An Extraordinarily Simple Green Card for the Extraordinary Applicant: EB-1-A
Obtaining a green card (permanent resident status) in the U.S. can be difficult due to long quota delays and the need to maintain a qualifying relationship with an employer or family sponsor. One green card pathway—EB-1-A—is relatively free of both obstacles: quota delays are short or non-existent and self-sponsorship is allowed. Few applicants will fit the rigorous standards of EB-1-A, but all may understand the criteria to better advance permanent resident strategies.
EB-1-A is the top category of priority-worker immigrant visa (permanent residency) classifications, reserved for those possessing “extraordinary ability” in their field of endeavor. EB-1-A petitions are not reviewed by the U.S. Labor Department, nor influenced by recruitment of American workers, salary issues, or the job market. Rather, EB-1-A individuals are presumed to be somewhat “unique” due to their high level of achievement. EB-1-A petitions may be self-petitioned (by the beneficiary) or sponsored by the beneficiary’s employer.
To qualify for EB-1-A permanent resident classification as a foreign national of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, an applicant must provide evidence that establishes at least three of the following ten criteria. Meeting three of the evidentiary standards does not compel a finding that the individual possesses extraordinary ability. The quality of the evidence provided, not exclusively the number of criteria that are met, is taken into consideration.
A. Nationally or internationally recognized awards or prizes for excellence in the field. Evidence should include documentation of receipt of the award (e.g., copies of the prize or award, certificates, or letters indicating receipt of the award), as well as information about the criteria for the award. Receipt of a competitive fellowship might satisfy this criterion.
B. Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievement of members, as judged by national or international experts in the discipline or field. Evidence for this criterion may include copies of membership certificates, cards, or letters indicating membership. Evidence must also include information about the criteria for membership. Membership in many professional societies would not qualify, but election to fellowship in a professional society might qualify.
C. Published material in professional or major trade publications or other media about the applicant that is related to his/her work in the field. Copies of articles written by others that analyze, review, or discuss the applicant’s work and/or accomplishments, including formal published reviews of his/her work, could serve as evidence for this criterion. Audio or video tapes of interviews about the applicant’s work, as well as copies of papers written by others in which his/her work is evaluated, would also be acceptable forms of evidence. For scholars, citations of work without evaluation are not enough to meet this criterion.
D. Service as the judge of the work of others. Copies of letters from editors of journals or grant-funding agencies requesting that the applicant review a proposal or paper submitted for publication are examples of the type of evidence required for this criterion. Evidence may also include copies of journal pages, conference programs or proceedings listing reviewers, as well as service on an editorial board of a professional journal, membership on a discussion panel, or membership on the board of a professional society. Acknowledgment of service on the dissertation committee of a Ph.D. candidate can also serve as evidence for this criterion. For artists or athletes, evidence includes documentation of having judged others in the field for employment, competitions, awards, or a performance selection process, or of having served on a committee to judge others in the field or conduct evaluations of them.
E. Original scientific, scholarly, athletic, artistic or business contributions of major significance in the field. Evidence for this criterion would include copies of patents or documents acknowledging progress toward a patent, as well as testimony from peers in the field on the applicant’s contributions to the field. For artists, athletes, and business persons, letters attesting to the contribution of a novel technique, approach, or voice performance could provide this kind of evidence.
F. Authorship of scholarly articles in the field. Evidence for this criterion may include copies of the title pages of papers (showing authorship) that have been published or accepted for publication in international or peer-reviewed journals, or the proceedings of international or peer-reviewed conferences. Evidence should also include information about the journals and conferences that indicate that they are international and/or peer-reviewed. A list of citations of the applicant’s work in other professional publications is also useful.
G. Performance in a leading or essential role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation (e.g. National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Institute of Advanced Study, Max Planck Institute, Metropolitan Opera, etc.). Evidence for this criterion would include a letter confirming employment in a leading or essential role, such as Director/Supervisor/Principal/Lead, as well as information about the institution documenting its distinguished reputation.
H. High salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field. Evidence for this criterion would include copies of contracts and letters from employers making the offer, as well as evidence demonstrating that the applicant’s salary is significantly higher than other experts’ salaries in the field.
I. (For artists only) Display of work at artistic exhibitions or showcases. Evidence for this criterion would include letters confirming the applicant’s work was showcased, media releases citing his/her work as being displayed at the showcase, etc. This criterion only applies to foreign nationals seeking classification for extraordinary abilities in the arts.
J. (For artists only) Commercial success in performing arts. Box office receipts and/or other records of sales demonstrating commercial success should be provided as evidence for this criterion. This criterion only applies to foreign nationals seeking classification for extraordinary abilities in the arts.
K. Alternative evidence. Experts in the field can cite alternative relevant information.
Processing time at USCIS can vary and often takes between three and eight months or longer. These petitions are currently eligible for Premium Processing, which would guarantee a response from USCIS within 15 days of receipt. Denial rates for EB-1-A petitions are normally around 40% of those adjudicated. A petition denial does not prevent reapplication in this or any other green card category.
In summary, while EB-1-A standards are high, there are many advantages to immigrating via this pathway.