What is the EB1A Visa?
The EB1A visa is an immigrant visa that allows individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to permanently come to the United States for employment within their field of expertise. Qualifying applicants must have national or international recognition for their ability.
What is the Process to Apply for the EB1A Visa?
Petitioning for the EB1A Visa: Applicant or Employer Files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
The process for obtaining an EB1A visa is either driven by the employer of the potential employee who possesses extraordinary ability or achievement, or the employee themselves. This is because the EB1A visa does not require applicants to have an offer of employment when applying for the visa. Thus, EB1A visa applicants without an offer of employment may self-petition.
The first step to obtain an EB1A visa requires the U.S. employer or the applicant to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Commonly, a U.S. employer who is inside the U.S. will file Form I-140 on behalf of the applicant
When submitting Form I-140, the employer or applicant must include the required evidence showing the applicant’s qualifications for the EB1A visa.
Petitioning for Permanent Residence: Applicant or Employer Files Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
After Form I-140 is filed, the next step is to register for permanent residence in the United States by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
The process for filing Form I-485 differs somewhat depending on whether the applicant is already in the United States or is abroad at the time he or she applies.
Applicants who are already in the United States on a different visa at the time they apply can file Form I-485 as soon as Form I-140 is filed only if there is currently an EB1A visa number available. This is called concurrent filing or concurrent processing, and can reduce the processing time. The USCIS will review Form I-485, however, only once Form I-140 is approved.
Applicants who are outside of the United States at the time they apply with Form I-140 must wait until it is approved by the USCIS. Once approved, the applicant must go through consular processing at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them or in their home country.
Consular processing will require an appointment at the Embassy or Consulate after the applicant is formally notified of their petition approval. At the appointment, the applicant will be interviewed and have their biometrics screening. After the appointment, the USCIS will work with the Embassy or Consulate on issuing the EB1A visa once an EB1A visa number is available.
How Long Does it Take to Process an EB1A Visa Application?
Processing Times for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
The processing time for Form I-140 after it is submitted varies somewhat depending on the evidence submitted; whether the application was mailed or filed online; and what USCIS service center will process the application.
Generally, the processing time for Form I-140 is around 8 months if the EB1A category is current on the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. This simply means that there is a visa number available for the applicant, which saves the applicant time because they do not have to wait for one to become current.
EB1A visa applicants may choose to have their Form I-140 petition reviewed under premium processing, which expedites the processing to 15 days at most. The fee for premium processing is $2,500, though this fee will be refunded if the processing time lasts longer than 15 days. An applicant who chooses premium processing must file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.
Processing Times for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
The amount of time it takes to process Form I-485 depends on whether the applicant is in the United States or abroad and whether concurrent filing is available.
Generally, the processing time for Form I-485 averages about 6 months. However, processing times are quicker for applicants who are already in the United States and are able to concurrently file Form I-485 because there is an EB1A visa number available.
Applicants who are outside the United States at the time they apply may face even greater variation in processing time because the pace of consular processing varies for different Embassies and Consulates.
For how long is the EB1A visa valid?
The EB1A visa (also referred to as a green card) is permanent, which means EB1A visa holders can live permanently in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The EB1A visa has no time limit to its validity, except that EB1A visa holders must apply to renew their EB1A visa every 10 years.