Do I Qualify for an EB1A Green Card? [Step-by-Step Guide]

As an immigration lawyer for highly skilled professionals, here are some of the questions that I get asked:

 

  • Do I qualify for an EB1A green card?

 

  • Will I get approved for the extraordinary ability green card?

 

  • What are my chances if I apply for a green card based on my talents?

 

Today, I’m going to share with you the evaluation process that I go through to answer these questions.

 

My hope is that this guide will help you better understand your qualifications for the EB1A green card.

 

Feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com with any questions.

 

Overview:

 

 

  • Definition of Extraordinary Ability

 

  • What are the Requirements to Get an EB1A Visa?

 

  • Step 1. What Are You Claiming is Your Specific Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • Step 2. Are You Coming to the US to Continue to Work in Your Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • Step 3. Do You Have a One-Time Achievement?

 

  • Step 4. If you Don’t Have a One-Time Achievement, Do You Meet 3 of the 10 Evidentiary Criteria?

 

  • Step 5.  Are You One of the Few That Has Risen to the Very Top of Your Field and Have You Sustained National or International Acclaim?

 

  • Step 6. What Types of Letter of Endorsement Can You Provide? / How Strong is Your Evidence?

 

  • Step 7. Will Your Entry to the United States Provide a Substantial Benefit to the United States?

 

What is an EB1A Green Card?

 

  • The EB1A green card, is a green card option based on the EB1A visa.

 

  • The EB1A visa is an immigrant visa category for people with an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, business, or education.

 

  • The EB1A visa does not require you to have a US job offer.

 

  • You can apply for the EB1A green card yourself, without having a US company sponsor you.

 

Definition of Extraordinary Ability

 

  • The EB1A visa is reserved for people who have an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, business, or education.

 

  • In order to qualify for the EB1A visa, you must prove that you have an extraordinary ability.

 

  • Extraordinary ability means that you have a level of expertise showing that you are “one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” [8CFR Section 204.5(h)(2)]

 

What are the Requirements to Get an EB1A Visa?

 

In order to get an EB1A visa, you have to show 3 things:

 

  • That you have an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education, or business.

 

  • That you are coming to the US to continue to work in your field of extraordinary ability.

 

  • That your entry to the United States will substantially benefit the United States.

 

Proving Extraordinary Ability

 

  • To prove extraordinary ability, you are required to provide evidence showing that you have “sustained national or international acclaim” and that your “achievements have been recognized in the field of expertise.” [8CFR Section 204.5(h)(3)]

 

  • You can show sustained acclaim and that you’ve been recognized in your field in either of 2 ways: 1. By providing evidence of a one-time achievement; or 2. By providing evidence that you meet at least 3 of the 10 evidentiary criteria to get an EB1A visa.

 

One-Time Achievement

 

  • A one-time achievement is some kind of major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Peace Prize, or an Oscar (Academy Award).

 

Evidentiary Criteria for EB1A Visa

 

If you don’t have a one-time achievement then you have to provide evidence of at least 3 of the following 10 criteria:

 

  • Receipt of  lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field of endeavor

 

  • Membership in associations in your field of endeavor, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields

 

  • Published material about you, in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to your work in your field of endeavor

 

  • Participation, either as an individual or as part of a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought

 

  • Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in your field of endeavor

 

  • Authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media

 

  • The display of your work in your field at artistic exhibitions or showcases

 

  • You have performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation

 

  • You have commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in your field

 

  • You have achieved commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.

 

Note:

 

  • If one of the above categories doesn’t apply to your field of extraordinary ability, then you may be able to provide comparable evidence to show that you qualify for the EB1A visa.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the EB1A green card, lets go through my step-by-step evaluation for determining someones suitability for the EB1A green card.

 

Step 1. What Are You Claiming is Your Specific Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • My first step is to identify specifically what you are claiming to be your field of extraordinary ability.

 

This is extremely important because:

 

  • To prove extraordinary ability, we have to show that you are one of the few at the very top of your field. How we define you field will determine who you are being compared against to show you are at the very top.

 

  • One of the requirements to get an EB1A visa is that you must be coming to the US to work in your field of extraordinary ability. What we define as your field of extraordinary ability will determine what type of work you should be conducting in the US.

 

  • What we claim as your field of extraordinary ability will determine the type of evidence we need to show and will also determine the strength of that evidence.

 

To sum up step 1, I pay very close attention to what you are claiming to be your field of extraordinary ability, as this will be highly important for the rest of my evaluation.

 

Step 2. Are You Coming to the US to Continue to Work in Your Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • For an EB1A visa, you are required to come to the US to continue working in your field of extraordinary ability.

 

  • At this stage of my evaluation, I make sure that the work you plan to do in the US in directly in line with your field of extraordinary ability.

 

  • As an example: If your extraordinary ability is in acting, I make sure that you will be working as an actor and not as a director.

 

  • At this stage I’m also looking for what type of evidence you have to show that you will be working in your field of extraordinary ability. Do you have a pre-arranged work contract? Do you have a job offer from a prospective employer?

 

Step 3. Do You Have a One-Time Achievement?

 

  • One way to show that you have extraordinary ability is by submitting evidence that you have a one-time achievement.

 

  • Examples of one-time achievements that satisfy this requirement are major internationally recognized awards, such as the Nobel Peace Prize, or an Oscar (Academy Award).

 

  • If you have an award like this, it is pretty likely that you have a strong EB1A case.

 

Step 4. If you Don’t Have a One-Time Achievement, Do You Meet 3 of the 10 Evidentiary Criteria?

 

  • Most people are not winners of the Nobel Peace Prize or Oscar winners.

 

  • If you do not have a major one-time achievement, you will have to show that you meet 3 of the 10 evidentiary criteria listed below.

 

  • In this section, I’m going to discuss specific points about each of the 10 categories, so you better understand what each one really means.

 

Receipt of  lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field of endeavor

 

  • The key here is that the award must actually demonstrate your excellence in the field.

 

  • Evidence of an award that is recognized nationally is sufficient however the award cannot be a local award.

 

  • Scholarships, placement on the dean’s list, evidence that you’re in the honors society typically do not satisfy this requirement.

 

  • The award should ideally be awarded to you, not your employer. But if your employer is the recipient of the award, you should show that you are directly responsible for the award.

 

  • If the award is given to a group of people, you should show that your work is primarily responsible for the award, or show that the award demonstrates the excellence of every single member of the group.

 

  • You should be able to provide evidence of the award such as a photocopy of the award.

 

  • USCIS will look to the number of people given this award as well as any limitations on the number of competitors for the award.

 

Membership in associations in your field of endeavor, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields

 

  • The key here is that the association should be exclusive and must require outstanding achievement in order to gain membership.

 

  • You must also be either be judged or recognized by national or international experts for having outstanding achievements in your field.

 

  • The association doesn’t have to be a very prestigious association BUT membership in the organization must require outstanding achievements.

 

  • If the association just requires a minimum level of education or a certain degree to be a member, this will not qualify.

 

Published material about you, in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to your work in your field of endeavor

 

  • The published material should primarily be about you and should relate to your work in your field of extraordinary ability.

 

  • The published material should show that you are at the top of your field. If the material portrays you to be average or is critical of you, this can be very harmful to your case.

 

Participation, either as an individual or as part of a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought

 

  • Here, you should show that you were a judge of the work of others in your field.

 

  • Judging someone’s credentials for employment within a company will generally not satisfy this criteria.

 

Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in your field of endeavor

 

  • You must show that your contributions are “original” AND of “major significance” in your field.

 

  • Just showing that you have published original work in your field does not qualify.

 

  • For this criteria, it is particularly helpful to have experts prepare letters explaining how your work is both original and of major significance in your field.

 

Authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media

 

Here’s some helpful information on scholarly articles [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(vi)]:

 

  • “A scholarly article reports on original research, experimentation, or philosophical discourse.” [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(vi)]

 

  • “It is written by a researcher or expert in the field who is often affiliated with a college, university, or research institution.” [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(vi)]

 

  • “It should have footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography, and may include graphs, charts, videos, or pictures as illustrations of the concepts expressed in the article.” [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(vi)]

 

The display of your work in your field at artistic exhibitions or showcases

 

  • The work that is displayed must be your work product.

 

  • It must be displayed in an artistic showcase or exhibition.

 

  • A virtual exhibition or showcase can still qualify.

 

You have performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation

 

  • Here, you must show that you were either a leader within the organization or that your role within the organization contributed significantly to the outcome of its activities. [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(viii)]

 

  • Its not the title of your role that is important, but your performance within that role that will determine whether it is considered a leading or critical role. [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(viii)]

 

  • The organization must have a distinguished reputation meaning that it is “marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence” and “befitting an eminent person.” [8CFR 204.5(h)(3)(viii)]

 

You have commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in your field

 

  • Here, your salary or remuneration is compared to others in your field.

 

  • Its not enough to show that you commanded a very high salary (for example millions of dollars)

 

  • Instead, you must show how your salary is high in comparison with others in your field.

 

You have achieved commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.

 

 

One last point about the criteria mentioned above:

 

  • If one of the above criteria does not apply to your field, you may submit comparable evidence to prove your eligibility for an EB1A visa.

 

  • Here, you should how the criteria does not apply to your field of expertise and how the evidence you are providing is comparable.

 

Step 5.  Are You One of the Few That Has Risen to the Very Top of Your Field and Have You Sustained National or International Acclaim?

 

After reviewing the evidence, I ask myself 2 questions:

 

  • Are you one of the very few that has risen to the very top of your field?

 

  • And have you sustained national or international acclaim?

 

  • Many people that are interested in the EB1A visa think that just because they have evidence that fill 3 of the above criteria, that they qualify for an EB1A visa. This is absolutely not true.

 

  • In addition to making sure that an applicant satisfies 3 of the requirements USCIS critically evaluates each EB1A application to make sure that the applicant is one of the very few at the very top AND that they have sustained their national or international acclaim.

 

  • Regarding sustainment of national or international acclaim, I’m looking to see whether you have maintained your acclaim over the years.

 

Step 6. What Types of Letter of Endorsement Can You Provide? / How Strong is Your Evidence?

 

Towards the end of my evaluation, I look to see what types of letters of endorsement you can provide and I conduct an overall assessment of the quality of your evidence.

 

Regarding Letters of Endorsement:

 

  • These are extremely important to your petition

 

  • While letters of endorsement should not be the primary evidence within your petition, they are very helpful in explaining your expertise and contributions to your field.

 

  • Your letters of endorsement should ideally come from people outside of your personal and professional contacts.

 

Regarding Quality of Evidence:

 

  • Here, I’m just making sure that you can provide actual evidence showing that you satisfy the criteria for an EB1A visa.

 

  • If you’ve won a national or international award, I check to make sure you can actually provide a copy of that award.

 

  • If your works have been published in major trade publications, I check to make sure that you can provide the actual article.

 

  • Remember, it is not enough that you satisfy the requirements, you must also be able to prove that you satisfy the requirements.

 

Step 7. Will Your Entry to the United States Provide a Substantial Benefit to the United States?

 

  • The last part of my assessment is to make sure that your entry to the United States will provide a substantial benefit to the United States.

 

  • This is 1 of the 3 requirements to get an EB1A visa.

 

  • In most circumstances, if you are coming to the US to work in your area of extraordinary ability, you will satisfy this requirement.

 

Conclusion

 

  • Although the EB1A visa only has 3 requirements for approval, this does not mean that its easy to determine whether or not you qualify.

 

  • Evaluating whether you are the right candidate for an EB1A green card is a multi-step process.

 

Here is a quick recap of the steps I take when evaluating someones qualifications for an EB1A green card:

 

  • Step 1. What Are You Claiming is Your Specific Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • Step 2. Are You Coming to the US to Continue to Work in Your Field of Extraordinary Ability?

 

  • Step 3. Do You Have a One-Time Achievement?

 

  • Step 4. If you Don’t Have a One-Time Achievement, Do You Meet 3 of the 10 Evidentiary Criteria?

 

  • Step 5.  Are You One of the Few That Has Risen to the Very Top of Your Field and Have You Sustained National or International Acclaim?

 

  • Step 6. What Types of Letter of Endorsement Can You Provide? / How Strong is Your Evidence?

 

  • Step 7. Will Your Entry to the United States Provide a Substantial Benefit to the United States?

 

If you have any questions about anything discussed here, please feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m very responsive to email and would be happy to answer your questions.

 

Ashoori Law is a US immigration law firm that helps professionals, highly skilled individuals, and entrepreneurs get visas to the United States.

 

Resources:

 

  • Business Immigration: Law & Practice, 2nd Ed. – Vol. 2: Chapter 3