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The EB-1A 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.
Who qualifies for the EB-1A visa?
In order to qualify for the EB-1A 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.
What is the process for obtaining an EB-1A visa?
The application process for the EB-1A visa is fairly straightforward. Generally, the application process is led by the applicant’s employer. However, EB-1A visa applicants may uniquely apply on their own because EB-1A visa applicants are not required to have an employer to enter the United States. The steps below outline the application process:
Step One: Applicant Files Form I-140 with the USCIS
All EB-1A applicants must complete and sign Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers according to the form’s instructions. The form is submitted with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After completing and signing the form, it must be submitted with the applicable filing fee and documentary evidence showing the applicant meets the qualifications for the EB-1A visa.
Evidence to be Submitted with Form I-140
When submitting Form I-140, applicants must provide evidence that established their extraordinary ability in their field. For example, extraordinary ability may be proved by presenting evidence of a major, internationally-recognized one-time achievement or award, such as a Pulitzer, Oscar, or Olympic Medal. There is no requirement that EB-1A visa applicants receive and submit a permanent labor certification from the United States Department of Labor.
Alternatively, EB-1A visa applicants must meet at least 3 of the 10 following criteria in order to prove their sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their field of expertise:
- Evidence of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;
- Evidence of published material about the applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
- Evidence of the applicant’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field;
- Evidence that the applicant has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases;
- Evidence of the applicant’s performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations;
- Evidence of the applicant’s commercial successes in the performing arts;
- Evidence of the applicant’s membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members;
- Evidence that the applicant has been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel;
- Evidence of the applicant’s authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
- Evidence of the applicant’s performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
- Evidence that the applicant commands a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.
Upon receipt of evidence, the USCIS will evaluate the proffered 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 extraordinary ability. Extraordinary ability is not determined by merely comparing the applicant to the general population, but to the applicant’s peers in his or her field of expertise.
Step Two: Applicant Files Online Form DS-260 and DS-261
EB-1A applicants who are outside of the United States at the time they apply must also submit the online Form DS-260 and DS-261 application and pay the associated fee.
Step Three: Applicant Schedules Visa Interview
After submitting Form DS-260, applicants must then 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 their 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-260;
- 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;
- The applicant’s CV or resume;
- An affidavit of support from the applicant’s employer
Step Four: Applicant Files Form I-485 with the USCIS
After Form I-140 is approved, the applicant must wait until his or her priority date is current in order to apply for legal permanent resident status. Once the priority date is current, the applicant must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status with the USCIS. Once Form I-485 is approved by the USCIS, the applicant will officially be a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
Applicants Already Inside the United States
EB-1A visa applicants who are 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.
Premium process is available for EB-1A visa applicants. Opting to use premium processing will expedite the process by which the visa application is reviewed and approved for an additional fee.
What are the advantages of the EB-1A visa?
There are several advantages of applying for and receiving an EB-1A visa. Perhaps the most notable advantage of the EB-1A visa is that an applicant does not need a U.S. employer to file a petition on their behalf. Instead, an applicant can file a petition for the EB-1A on their own without first proving they have an employer or a permanent job offer with 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.
Additionally, the EB-1A visa does not require applicants to receive a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, which saves time and expedites the application process. The process is also generally quicker for EB-1A visa applicants because visa numbers are usually current for the EB-1 category, which reduces the wait time for applicants before they can apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (green card status) by filing Form I-485.
How much does it cost to get an EB-1A 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-260 filing fee for overseas applicants is $445.
- The affidavit of support for overseas applicants is $88.
- The premium processing fee is $2,500.
Family of EB-1A visa holders
The spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany the EB-1A 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-1A visa holder applies.
For how long is the EB-1A visa valid?
The EB-1A visa is valid for 10 years, at which time EB-1A visa holders may apply to renew their EB-1A visa.