EB1 Visa: A Lawyer’s Overview

EB1 Visa Overview

The EB1 classification stands for “Employment-Based First Preference Category.” An EB1 visa lets you get a green card if you’re a leader in your field. In particular, that field could be science, art, business, or athletics.  Many refer to EB1 green cards as green card for “geniuses” or “superstars.” Overall, this article will help you decide if you fit this elite EB1 green card classification.

Below, we discuss the types of EB1 green cards and their requirements. Also, we’ll discuss the procedure for getting a visa and the processing times.

Fortunately, even if you don’t qualify for the EB1 visa, there are other employment-based options. To learn more, visit our EB2 visa and EB3 visa pages.

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Categories of EB1 Visa

There are three types of EB1 visas.

Extraordinary Ability (EB1-A visa)

This category is for individuals in the top percentile in their field. There are two ways to obtain an EB1-A green card. First, you can give evidence that you meet three of ten extraordinary ability criteria listed in the law. Second, you can prove you were the recipient of an internationally recognized award.  To qualify, you must have won awards such as the Nobel Prize or an Academy Award.

Outstanding professors and researchers (EB1-B visa)

The EB-1B category is for noncitizens who are outstanding researchers or professors. This means that your particular field gave you recognition for outstanding achievements. Furthermore, a university must offer you a tenure track teaching position or something similar.

Certain Multinational manager or executive (EB1-C visa)

This category is for workers who are “executives” or “managers” of multinational companies. The requirements for this category are like those for L1A visas. To qualify, you must fit the legal definition of an executive or manager. In addition, you must work for the petitioning employer for at least 12 months out of the last 3 years.

Requirements of EB1 Visa

We mentioned the categories for the EB1 visa, so we’ll now talk about the specifics of each.

Requirements for Extraordinary Ability (EB1-A visa)

There are two ways to get an EB1 green card in this category. First, you could qualify if you won an internationally recognized award.  This can be difficult because there’s no definition for “internationally recognized award.” Second, you can show that you have extraordinary ability by meeting three of ten criteria in the law. Below are are the ten criteria listed in the law.

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.
  • Membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members.
  • Published material about you in professional or other major media.
  • Being asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel.
  • You have original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Publishing scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations.
  • Commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.
  • Commercial successes in the performing arts.

Requirements For Outstanding professors and researchers (EB1-B visa)

This category is like the EB1-A in that you can qualify by meeting two of six criteria listed in the law. They are:

  • Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement.
  • Membership in associations that require their members to demonstrate outstanding achievement.
  • Published material in professional publications written by others about your work in the academic field.
  • Participation, either on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same academic field.
  • Original scientific or scholarly research contributions in the field.
  • Authorship of scholarly books or articles (in scholarly journals with international circulation) in the field.

Requirements For Certain Multinational manager or executive (EB1-C visa)

The title of “Executive” or “Manager” for one of the last three years doesn’t guarantee an EB1 green card. Specifically, to be an “Executive” or “Manager” you must be a boss of other professionals. For example, you oversee a group of accountants or engineers and you’re directly involved in operation or policy management.

Difficulty of Getting EB1 Visa

EB1 can be very hard to get because you can apply without a job offer. This means you self-petition to come and live in the U.S. permanently. The EB1 green card is for noncitizens who are the best in their fields. Examples of some individuals who would qualify are Pulitzer Prize winners, Olympic medalists, or Nobel Prize Winners.

The EB1 Process

Typically, there are two steps to the EB1 process:

1. Show immigration officials you qualify for one of the three EB1 categories using a Form I-140.
2. Apply for the green card here in the U.S. (Form I-485). Alternatively, if you live abroad, you would apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Processing Times

EB1 Processing Time Overview

Generally, getting an EB1 green card takes around 8-12 months if you’re applying in the U.S.  This is because the petition (I-140) and green card application (I-485) are sent together. Alternatively, if you are applying from outside the U.S., then the process can take two years. When you’re outside the country, the government processes your petition and the green card application separately.

I-140 Processing Times

The processing time for the I-140 is roughly 3-12 months.  But it depends on your EB1 category. Also, it depends on the strength of your case.  However, you can speed up the process using premium processing. If you use premium processing, immigration will issue a decision in your case within 15 days.

Remember, the I-140 is only half of the process. You will still need to request the green card here in the U.S. (Form I-485) OR abroad at a U.S. embassy or consulate (Consular Processing).

What is the timeline for an EB1 Visa after the I-140 approval?

Approval of the I-140 visa does not mean will get your green card right away. Sometimes you must wait for a EB1 green card to be “available.” You can find out if EB1 visas are available by checking the visa bulletin. If an EB1 visa is available for your country then you can file for the green card.

There are a fixed number of green cards in the EB1 category. The visa bulletin tells you how many green cards are available in each category for a given month. Specifically, the visa bulletin says when you can apply for the EB1 green card.

Reading the Visa Bulletin

To read the visa bulletin, check whether your country of origin is listed. If it’s not there, then look under the column “All Changeability Areas Except Those Listed.” Once you have found the right column then go to where it says “3rd.” Check what date the bulletin lists under “1st” category using your country.

If the date listed reads “C,” then you don’t have to wait except for the time that it takes to process your green card. By contrast, if there is a date stated, then immigration is processing only those petitions (Form I-140) filed before that date. In other words, you can’t get your EB1 visa until the date you filed your I-140 is before the date listed. For example, if you’re from India, and we look at the chart below, then immigration is only processing EB3 visas for petitions filed before January 1, 2020.

Visa Bulletin

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