EB2 Overview: An Immigration Lawyer’s Guide

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What is an EB2 Green Card?

EB2 stands for “Employment-Based Second Preference Category.” A EB2 green card is a green card you can qualify for based on your education or profession.  There are other ways of living in and working in the U.S. for long periods.  (For example, you could switch to H1B status.)  But EB2 is a great way of earning permanent status here.  Before we cover the EB2 Process, let’s review the types of EB2 green cards.

There are three categories of EB2 visas, which means there are three ways to qualify for an EB2 green card.

  1. EB2 Visa – Advanced Degree: Under this EB2 visa category, you must have a job offer in the U.S. The job offer must be for a position that requires you to have an advanced degree (a master’s degree or PhD.). Alternatively, the job offer can require you to have a bachelor’s degree plus 5 years of experience.
  2. EB2 Visa – Exceptional Ability: Under this category, you must demonstrate you are a noncitizen with exceptional ability. Your exceptional ability must be in the sciences, arts or business. To get an EB2 green card under this classification, you must have a job offer.
  3. EB2 Visa – National Interest Waiver (NIW): Under this EB2 visa category, immigration requires no job offer. An EB2 NIW waives the job offer requirement of the other two categories under certain conditions. These conditions are if you can prove you have an advanced degree or exceptional ability and meet three other criteria. We discuss the three additional criteria in more detail below.

What's the Difference between the EB1, EB2, and EB3 Categories?

Before explaining how you qualify for an EB2 Green Card, let’s learn the differences between the Employment-Based (EB) immigrant subcategories.

What is the difference between EB1 and EB2?

EB1 stands for “Employment-Based First Preference Category.” This is often referred to as visas or Green Cards for “geniuses.” The EB1 is designed for the leaders in fields  of science, art, education, business, or athletics. It, too, is divided into three subcategories:

  1. Noncitizens in the top percentile in their field. (EB1-A visa)
  2. Noncitizens outstanding researchers or professors. (EB1-B visa)
  3. Noncitizens considered “executives” or “managers” of multinational companies. (EB1-C visa)

In order to qualify for one of the EB1 classes, you must show you meet the criteria.

What is the difference between EB 2 and EB3?

EB3 stands for “Employment-Based Third Preference Category.” Like some of the EB2 Visa classes, immigration laws require you to have a job offer. The job offer must be for a position for “professionals, skilled workers, and unskilled workers.”

Note: a “professional” under the EB3 visa category requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. This is less than the education require by the EB2 Visa category.

The EB2 Process

The EB2 Process is complicated. To help you understand, we provide the steps, forms and timeline in the next section. But first, we explain how to meet the criteria for each of the three EB2 Green Card subcategories.

EB2 Green Card Through an Advanced Degree

To get an EB2 Green Card through your Advanced Degree, you need a job offer from a U.S. employer. The job offer must be for a type of job that requires an advanced degree (a master’s degree or above). Alternatively, an employer may require that you have a bachelor’s degree plus five years’ experience in a field related to the position.

Once you have a job offer, the U.S. employer must advertise the offer to the general public. The requirement makes sure there are no U.S. workers that could the employer could hire. In other words, the U.S. government does not want to give you an EB2 green card to work a job for which a U.S. worker could be hired.  Thus, the U.S. employer must ask the U.S. Department of Labor to certify that it properly advertised and recruited U.S. workers.

Once the U.S. employer obtains certification from the Department of Labor, you can apply to USCIS for your EB2 Green Card. To qualify, you provide an academic record showing you have the advanced degree for the position listed in your job offer.

Alternatively, you may show you have the required bachelor’s degree plus five years relevant experience. To show you have this experience, you’ll have to present letters from former employers.

EB2 Green Card By Demonstrating Exceptional Ability

The EB2 process for a noncitizen of exceptional ability also begins with a job offer.  The job must fall within the “science, arts or business” as defined by the immigration laws.  Also, the job must require “Exceptional Ability,” which is “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”

Once the job is offered, then the U.S. employer must test the labor market. Just as the EB2 Green Card for those with Advanced Degrees, the job must be offered to the general public. The U.S. Department of Labor wants the U.S. employer to prove that there are no U.S. workers who could be hired. Once the employer has advertised the position to the general public then it can request certification from the Labor Department.

Once the U.S. employer obtains certification from the Department of Labor, you can apply to immigration for your EB2 Green Card. You will need to show your exceptional ability by meeting three out of the following criteria:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability.
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation.
  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation.
  • Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability.
  • Membership in a professional association(s).
  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations.
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

EB2 NIW

Unlike the other two subcategories, you do not need a job offer to get a Green Card through the EB2 NIW subcategory. NIW stands for “National Interest Waiver.” This means to obtain an EB2 Green Card you need to prove it is in the “national interest” to “waive” testing the labor market.

But that does not mean that you will never have a job offer in an EB2 NIW case. In some cases, a U.S. employer will file an NIW on your behalf, but the involvement of a U.S. entity is not required. There are cases when you can self-petition and will not need a U.S. company to sponsor you. In other words, you can self-petition for an EB2 Green Card.

Under either U.S. employer-filed or self-petition EB2 NIW, you will need to prove two things.

  1. That you qualify under one of the other two EB2 subcategories. In other words, you must show you have an Advanced Degree or are someone of Exceptional Ability. The criteria for each are outlined above.
  2. That your work fulfills all of the following criteria:
  • The proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance.
  •  You are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.
  • It would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer, and thus the labor certification.

Note: There is a special category for doctors who apply for their green card under EB2 NIW subcategory. In order to be eligible for an EB2 Green Card under a NIW, a doctor must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must agree to work full-time in a clinical practice. For most physician NIW cases, the required period of service is 5 years
  • You must work in a primary care (such as a general practitioner, family practice petitioner, general internist, pediatrician, obstetrician/gynecologist, or psychiatrist) or be a specialty physician
  • You must serve either in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Mental Health Professional Area (MHPSA – for psychiatrists only), a Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or a Veterans Affairs facility, or for specialists in a Physician Scarcity Area (PSA)
  • You must obtain a statement from a federal agency or a state department of health that has knowledge of your qualifications as a physician and that states your work is in the public interest (This statement is known as an attestation)

More helpful information about EB2 Process

What are the EB2 Green Card Steps?

Typically the steps for the EB2 for a Green Card are:

  1. Obtain a qualifying job offer
  2. Get a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor unless otherwise waived.
  3. Show immigration officials that you qualify for the EB2 category
  4. Apply for your EB2 Green Card

What forms do you need for the EB2 Green Card Process?

The immigration forms involved are the Form I-140 and Form I-485 filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. These forms are sometimes filed at the same time depending on your circumstances.

What is the timeline for an EB2 Green Card?

The timeline depends on the country you’re from and the availability of EB2 immigrant visas as listed on the visa bulletin. Typically, if you’re from China or India then there is a longer wait. For citizens of these two countries, it could take many years to get the EB2 Green Card. If you are from any other country, however, there is a shorter wait, typically about one to two years.

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