIW. Again, this is ideal for physicians that own a practice or do not want to be subjected to the PERM process. To gain this, you will need to prove that the area is underserved and that you have made plans to work there for the first five years after obtaining your green card. You will also need to provide evidence of your licensure and your ability to command the English language.

How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help

It is highly advised to speak with an immigration attorney before proceeding with the filing. Much of the criteria can be challenging to document and gather, so your attorney should be highly experienced in employment-based immigration. Having an expert in your corner can easily be the difference between success and failure when it comes to your EB-2 green card. Delays or denials in your processing could also cost you precious time, money, and effort.

Here at SGM Law Group, we specialize in employment visas and green cards. Our dedicated attorneys have helped countless foreign working professionals and entrepreneurs find their home here in the United States. To get in touch with one of our immigration attorneys, you can fill out our contact form and schedule your consultation with our office today.