EB-1A: Scientists with Extraordinary Ability
Fast Green Card Option, High Standards
One of three first-preference categories, EB-1A is very restrictive. The alien must show he or she is at the top of the field of endeavor, both by meeting certain criteria and by meeting an overall standard of “top few percent.” Typically aliens self-petition in this category, as neither job offer nor labor certification is required. However, the beneficiary must show he or she will be active in the field of extraordinary ability after admission to the U.S.
An alien of extraordinary ability must be able to show “sustained acclaim” on a national or international level. This can be shown outright if the beneficiary has won a major, internationally recognized award (such as the Nobel). In the absence of such achievement, the individual must have – and be able to document -- at least three of the following:
- Lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
- Membership in prestigious associations in the field (National Academies and the like.);
- Published material about him or her personally in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to work in the field.
- Participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization
- Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field;
- Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
- Past display of work at artistic exhibitions or showcases;
- A record of performing in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
- A high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field
- Commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.
- No job offer is required; therefore, the beneficiary can self-petition.
- EB-1A is rarely – if ever – retrogressed
- The foreign national’s job prospects are relatively unrestricted, so long as he or she remains in the field of extraordinary ability. The beneficiary can be self-employed.
- The adjudications standards are extremely high for EB-1A, and show a pattern of increasing restriction.
- If the beneficiary is not in a field that lends itself to the statutory criteria, it is very difficult to show qualification.
The USCIS adopted the present EB-1A adjudications policy in December 2010. All evidence submitted to support an individual criterion is reviewed to determine if it satisfies the plain language of that particular criterion. Then, in a “final merits” determination, all the evidence taken together is reviewed to assess the likelihood that the alien has risen to the top of his field, and is the subject of sustained national or international acclaim. Application of “final merits” determination guidelines has been very strict, so strict that most individuals with less than mid-career achievement probably will not qualify.
The beneficiary must file a Form I-140 immigrant petition directly with USCIS. In addition, if a visa number is available, the beneficiary can concurrently file the I-485 for adjustment of status to permanent resident and submit applications for employment authorization and an Advance Parole for traveling outside the U.S. Processing time for EB-1A cases depends on the work load at the specific USCIS service center at which the petition is filed. Current processing times by the Service Centers can be found here.
EB-1A adjudication standards are very high, and beneficiaries must be able to show significant achievement and widespread recognition in their fields. Individuals considering an EB-1A petition should evaluate their credentials with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney, to see if their case is approvable, especially with respect to the “final merits” determination.