What are EB-2 visas?

EB-2 visas allow individuals with an advanced degree or its equivalent or who have exceptional ability to permanently come to the United States for employment. Individuals may also seek a waiver to these requirements through the national interest waiver, discussed in a separate article.

What are the two sub-categories for the EB-2 visa and how are they different?

Both EB-2 visas are available for permanent employment-based workers. However, each EB-2 visa is applicable to workers with different credentials.

  • Advanced Degree Sub-Category
    The EB-2 visa is available for workers who have obtained an advanced degree or its foreign equivalent, such as a baccalaureate degree plus five years of post-baccalaureate progressive work experience in the worker’s field.
  • Exceptional Ability Sub-Category
    The EB-2 visa is available for individuals who are able to demonstrate their exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Exceptional ability is described as a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the arts, sciences, or business.

Who qualifies for each type of EB-2 visa?

  • Advanced Degree Sub-Category
    To qualify under the advanced degree sub-category, an applicant must be able to demonstrate that he or she has obtained an advanced degree and has five years of progressive work experience in his or her field.
    How to Prove Advanced Degree Qualifications
    Advanced degree EB-2 visa applicants must prove their qualifications by presenting evidence the applicant has the required advanced degree and work experience.
    An applicant must produce the following documentation to prove they meet this criteria:
  • An official academic record showing the applicant has a United States advanced degree ir foreign equivalent, or
  • An official academic record showing the applicant has a United States bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent degree and letters from current or former employers showing the applicant has at least five years of progressive work experience in his or her field after earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Exceptional Ability Sub-Category

    To qualify under the exceptional ability sub-category, an applicant must show exceptional ability that his or her exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business will greatly benefit the United States’ economic, cultural, educational, or welfare interests.
    How to Prove Exceptional Ability Qualifications

    Exceptional ability EB-2 applicants must be able to prove their exceptional ability. To do so, applicants must produce evidence of at least 3 of the 7 criteria below:

    • Official academic record showing that the applicant has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability;
    • Letters documenting the applicant has at least 10 years of full-time experience in his or her occupation;
    • A license to practice the applicant’s profession or certification for the applicant’s profession or occupation;
    • Evidence that the applicant has commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrate the applicant’s exceptional ability;
    • The applicant’s membership in a professional association(s);
    • Recognition of the applicant’s achievements and significant contributions to the applicant’s industry or field by the applicant’s peers, government entities, professional or business organizations;
    • Other comparable evidence of the applicant’s eligibility

What is the process for obtaining an EB-2 visa?

The application for an EB-2 visa is an employer-driven process. Applicants for both the advanced degree EB-2 visa and the exceptional ability EB-2 visa are substantially similar. The application process is through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the United States Department of Labor (DOL).

Step One

An applicant’s employer must first seek approval through the United States Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Certification Process. The employer will be issued Permanent Labor Certification by using the DOL’s Program Electronic Management Review (PERM) System.

When going through the PERM process, the applicant’s United States employer must certify that the job opening is available to United States workers, is in a specified professional field, that the rate of pay for the job is a prevailing industry rate, and that a foreign worker is needed to fill the position. Thus, the employer must show through an extensive recruiting process that no qualified Americans are available to work the job.

The employer must submit Form ETA-750 as part of the PERM labor certification. This form helps to prove that the hiring of a foreign worker does not displace American workers eligible for the same job. This must be completed by the employer before an application can actually be submitted for the EB-2 visa. The PERM process can be the most lengthy part of the EB-2 visa process.

Step Two

The potential employer of the EB-2 applicant must complete and sign Form I-140 according to the form’s instructions on behalf of the applicant. The form is submitted with the USCIS. After completing and signing the form, it must be submitted with the applicable filing fee and documentary evidence showing the applicant meets the advanced degree or exceptional ability qualifications.

Processing Time and Premium Processing

The PERM labor certification process typically takes around 6 months after filing. However, the application processing time can vary depending on the employer and the applicant, especially if the employer is subject to an audit, which can delay the process to take around 1 year.

After the PERM labor certification process is complete, premium processing is available for EB-2 advanced degree and exceptional ability visa applicants to speed up the Form I-140 process. This will expedite the process by which the visa application is reviewed and approved for an additional fee.

Applicants Already Inside the United States

EB-2 visa applicants already in the United States at the time they apply must file Form I-485 to change their visa status along with Form I-140. The Form I-485 changes a visa holder’s status under one visa to a new status under the EB-2 visa. Both the Form I-485 and the Form I-140 are submitted to the USCIS.

Applicants Outside the United States

EB-2 applicants who are outside of the United States must also submit the online Form DS-261 application. These applicants must also schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them. At their interview, applicants will be required to have their biometrics taken and will be asked questions about the applicant’s background, experience, and interest in coming to the United States permanently. Applicants must bring the following items to their interview:

  • Copy of printed Form DS-261;
  • Copy of Form I-140;
  • A valid passport;
  • A photo conforming to the United States Department of State’s photo requirements;
  • Evidentiary documents proving the applicant’s qualifications;
  • Approved PERM Labor Certification;
  • The applicant’s CV or resume;
  • An affidavit of support from the applicant’s employer

How much does it cost to get an EB-2 visa?

  • The Form I-140 filing fee is $700.
  • The Form I-485 filing fee is $750-$1,450, dependent on the applicant’s age.
  • The biometrics fee for overseas applicants is $85.
  • The Form DS-261 filing fee for overseas applicants is $445.
  • The affidavit of support for overseas applicants is $88.
  • The premium processing fee (available for EB-1A & EB-1B visas) is $1,440.

Family of EB-2 visa holders

The spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany the EB-2 visa holder in the United States. The family member(s) must apply to accompany the visa holder in the United States at the same time or after the EB-2 visa holder applies.

How long are EB-2 visas valid?

The EB-2 visas allow workers to permanently work in the United States.