Employment-based green cards are one of the pathways of obtaining permanent residency in the U.S.
Acronymed as ‘EB’, employment-based green cards include the following categories:
- EB-1 Green Card for Priority Workers
- EB-2 Green Card for Advanced Degrees
- EB-3 Green Card for Professional and Skilled Workers
- EB-4 Green Card for Religious Workers and Special Immigrants, and
- EB-5 Green Card for Investors
EB-1 Category: For Priority Workers
The first-preference employment based visa category is classified for individuals with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
Individuals with extraordinary abilities are called ‘priority workers’.
The EB-1 visa category is the most prestigious employment-based green card available.
It is also among the fastest methods of obtaining a U.S. permanent residency, compared to other employment-based categories.
Under the first preference EB category you can find three subcategories designed for different applicants:
EB-1 Visa Subcategory
Who Can Apply
Foreign nationals demonstrating extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
Outstanding professors or researchers
Select executives and/or managers of multinational companies
The processing of EB-1A green card applications is subjected to heavy scrutiny by USCIS.
It is highly recommended to get in touch with an immigration attorney, who can help you gather all the evidence and documents required to support your case, along with expediting the processing time for your employment based green card.
EB-1A: Foreign nationals demonstrating extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
EB-1A subcategory is designed for foreign nationals possessing extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.
According to U.S. immigration law, foreign nationals demonstrating an ‘extraordinary ability’ must fall under a ‘small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of a particular field of endeavor’.
These individuals must also have received national or international acclaim, in the form of recognitions like a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award, among others.
A list of all the required criteria to fulfill the eligibility of the EB-1A green card will be listed in detail further in the guide.
The most notable advantage of filing an EB-1A green card is the ability of an individual to file a self petition.
It means that a job offer in the United States is not required for filing under this category of employment-based visa.
Among the three EB-1 subcategories, only EB-1A allows foreign nationals to self-petition their case.
Obtaining lawful permanent residence as an alien of extraordinary ability is not an easy task.
EB-1A green card approval requires a substantial amount of evidence and documents.
Petitioning for an immigration visa is a complicated and extensive process involving legal and regulation issues.
We therefore recommend everyone opting to file for EB-1A based green cards to get in touch with a competent immigration attorney.
EB-1A Green Card Eligibility Criteria
In order to apply for the first-preference EB-1 visa, the foreign individual must satisfy all of the following three requirements, or the three-prong test.
1. The foreign national must demonstrate extraordinary abilities in their field, supported by sustained national or international acclaim in their work
If you want to get your EB-1A application approved you need to prove USCIS that you fall under the small number of individuals excelling in their field.
This requirement is the most difficult to prove.
Proving an ‘extraordinary ability’ in your field can be done by either submitting evidence of a ‘one-time’ major achievement, like a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, Grammy, Olympic Gold Medal, or Pulitzer Award among others, or at least three of the ten criteria pointed out later in the guide.
2. The foreign individual coming to the United States must continue to work in their respective field of extraordinary ability
The foreign individual willing to enter the U.S. on a EB-1A visa must continue working in their respective field of extraordinary ability.
You can meet this requirement by submitting the following evidence:
- Letters from potential employers in your field of expertise, explaining your work plans in the U.S.
- A contract between your U.S. employer (if any), or pre-arranged commitments, proving your work to fall under your extraordinary ability, and/or
- A written statement by you enlisting your detailed plans of continuing your work in the dedicated field after entering the U.S., if you are self-petitioning.
A reminder: a U.S. employer is not required for this EB-1A category.
3. The foreign individual’s entry into the United States and corresponding work will substantially benefit the nation.
This criteria does not require submitting supporting documents, as it is understood that working in your area of expertise in the U.S. will benefit the country in its own way.
The requirement can be met by submitting a written statement describing how your work in the U.S. will substantially benefit the country.
EB-1A Criteria For Proving Extraordinary Ability
In order to prove U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that you possess an extraordinary ability, you need to submit extensive documentation showing national or international acclaim, like a major internationally recognized award.
However, for petitioners who do not hold any such critical awards/acclaims, submitting at least three of the ten criteria below is mandatory:
- Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
- Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
- Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
- Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
- Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
- Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
- Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
- Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts
If you cannot provide evidence provided above, the law allows you to submit comparable evidence(s) demonstrating your eligibility for extraordinary ability in your field.
EB-1A Green Card Application Process
In order to self-petition for EB-1A green card, you must first file the USCIS Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
If Applicant is in the U.S.
If priority date is current for EB-1A category for applicants from your country of birth, you and your dependents can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
You can check if the priority date is current here.
Scroll down to “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applications” table and find your country of birth.
EB-1A category is called “Employment-Based 1st”.
If priority date is current, you and your dependents can file Form I-485:
- Together with your Form I-140 (“concurrent filing”)
- After your Form I-140 is registered but before it’s approved
- After Form I-140 is approved.
You can check the average processing time of Form I-140 and Form I-485 on the USCIS website.
Keep in mind that the processing times are approximate.
Each case has a unique processing time that depends on many factors.
If Applicant is Outside the United States
If you are currently outside the U.S., you will need to get Form I-140 approved first.
Once Form I-140 is approved, you and your dependents can apply for immigrant visas at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country of residence.
This process is also called “consular processing”.
After Form I-140 is approved you will receive an email and a notice from the National Visa Center (NVC).
In that NVC notice you will find the link and instructions to accessing your DS-260 online immigrant visa application.
You will need to pay the government fees in order to continue filling out Form DS-260.
Save the DS-260 confirmation page. You will need it for your interview at a U.S. Embassy.
Among the three sub-categories of the first preference employment-based visa, EB-1A holds many advantages over EB-1B and EB-1C.
1. Labor Certification not Required, Self-Petition Allowed
The most important feature of an EB-1A visa is self-petition.
A job offer is not required if you file an application under EB-1A category.
For EB-1B and EB-1C a job offer from a U.S. employer is mandatory.
Self-petition under EB-1A also means that a labor certification is not required. It reduces Form I-140 processing time significantly.
Most U.S. employers filing immigration petitions must go through an intensive PERM labor certification process.
This means that the employer needs to advertise the job and demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Labor that no qualified U.S. workers applied for the job.
The only other employment-based green card category that allows a beneficiary to self-petition include the EB-5 category for investors and the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) category.
2. EB-1A is an Immigrant Category
There are two types of visas:
- immigrant visa
- non-immigrant visa
Non-immigrant visas allow foreign citizens to stay in the U.S. only temporarily.
H-1B visa used by U.S. employers to hire foreign national professionals, is an excellent example of an employment-based non-immigrant visa for temporary workers.
Immigrant visas on the other hand, lead to permanent residency in the U.S.
The EB-1A is an immigrant visa, which means that if your petition is approved, you can obtain lawful permanent residency.
You and your dependents can live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis and apply for U.S. citizenship 5 years later.
3. Visa Status for EB-1A is Current
One of the major advantages of filing an EB-1A visa is that it is among the fastest pathways of obtaining a green card.
As of June 2021, the status for obtaining an EB-1A visa number is current for all countries.
You can visit the Visa Bulletin page to check if the visa number is current for EB-1A (choose your country of birth).
This means that you can file Form I-140 and Form I-485 together.
Such filing is also known as ‘concurrent filing’.
Concurrent filing is available for applicants physically present in the U.S.
This speeds up the processing time of your case, as you do not have to wait until the approval of your petition.
Note: concurrent filing is available for applicants physically present in the U.S. only. Applicants abroad must receive Form I-140 approval before they can start filing immigrant visa applications.
4. Premium Processing Available for EB-1A Green Card
Another EB-1A advantage is the premium processing option of your petition.
This premium processing feature is a paid option which expedites the processing time of Form I-140 to 15 calendar days.
Normally, the processing time for Form I-140 can take anywhere between 3 months to 20 months (subject to change).
USCIS guarantees that if the processing is not completed within 15 days, the premium processing fee will be refunded.
Please note that premium processing expedites the processing time of Form I-140 but has no effect on the processing timeline of Form I-485.
EB-1A Processing Time
The processing time of Form I-140 depends largely upon the USCIS service center that processes your case.
You cannot choose the service center that will process your application.
USCIS will assign the service center during the initial registration process.
USCIS also routinely transfers applications from one service center to another.
Currently two USCIS service centers process EB-1A petitions:
- Nebraska Service Center (NSC), and
- Texas Service Center (TSC).
See below Form I-140 processing time at Nebraska Service Center:
Processing time at Texas Service Center:
Keep in mind that USCIS processing times change frequently and for the latest information on processing times please visit the USCIS website.
Form I-485 processing time can take anywhere from 10 months to 30 months. This information is approximate. Each application has its own unique processing time. For the latest USCIS processing times visit the USCIS website.
EB-1A Processing Time For India and China
Each year, a total of 140,000 employment-based visas are released, of which 7% or 9,800 are allotted to each country.
Countries with a high number of visa applicants, like India and China exceed annual per-country limits. EB-2 (‘Second Preference’) employment applicants from China, for example, need to wait 4 years before applying for a green card. Indian citizens have to wait even longer – 11 years before they can apply for green cards.
However, there are no backlogs in EB-1 (‘First Preference’) applicants from all countries (including applicants born in India and mainland China).
The visa number is ‘current’ for Indians which means that you can apply for Adjustment of Status immediately (if in the U.S.).
Applicants abroad can submit their immigrant visa applications right after Form I-140 is approved.
If Applicant is in the U.S.:
- Form I-140 filing fee: $700
- Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500
- Form I-485 filing fee: Varies for different age groups. For ages between 14-78, the filing fee is $1,225 per applicant. You can check the current fees here (scroll down to “Filing Fee”).
- Medical examination fee: varies.
If Applicant is Abroad:
- Form I-140 filing fee: $700
- Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500
- DS-260 visa application fee: $325
- Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 fee: $120
- Immigrant visa fee: $220
- Medical examination fee: varies.
EB-1A Checklist of Supporting Documents
Lesser nationally or internationally recognized awards
All kinds of awards, except:
Please note that individually received awards hold more weight than those won in a team.
Make sure to add the total number of individuals nominated for the award you received.
Proof of membership in distinguished associations/organization
Judging the work of others
Proof of critical role in distinguished organizations
Evidence of a high salary
Evidence of commercial success in performing arts
In addition to the list of documents provided above, there are some general documents which must be submitted along with the foreign applicant’s proof for extraordinary ability
EB-1A for Dependents
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of EB-1A applicants are eligible for permanent residency if the principal applicant’s petition is approved.
If dependents are physically present with the principal applicant in the U.S., they can submit Form I-485.
For dependents abroad, the immigration application process will start after Form I-140 is approved.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 will be eligible for application of admission into the U.S. under E-14 or E-15 immigrant status, respectively.
Difference Between EB-1A and EB-1B
It is designed for foreign individuals with extraordinary ability.
It is designed for foreign individuals who are outstanding professors or researchers.
Individuals applying for this employment-based visa category can self-petition, without having a job offer in the U.S. Form I-140 is filed by the applicant.
Having a U.S. job offer is mandatory to apply for this visa category. Also, the I-140 petition for the foreign applicant can only be filed by his/her U.S. employer.
Applicant will need to pay all government & legal fees
U.S. employer will pay all government & legal fees
Applicant is independent
Applicant will depend on their U.S. employer in the application process