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How hard it is to get an EB-1A Green Card

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. 

How hard is it to get an EB1A Green Card?

The EB1A visa is one of the most difficult visas to get because of its stringent requirements as well as the headaches that can come with waiting on the visa bulletin. Read more below about the two major aspects of the EB1A process that affect how difficult it is to get an EB1A green card. 

Eligibility and Evidentiary Requirements

First, as a first preference immigrant visa, the eligibility requirements for the EB1A are more difficult for applicants to meet than other immigrant visas. This is because the EB1A is specifically for individuals with extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement in their field. 

In order to qualify for the EB1A visa, an individual must be able to prove through evidence: 

  • The applicant has extraordinary ability and expertise in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
  • The applicant’s extraordinary ability must be the subject of sustained national or international acclaim;
  • The applicant’s achievements must be recognized in his or her field;
  • That the applicant is coming to the United States to continue work in his or her area of expertise;
  • The EB-1A visa applicant does not need an offer of employment to qualify.

Waiting on the Visa Bulletin

Second, the EB1A can be difficult to get because there is a limit on the number of EB1A visas issued per year. The EB1A visa is a subcategory of the larger employment-based visa category, and a subcategory of the first preference employment-based visas. 

Among all employment-based visas, there are only 140,000 available to be issued each year. When looking at only the EB1 subcategory, there are around 40,000 visas issued each year, which includes both EB1A and EB1B visas.

Depending on demand for the EB1A visa, applicants can face a long wait until their priority date becomes “current” on the Visa Bulletin and a visa number is available to be issued to them. Applicants from specific high-demand countries like India or China may have an even longer wait than most other applicants because no individual country can receive more than 7% of all family- and employment-based immigrant visas, or 25,620. This can cause backups among Indian and Chinese EB1A applicants. 

Fortunately, as of February 2022, priority dates for the EB1A immigrant visa are current, including for China and India. This is due in large part to the fact that demand for all immigrant visas, including the EB1A, decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, if you look at the pre-pandemic Visa Bulletin, such as in February 2019, the priority dates for the Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing were 6 months to a year or more behind.

EB1 visas are also subject to “roll over” from other visa categories if there were unused visa numbers from the previous year. For example, EB5 visas not used one year roll over into the EB1 visa category the next while unused EB1 visas roll over into the EB2 visa category. However, none of these visas can roll over to the EB3 visa category under the applicable law. Unused family-sponsored visas in one year also roll over to the EB category in the next year. 

Because demand for all types of immigrant visas went down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of rollover contributing to a higher availability of visa numbers, which has helped make EB1 priority dates current.

What Makes Getting an EB1A Green Card Easier?

When it comes down to it, applicants for the EB1A visa cannot get around its stringent eligibility requirements. However, there are some aspects of the EB1A visa that make it more flexible, and thus easier to apply for, than other visas. 

The Option to Self-Petition 

EB1A visa applicants do not need a U.S. employer to file a petition on their behalf. Instead, an applicant can file a petition for the EB1A on their own without first proving they have an employer or a permanent job offer from an employer in the United States. The applicant must only demonstrate that they will continue working in the field in which they have extraordinary abilities, even if they are self-employed.

No Labor Certification for the EB1A Green Card

The EB1A application process is made easier than comparable non-immigrant visa applications because EB1A visa applicants are not required to receive a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. This saves EB1A applicants time and expedites the application process. 

Premium Processing is Available

Premium processing speeds up the time it takes the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). to come to its decision regarding an applicant’s petition. This means that a faster approval of the Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker will result in a sooner priority date for the Visa Bulletin. If the dates for the EB1 visa on the Visa Bulletin are “current,” then premium processing can especially expedite the application and approval process toward issuance of a visa. 

The premium processing fee is $2,500 with a guarantee of a maximum 15 day approval time. If the applicant’s petition is not approved within 15 days, the fee will be refunded. Applicants can choose premium processing by submitting Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service along with the fee. Premium processing does not guarantee an applicant will ultimately be issued a visa or that a visa will be available to be issued to them within 15 days. 

Flexible Evidentiary Requirements 

Generally, applicants to the EB1A visa must prove that they have an extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement in their particular field. This requirement can be intimidating because applicants must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in their field of expertise.

A common misconception is that applicants must prove this by submitting evidence that they received a one-time major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize. Fortunately, the evidentiary requirements for the EB1A visa are far more flexible than that.

In fact, an applicant can prove they qualify if they can show through documentation that they have at least three (3) of the following forms of documentation: 

  • 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;

To add to the flexibility even more, the USCIS allows applicants to submit comparable evidence in order to establish their eligibility if the above criteria do not readily apply to their occupation. 8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(iii)(A)(B) 

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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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