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EB1A Visa Requirements: Complete Eligibility Guide

To receive an EB1A visa, applicants must be able to prove that they have an extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business, or athletics. Qualifying applicants must have sustained national or international acclaim for their ability.

What Does it Mean to Have Extraordinary Ability or Achievement? 

The EB1A visa is only issued to individuals who can demonstrate their extraordinary ability by providing evidence with their petition.  

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts, Education, Business or Athletics

An applicant has extraordinary ability in the arts, education, business, or athletics if they exhibit a level of expertise that indicates the applicant is one of a small fraction of individuals who sit at the very top of their field.  Extraordinary ability is demonstrated by showing the applicant has sustained national or international acclaim in arts, education, business, or athletics.  

Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts must show they have a high level of achievement, or distinction, in the field of arts.  A high level achievement or distinction in the field of arts can be evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above ordinary skill and recognition, such that the artist is prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known. 

How to Prove Extraordinary Ability or Achievement? 

Applicants must be able to demonstrate their extraordinary ability or achievement by proving they have sustained national or international acclaim and that their achievements have been recognized in their field.  

Recognition in an applicant’s field can be proven by submitting evidence that the applicant has received a major internationally recognized award. 

If an applicant has not received a major internationally recognized award, the applicant can prove recognition by providing evidence that the applicant has received at least 3 of the 10 forms of recognition listed below: 

  • Documentation of the applicant’s receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  • Documentation of the applicant’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the applicant, relating to the applicant’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization to that for which classification is sought;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media;
  • Evidence that the applicant’s work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases; 
  • Evidence that the applicant has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • Evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s commercial success in the performing arts;
  • If the above criteria do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iii)(A)(B) 

After an applicant submits evidence to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the USCIS will evaluate the documentation to determine whether it proves that the applicant has risen to the top of his or her field of expertise.  

The strength of the evidence will be determined by the USCIS by comparing the applicant’s evidence of extraordinary ability with others in the field who have demonstrated extraordinary ability.  Extraordinary ability is not determined by comparing the applicant to the general population. Instead, the USCIS will compare it to the applicant’s peers in his or her field of expertise. 

What Should I Submit with the EB1A Visa Application? 

The EB1A visa applicant, or their employer, must file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.  Form I-140 is submitted to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Unlike other employment-based visas, there is no requirement that an applicant have a job offer in the United States at the time they submit their application with the USCIS.  Additionally, EB1A petitioners do not need to submit a labor certification with their application. 

When submitting Form I-140, the petitioner must include the required evidence showing the applicant’s qualifications for the EB1A visa and that they intend to continue working in their area of extraordinary ability in the United States.  

The USCIS will also evaluate the petition and the applicant’s qualifications to determine whether or not the applicant’s entry into the United States will “substantially benefit” the United States in the future, though this is interpreted broadly based on the evidence submitted by the petitioner.

How to Apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card) Status?

After Form I-140 is filed, the next step is to register for permanent residence (also called green card status) 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 to Maintain Lawful Permanent Resident Status?

Once an EB1A visa holder is granted lawful permanent resident (green card) status, he or she can maintain this status permanently or can eventually seek U.S. citizenship through naturalization.  Green card holders can also lose their lawful permanent resident status by violating U.S. laws or regulations, abandoning their status, or by living outside the United States for a certain amount of time.  

Green card holders can maintain lawful permanent resident status simply by renewing their EB1A visa every 10 years.  Renewal can be accomplished by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) by mail or online. 

After submitting Form I-90, green card holders will be required to have their biometrics screening, which allows the U.S. government to check that the green card holder has not violated any U.S. laws during their U.S. residency. 

Failure to renew Green card status can cause issues when traveling, applying for a job, or obtaining a driver’s license.  It is technically a misdemeanor to carry an expired green card and having a criminal record can create problems for green card holders.

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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