It is no surprise that the EB-1A green card is highly desirable given its reputation, strict standards, and the relatively small number awarded each year. Many assume that an EB-1A green card is beyond their reach and is reserved only for highly accomplished scientists, researchers, doctors, academics, etc. This is not a correct assumption, as other less common or “unusual” criteria can be used to satisfy at least 3 of the 10 listed criteria for demonstrating “extraordinary ability.” This article will discuss criteria that may seem common or easy to satisfy but are quite difficult, as well as some rarely used and uncommon criteria elements.

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.

Unusual Criterion 1: Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.

While this criterion may seem common or easily satisfied, it is deceptively difficult to satisfy. The prize or award must be in the Beneficiary’s field of expertise and must be nationally or internationally recognized. To determine whether the prize or award meets the requisite standard of national or intern

The EB-1A is not an easy green card to obtain, but numerous benefits exist. Just because you can petition alone, doesn’t mean that you need to go through the whole process without help. Take care of problems before they arise by having an expert handle your case for you.

The dedicated and skilled attorneys at VisaNation Law Group have helped countless extraordinary individuals immigrate to the U.S. under EB-1A status. If you have a question that is not listed in the above EB-1A FAQ, you can ask a VisaNation Law Group attorney in person by filling out this contact form and scheduling your consultation today.

National recognition for excellence, factors to be considered are:

a) The number of awardees or prize recipients;

b) The number of people competing for the prize;

c) The standard of selection;

d) The qualifications of the judge(s) granting the award or prize; and

e) Whether the prize is open to the whole nation or the world.

For example, an award given by the American Chemical Society would likely be nationally recognized, because it is the largest professional organization for chemists in the U.S. It should be noted, however, that there is no specific requirement that the award or prize be open to all members of the field. A “rookie” in a major sports league may satisfy this criterion if the award or prize, such as a “Rookie of the Year” award, garners national or international media attention. All aspects of a lesser nationally or internationally recognized prize or award must be taken under careful consideration to determine whether or not it qualifies.

Unusual Criterion 2: Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.

This is another criterion that is deceptively difficult to satisfy. Membership in certain professional associations or a fellowship in certain organizations or institutions related to the field of endeavor may qualify and must be based upon the Beneficiary’s outstanding contributions to the field. Factors considered by USCIS include:

a) Whether the membership is exclusive and not available to all or most members of a given field (a membership that only requires a certain degree or payment of a fee to join will not satisfy this criterion);

b) The organization’s bylaws setting forth the criteria and procedures for how members are chosen (pages from the organization’s website or testimonial letters may also be acceptable);

c) The total number of members or how many are admitted each year; and

d) The qualifications of those who determine to whom membership is awarded.

Unusual Criterion 3: Published material about the person in professional or major trade publications or other major media relating to the person’s work in the field for which classification is sought. Such evidence must include the title, date, and author of the material and any necessary translation.

Yet again, this criterion is more difficult to satisfy than it seems. Television or online video interviews with the Beneficiary, for instance, do not satisfy this criterion, as the published material must be in print. Further, the material must focus on the Beneficiary’s contributions to their field (not on their personal life). Articles about the Beneficiary’s work where the Beneficiary either isn’t mentioned at all or is only briefly named will not suffice. Other factors include:

a) The readership or circulation numbers for the publication(s);

b) For websites, visitor or traffic data—along with other contextual evidence—to establish that the website is considered “major”;

c) Journal or professional/trade publication rankings and impact factors to show that they are “major” in the Beneficiary’s field; and

d) The dates and duration of the publication or article (i.e., published monthly, weekly, daily, etc.).

Unusual Criterion 4: Display of the person’s work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases.

The evidence must show that the Beneficiary’s work was on display at an exhibition, which Merriam-Webster defines as a public showing (as of works of art, objects of manufacture, or athletic skill). The exhibition or showcase must be artistic in nature, and the word “display” suggests that this criterion is primarily for visual artists, such as painters and photographers. A few helpful things to note are:

a) Promotional materials such as programs or flyers can be considered good evidence;

b) This criterion does not require that only the Beneficiary’s work be displayed and may still be satisfactory if the Beneficiary’s work is one of many artists being displayed;

c) Media reports about the exhibition in general, even if they don’t specifically mention the Beneficiary by name, may still be considered helpful evidence; and

d) Nothing about this criterion requires that the exhibition(s) be prestigious or exclusive, though such evidence may be helpful for the final merits determination.

unusual criteria eb1a
Unusual Criterion 5: The person has performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

This is another criterion that is trickier to satisfy than it appears. It must be shown that the organization or establishment is considered to be excellent in the field. External media reports (not press releases from the organization or establishment itself) and awards are likely to be the strongest evidence of this, as opposed to simply the size or longevity of the organization which are often not very helpful. The Beneficiary must have done work that was of significant importance to the outcome of the organization’s activities such that:

a) The Beneficiary’s contributions should be leading or critical to the organization as a whole, not just one department, committee, etc.;

b) For a leading role, a title with appropriate matching duties can demonstrate that the role was leading;

c) For a critical role, the focus is more on the Beneficiary’s performance in such a way that is unusually important given their supporting position; and

d) A letter from someone with personal knowledge of the role containing detailed information about the Beneficiary’s contributions and accomplishments must be provided.

Unusual Criterion 6: The person has commanded a high salary, or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field.

This criterion can be difficult to prove since it depends on the availability of data and information on the salaries of others comparable to the Beneficiary’s expertise and role/level in the field. To establish how much money the Beneficiary makes annually, USCIS typically requires the Beneficiary’s salary to be proven by W-2 or 1099 forms if they work in the U.S., or by corresponding official tax documents from other countries. Paystubs and employment letters can be submitted, but should not be solely relied upon. Further:

a) There is no solid definition for what constitutes a “high” salary, but generally the Beneficiary’s salary should be in at least the top 10%;

b) Because the Beneficiary’s salary is being compared to “the field,” these comparisons should not be limited to an early career position (such as postdocs) or to a local geographic region; and

c) The best evidence will usually come from websites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Overview of BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation webpage and the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Career One Stop website, but other reputable websites may also be acceptable.

Unusual Criterion 7: Commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.

This rare criterion is only available to Beneficiaries in the performing arts, such as actors, dancers, and musicians. A few things to note are:

a) Simply showing that the Beneficiary has sold albums or tickets to a performance is insufficient—the evidence must show that the Beneficiary is indisputably commercially successful;

b) Direct comparisons to similar performers in the field, such as music sales charts, may not always be available, but media reports that discuss the commercial success may be an example of satisfactory evidence; and

c) Given current technology, it is reasonable to think that digital sales would suffice.

Have questions? Please see our EB-1A FAQ guide or schedule a consultation with one of our expert EB-1A attorneys today.

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The EB-1A has numerous benefits which make it a highly sought after immigration path! The dedicated and skilled attorneys at VisaNation Law Group have helped countless extraordinary individuals immigrate to the U.S. under EB-1A status. If you're interested in learning more, the best option is to schedule a consultation with our team!

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