Law Blog

WORK VISAS: EXTRAORDINARY PROFESSIONALS (EB-1A)

The EB-1 category of employment-based visas is known as “first preference,” which means it is harder to get but has certain advantages.

One of the primary advantages of the so-called “EB-1A” is that you do not have to be sponsored by an employer.  You can “self-petition.”  You also do not have to go through the labor certification process.  And, of course, the other great thing is that this visa gives you permanent residence.

With this visa, the US is saying “We want you talented people, whether or not you have a sponsor, and you are welcome to stay here as long as you want.”

There are actually three classes of people who can get an EB-1 visa:

  • Those with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • Outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally for their outstanding academic achievements in a particular field.
  • Certain executives and managers of foreign companies who are transferred to the U.S.

This article focuses on the first class, which is for aliens who have distinguished themselves in their field of work.

Eligibility

The way the law reads, you have to meet two criteria:

  1. Demonstrate “extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim” and

  2. Provide “extensive documentation” in support of the extraordinary ability.

If you are thinking this description is far too vague, you are right.  The question is “What does the USCIS consider to be extraordinary ability?”

Let’s look at more specific criteria:

A.  Have you won a Nobel prize? If so, you’re in.  Let’s get you signed up.  If not, keep reading.

B.  Can you meet any three of the following?

  • nationally or internationally recognized awards for excellence
  • membership in a group that only permits professionals of outstanding achievement
  • publications in professional journal
  • media coverage of alien’s accomplishments (i.e. magazines, journals, TV, radio, etc.)
  • judge of work performed by other professionals in the field
  • important contributions to field
  • work displayed at exhibitions or showcases
  • commercial success in performing arts
  • leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • high salary compared to others in the same field

Having a checklist like this is helpful, but it does still leave grey area.  In reality, it is a bit dicey to get too specific with the characteristics of a successful petition since (i) the USCIS trends change over time, and (ii) we do not want to discourage clients who might not perfectly fit the description but who would still make good candidates.

With this caveat in mind, consider the following examples of successful EB-1A petitions.

Example #1

Field: Behavioral Neuroscience

Degree:  Ph.D.

Title: Scholar-Employee

Nationality: Chinese

Key Characteristics:  Three articles in scholarly journals, which have been cited in other publications a combined 140 times.  Seven letters of recommendation from peers.  Conducted peer-reviews for 14 scholarly journals.

Example #2

Field: Salsa Dance

Title: Competitor & Instructor

Nationality: Slovenia

Key Characteristics:  Various prizes in home country and internationally.  Leading role in organization by creating dance curricula and online instructional materials.  Number of articles about her in major media publications.

Example #3

Field: Molecular Biology

Degree:  Ph.D.

Title: Senior Research Associate

Nationality: Chinese

Key Characteristics:  Fifteen peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited in other publications a combined 150 times.  Six letters of recommendation from experts in the field.  Conducted peer-reviews for 25 scientific journals.

Example #4

Field: Computer Engineering

Degree:  Ph.D.

Title: Senior Research Associate

Nationality: India

Key Characteristics:  39 peer-reviewed publications, and one book, which had been cited over 300 times.  Conducted peer-reviews for 30 scientific periodicals.

Example #5

Field: Soccer

Title: Referee

Nationality: Northern Ireland

Key Characteristics:  Experience refereeing professional, international competitions.  Recommendations from colleagues for his mentorship of younger referees.  Recognition in the media.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of experience and accolades that can lead to successful petition.  If there is an over-arching key to focus on, it is demonstrating you are a leader in your field.

~ J. Harrington