EB-1A Visa: A Guide for People with Extraordinary Abilities

What is an EB-1A Visa?

The EB-1A Visa is an immigrant Visa for people that have an extraordinary ability in one of the following fields: arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics. Extraordinary ability means that you are one of the select few people who have risen to the very top of your field and have achieved national or international recognition for your achievements.

The EB-1A Visa is part of the first preference category of employment-based immigration, which means that it has a higher priority than other types of visas and usually has no backlog or waiting time. The EB1-A Visa also allows you to self-petition, which means that you can apply for it on your behalf without needing a US employer to sponsor you.

Because the EB-1A Visa is an immigrant visa, it grants you permanent residence in the United States (also known as a green card). With a green card, you can live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, enter and leave the country freely, and apply for U.S. citizenship after five years. You may also bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 as dependents.

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If you are a person with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics, you may be interested in applying for an EB-1A Visa. The EB-1A Visa is a type of employment-based immigrant visa that allows you to get a green card without a job offer or a labor certification from a US employer. 

What are the Benefits of an EB1-A Visa?

No job offer or labor certification required: Unlike most employment-based visas, the EB-1A Visa does not require you to have a job offer from a US employer or a labor certification from the Department of Labor. A labor certification is a document that shows that there are no qualified US workers available for the position that you are applying for. Getting a labor certification can be a lengthy and costly process that involves advertising the job, interviewing candidates, and proving that none of them meet the requirements. With the EB-1A Visa, you can avoid this hassle and apply on your own merit.

No backlog or waiting time: The EB-1A Visa is part of the first preference category of employment-based immigration, which means that it has a higher priority than other categories and usually has enough visas available for all applicants. This means that there is no backlog or waiting time for getting an EB-1A Visa, unlike other visas that may have years of delay due to limited supply and high demand. As long as you meet the requirements and submit your application correctly, you can expect to get your EB-1A Visa within a few months.

Eligible for premium processing: The EB-1A Visa is eligible for premium processing, which is an optional service offered by USCIS that guarantees a faster processing time for your application. For an additional fee of $2,500, USCIS will process your application within 15 calendar days instead of the regular time of several months. This can be very helpful if you need to get your Visa as soon as possible for personal or professional reasons.

Flexible work options: With an EB-1A Visa, you can work in any field related to your extraordinary ability without being tied to a specific employer or position. You can also change employers or start your own business without affecting your Visa status. This gives you more freedom and flexibility to pursue your career goals and interests in the United States.

Pathway to citizenship: The EB-1A Visa is an immigrant Visa, which means that it grants you permanent residency in the United States (also known as a green card). With a green card, you can live and work in the United States indefinitely, travel in and out of the country freely, and apply for US citizenship after five years. Becoming a US citizen gives you many rights and privileges, such as voting, serving on juries, holding public office, accessing federal benefits, and having dual citizenship.

Eligibility Criteria for EB1-A Visa

To qualify for the EB-1A Visa, applicants must demonstrate that they have extraordinary ability in their field of endeavor. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), extraordinary ability means “a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”

There are two ways to prove extraordinary ability: either by providing evidence of a one-time achievement (such as a Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Olympic Medal, or Academy Award), or by meeting at least three of the following ten criteria:

– Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.
– Membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members.
– Published material about the applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
– Participation as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field.
– Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
– Authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
– Display of the applicant’s work at artistic exhibitions or showcases.
– Performance in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
– High salary or other remuneration for services.
– Commercial successes in the performing arts.

Applicants must also show that they intend to continue working in their field of extraordinary ability in the United States and that their work will substantially benefit the U.S. national interest.

Application Process for EB1-A Visa

The application process for the EB-1A Visa consists of two steps: filing Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) with USCIS and applying for an immigrant Visa at a U.S. consulate abroad or adjusting status to permanent resident within the United States.

Form I-140 is the main petition that establishes the applicant’s eligibility for the EB1-A Visa. Along with Form I-140, applicants must submit evidence of their extraordinary ability and national interest waiver. The evidence may include letters of recommendation from experts in the field, copies of publications, awards, memberships, media coverage, and other relevant documents. The filing fee for Form I-140 is $700.

If Form I-140 is approved…

Applicants can proceed to apply for an immigrant Visa or adjust their status. The availability of immigrant visas depends on the applicant’s country of birth and the current Visa bulletin issued by the Department of State. As of March 2023, there is no backlog for EB1-A visas for applicants born in any country except China and India. Applicants born in China and India must wait until their priority date (the date when Form I-140 was filed) becomes current before they can apply for an immigrant Visa or adjust their status.

To apply for an immigrant Visa, applicants must complete Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application) and schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate abroad. They must also undergo a medical examination and submit supporting documents such as a passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), police clearance certificate, and proof of financial support. The fee for an immigrant visa is $345.

To adjust their status to permanent resident, applicants must file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS. They must also submit supporting documents such as a passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), medical examination report, and proof of lawful presence in the United States. The fee for Form I-485 is $1,225.

Data on cases for EB-1A:

The EB-1A Visa is one of the most prestigious and sought-after visas for foreign nationals who have extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics. The EB-1A Visa allows these individuals to obtain a green card without a job offer or a labor certification from a US employer. However, getting an EB-1A Visa is not easy. Applicants must demonstrate that they have risen to the very top of their field and that they have sustained national or international acclaim for their achievements.

One of the ways to measure the difficulty and competitiveness of the EB-1A Visa is to look at the data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is the agency that adjudicates EB1-A petitions. 

According to the USCIS data, there were a total of 10,592 EB-1A petitions filed in the fiscal year 2020, of which 6,304 were approved, 3,328 were denied, and 960 were pending. The overall approval rate was 59.5%, which is slightly lower than the previous fiscal year (61.5%).

Top 10 Countries of Origin for EB-1A Petitioners in FY 2020

As we can see from the table, China and India are by far the most common countries of origin for EB1-A petitioners, accounting for more than half of all petitions filed in fiscal year 2020. However, these two countries also have lower approval rates than the average (54.5% and 60.5%, respectively), which may reflect the higher level of scrutiny and evidence required for applicants from these countries.

On the other hand, some countries have higher approval rates than the average, such as Germany (69.6%), France (68.8%), Canada (67.5%), United Kingdom (67.7%), South Korea (65.9%), Iran (65.7%), Brazil (65.5%), and Japan (64.4%). These countries may have fewer applicants but more qualified ones who can meet the high standards of the EB-1A Visa.

The data from USCIS also shows that there is a significant variation in the number of petitions filed and proved from each nation for EB1-A Visa in fiscal year 2020. Some countries have hundreds or thousands of petitions filed, while others have only a few or none at all.

EB-1A Conclusion

In conclusion, the EB-1A category provides a valuable opportunity for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics to immigrate to the U.S. and obtain permanent residency. With its flexibility and lack of numerical limitations, it is a popular option for those who wish to pursue their careers in the U.S. without the need for a sponsoring employer.