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A deep dive into the EB-1A visa: a guide to answer all your questions

April 24, 2024
  • Business Immigration
  • News

By Natalie McQuilkin 

Are you a foreign national with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics? Have you received national or international awards or acclaim for your success in your field? Are you interested in obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States? 

If so, you might be a candidate for the EB-1A green card!  

What is the EB-1A green card? 

Designed to accommodate those with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics, the EB-1A visa requires you to provide evidence for the following: 

  1. You meet the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) criteria for extraordinary ability 
  1. You plan to continue your work in your field once you come to the United States 
  1. Your presence and work in the U.S. will substantially benefit the country 

This is a self-petition green card, meaning that you do not need an employer to sponsor you – you can apply for the green card on your own by providing the necessary evidence USCIS requires.  

Before we dive into the application process for the EB-1A, let’s break down what each of these requirements means. 

Evidence of Extraordinary Ability

To meet the requirements for the EB-1A green card, USCIS requires you provide evidence that you have extraordinary ability in your field. You can do this in two ways: 

  1. Provide evidence that you have been nationally or internationally recognized through an award or prize and have sustained national or international acclaim, or 
  1. Meet three of 10 USCIS criteria, listed further below.  

National and International Acclaim 

To prove you have national or international acclaim, you can submit evidence that you have received a major award, such as the Nobel Peace Prize, a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, or an Olympic medal. Other examples include industry-specific awards, such as a National Book Award, the National Medal of Science, a Grammy, or an Emmy.  

Along with providing evidence that you have a national or international award is proving that you have “sustained” your acclaim over time. To USCIS explains this means you still have a major level of acclaim in your field when you apply for the EB-1A. So, if you haven’t been active in a field that you were once prestigious in, you wouldn’t have maintained your level of acclaim and would not be eligible for the EB-1A.  

Meeting Other Criteria

If you don’t have a national or international award or haven’t sustained your acclaim in your field, don’t worry. You can be eligible for the EB-1A green card if you meet three of the 10 following criteria USCIS requires for extraordinary ability: 

  • Evidence of receiving lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence. These can include awards from national institutions or doctoral dissertation awards.  
  • Evidence of being part of an association in your field that requires members to have outstanding achievements 
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media. Some examples of this include newspapers articles, textbooks, major online publications, or transcripts of professional or major audio or video coverage.  
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel. Eagan’s Senior Business Immigration Attorney, Hannah Whaley, explained in her webinar on self-petitioning that one example of this is a model or pageant queen being invited to judge a pageant for younger participants. Another example is a scientist or professor being invited to judge science fairs. 
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic or business-related contributions of major significance to the field. Letters of support, patents, documentation that your work has been cited, and publications about the significance of your work can be used to fulfill this category.  
  • Evidence that you have written scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media 
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases 
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations. USCIS explains that lead or critical roles include senior faculty or research positions; principals or heads of departments; and founders, co-founders, or contributors of a startup or distinguished organization. 
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or otherwise significantly high remuneration in relation to others in your field. You can provide tax returns, job offer letters, or documents that compare your wage to others in your field. 
  • Evidence of your commercial success in the performing arts. This includes volume of sales and box office receipts for a theater production, movie, or TV show. 

Continuing Your Work in the United States

The EB-1A green card does not require you to have a job offer in the United States. This is a major plus because it eliminates the stress of having to find a job. However, when filing your EB-1A, you must provide evidence of how you will continue working in your field once you are in the United States.  If you have a job offer in the U.S., then you can use that as evidence to fulfill this requirement. However, this is just one possible route. As Scott Legal, P.C. writes, you can also provide evidence of your upcoming projects, professional goals, and future collaborative projects.  

Proving Your Work Substantially Benefits the United States

On top of either having national or international acclaim or meeting three of the 10 criteria, you must prove that your work in your field will substantially benefit the United States. Although it may seem daunting to provide an explanation as to how your work benefits the U.S. in a major way, it’s important to note that USCIS doesn’t have a definition of what “substantial benefit” means. USCIS states that this definition has been “interpreted broadly,” so that can allow you and your attorney to get creative with arguments.  

In Matter of Price, a USCIS decision from 1994, a highly successful professional Zimbabwean golfer was awarded the EB-1A green card. How exactly does a golfer prove his work is beneficial to the United States? In this case USCIS found that “given the enormous popularity of golf in this country with its 13,004 courses and 24.8 million golfers, it must be concluded that entry of a player of the petitioner’s ability will substantially benefit prospectively the United States.” Other real-word examples include the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) approving the EB-1A for a master chef, or the AAO approving the EB-1A for an inventor who has a patent on a drunk-driving detection system. 

deep dive into the EB-1A visa

The Application Process 

The first step in applying for the EB-1A is filing the Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers), which has a $715 filing fee. With this form, you’ll also file the evidence of extraordinary ability, evidence that you plan to continue to work in your field once in the United States, and proof that your work will substantially benefit the United States. 

As of April 2024, it’s taking the Nebraska Service Center 16.5 months to process the Form I-140 and 19 months for the Texas Service Center. In comparison to family-based petitions, which often take between 51.5 months and 56.5 months, these are fast processing times. It’s important to note that processing times often change, so if you’re interested in applying for the EB-1A, it’s a good idea to get a head start on applying while processing times are short. If you want to expedite the processing time, though, you can apply for premium processing. By filing Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing), which costs $2,805, USCIS will process your case in just 15 days. 

Once your I-140 is approved, the next steps will be different depending on if you’re living in the U.S. or in your home country. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll adjust your status by filing the Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), which costs $1,440. You’ll also have to attend a biometrics appointment to provide photographs, signatures, and fingerprints, and then you must attend an immigrant medical appointment. Once your I-485 is approved, you’ll officially be granted a green card, allowing you to legally work and live in the United States. 

If you’re living outside of the U.S. when your I-140 is approved, USCIS will transfer your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center for pre-processing. Then, you’ll submit the DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application), which costs $345, at your country’s U.S. Embassy or consulate to start consular processing. From there, you’ll attend a biometrics appointment, an immigrant medical exam, and a visa interview. Once your application is approved, you’ll receive a green card and officially be a lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

Benefits of the EB-1A Green Card 

Aside from the most obvious benefit of the EB-1A, which is being granted a green card, this  green card pathway has several other perks: 

  • You don’t have to rely on an employer to sponsor you to work in the United States because this is a self-petition green card. Finding the right employer to petition you can be a stressful, time-consuming process, and the self-petitioning process eliminates that entirely. 
  • Because the EB-1A visa doesn’t require an employer to sponsor you, you have more flexibility in your job options in the United States. Of course, you’ll need to continue working in your field, but you will not be tied to a specific job like other employment-based green cards require. 
  • Once you’re granted the EB-1A green card, you can petition your spouse and children younger than 21 for E-14 or E-15 immigrant status so they can live, work, and study in the United States. 

Should I work with a business immigration attorney? 

Even though the EB-1A is a self-petition green card, it can also be stressful to tackle the filing process on your own. Working with an experienced business immigration attorney, like Eagan’s Senior Business Attorney Hannah Whaley, can alleviate a lot of the stress you might face during the filing process. Attorney Whaley can determine if you fulfill USCIS’ requirements for extraordinary ability, help you gather the required evidence, and make creative arguments to prove that you will continue to work in the U.S. and that your work will substantially benefit the country. Attorney Whaley can also keep you up to date on the filing process and what the next steps are.  

 Eagan Immigration is here to help you establish your future here in the United States. 

If you’re interested in the EB-1A visa, contact Attorney Whaley today by calling our office at (202) 709-6439 or clickingthis link. 


Policy Manual: Chapter 2 – Extraordinary Ability, USCIS, (Apr. 10, 2024), Chapter 2 – Extraordinary Ability | USCIS, (last visited: Apr. 11, 2024). 

Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1, USCIS, (Mar. 1, 2022), Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1 | USCIS, (last visited: Apr. 11, 2024). 

Webinar: Self-Petition Options for U.S. Work Visas, Eagan Immigration, (Mar. 28, 2024), Webinar: Self-Petition Options for U.S. Work Visas (youtube.com) 

How can I prove that my work will “prospectively benefit substantially the U.S.”? Do I quality for the EB-1A visa? Scott Legal, P.C., (Apr. 8, 2020), Qualifying and Understanding EB-1A Visa | Scott Legal, P.C. (legalservicesincorporated.com). 

Matter of Price, U.S. Department of Justice, (Dec. 29, 1994), Matter of Price (justice.gov). 

Victoria Chen, Esq., J.D.,  Case Study: EB1-A Appeal of a Master Chef is Sustained and Petitioned is Approved by the AAO, Chen Immigration Blog, (Dec. 30, 2011), Case Study: EB1-A Appeal of a Master Chef is Sustained and Petition is Approved by the AAO. | Chen Immigration Blog (wegreened.com) 

Victoria Chef, Esq. J.D., Case Study: AAO Sustained an EB-1A Appeal of Petition of Behalf of an Inventor, Chen Immigration Blog, (Dec. 31, 2011), Case Study: AAO Sustained an EB1-A Appeal of Petition on Behalf of an Inventor | Chen Immigration Blog (wegreened.com). 

G-1055, Fee Schedule: I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, USCIS, (last updated: Apr. 1, 2024), Fee Schedule | USCIS, (last visited: Apr. 11, 2024). 

Processing Times, USCIS, Processing Times (uscis.gov), (last visited: Apr. 15, 2024). 

G-1055, Fee Schedule: I-907 Request for Premium Processing, USCIS, (last updated: Apr. 1, 2024), Fee Schedule | USCIS, (last visited: Apr. 11, 2024). 

G-1055, Fee Schedule: I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, USCIS, (last updated: Apr. 1, 2024), Fee Schedule | USCIS, (last visited: Apr. 11, 2024). 

Fees for Visa Services, U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, Fees for Visa Services (state.gov), (last visited: Apr. 16, 2024).