EB-1a Visa: Extraordinary Ability (Green Card)

Requirements, Documents & Application Process

The EB-1a Visa, also known as the Extraordinary Ability green card, is part of the EB-1 Employment-Based set of permanent residency visas.

Obtaining an EB-1a visa requires significant effort and preparation to build a strong case.

Other EB-1 Category Green Cards

  • EB-1b – Outstanding Researcher / Professor
  • EB-1c – Multinational Executive / Manager

What are EB-1 Visas?

The EB-1 visa is an employment-based green card available to foreign nationals who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field, whether the sciences, the arts, education, business, or athletics. Evidence proving extraordinary is by "sustained national or international acclaim."

EB-1a Requirements for Extraordinary Ability

  1. Winning a national or international award, whether as an individual or as part of a company or team (or having coached a third party who went on to win great recognition), is a valuable piece of evidence to prove extraordinary ability.
  2. The second notable criterion is membership of an association or group that sets a high achievement threshold to qualify, which experts must judge. A simple paid membership would not be eligible.
  3. The third main category of criteria features high-profile publications, such as major trade magazines or media (not local press).

Other types of evidence to support your application may include notable achievements or contributions within your sector, such as inventions and patents, along with commanding a high salary or running a profitable enterprise.

Extraordinary Ability: You may apply for an EB-1a yourself by filing a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, but due to the complexity of filing it is not recommended.

Benefits of an EB-1a Green Card

The EB-1a visa is seen as a particularly desirable Green Card because:

  • EB-1 visa priority dates are "current," which means the wait can be a lot shorter than for other Green Cards.
  • It is also unnecessary to go through the PERM process (where the Department of Labor would need to establish that existing U.S.-based workers could fill the same position).
  • The spouse and any minor children of the green card holder may also be eligible for admission into the United States under E-14 or E-15 immigrant status.

For these reasons, EB-1a visa applications are subject to strict scrutiny, and they are among the most difficult visas to obtain.

USCIS Qualifications for an EB-1a Visa

The evidence submitted must meet at least 3 out of 10 criteria set by USCIS or provide proof of a truly exceptional single achievement.

  • You can demonstrate extraordinary ability in your field (sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics) through sustained national or international acclaim.
  • Having membership of one or more associations in the field that require outstanding achievement as a condition of membership.
  • Proof of published material about the beneficiary in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence of having been invited to judge the work of others, whether as an individual or part of an expert panel.
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly books or articles (in scholarly journals with international circulation) in the field.
  • Evidence of performance in a leading or critical role in respected organizations.
  • And possibly evidence of commanding a high salary (or other significantly high remuneration) compared to others in the field.
  • Published material in professional publications written by others about the beneficiary's work in the academic field.
  • Original scientific or scholarly research contributions in the field.

(Source: USCIS)

We typically recommend obtaining references from around ten independent experts who can validate the evidence, proving that any publications or citations are relevant and meet the minimum requirements. OnlineVisas has substantial experience in helping to source credible and reliable expert references for EB-1b petitions.

See File My Application Online for more information on filing fees.

EB-1a Green Card Process and Documentation

According to USCIS, as the named Form I-140 beneficiary, you should submit the following documentation and evidence to apply as for an employment-based green card as an immigrant currently in the U.S.:

  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for Form I-140, filed on your behalf (unless you are filing your Form I-485 together with the Form I-140);
  • Form I-485 Supplement J (unless filing Form I-485 with Form I-140 or adjusting status based on a National Interest Waiver or as an alien of extraordinary ability), to confirm that the job offered to you in Form I-140 remains a bona fide job offer that you intend to accept once your Form I-485 is approved; and
  • Signed statement of intention to work in the occupational field specified in Form I-140 if you are a self-petitioner;
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Passport page with nonimmigrant visa;
  • Passport page with admission/parole stamp;
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document.

Note: You can print the paper version of Form I-94 from the CBP website if CBP provides you with an electronic version.

Note: A "Relative" is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is your husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister;

Note: Each form requires you to submit the correct filing fee unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver. Consult USCIS' Filing Fees and Fee Schedule for more information.

See the Instructions for Form I-485 and Tips for Filing Forms with USCIS for more information on applying for adjustment of status.

Attorney Tips for EB-1a Green Card Applicants

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