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EB-1A Extraordinary Ability

The EB-1A is an immigrant visa for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, and athletics. This visa can be self-petitioned and does require a job offer from an U.S. employer. The foreign national must have the intention to enter the United States to continue working in his or her field.

General Requirements

Extraordinary ability is defined as a level of expertise held by a small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of the field. This requires showing sustained national or international acclaim and achievements that are recognized in the field of expertise. To demonstrate extraordinary ability, one must provide:

  • Evidence of a one-time achievement of a major, internationally recognized award; or
  • Evidence that satisfies at least three of the 10 statutory criteria for evidence of sustained national or international acclaim.
One-Time Achievement

A foreign national may qualify for EB-1A based on a one-time achievement in the form of a major, internationally recognized award. Examples of such an award would be the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, an Olympic Medal, or a Wimbledon title. There are many awards that can qualify if they represent the highest level of recognition in a field.

Evidence of Sustained National or International Acclaim

Without a one-time achievement, one can still qualify for EB-1A by meeting three (3) of the ten (10) regulatory criteria below.

  1. Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of Endeavor

    The prize or award should indicate excellence and achievement in the relevant field of expertise. It should also demonstrate recognition on a national or international level. Regional or local awards are not as persuasive. Similarly, academic awards and honors generally do not demonstrate national or international acclaim. If the prize or award is issued to a team or company, then it is important to document the individual’s achievements within the team or company which led to the achievement.
  2. Evidence of membership in associations in the field of which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields

    This foreign national needs to demonstrate that he or she is a member of an association and that outstanding achievements in the relevant field is essential for membership in that association. The evidentiary focus should be on the membership criteria. Specifically, that outstanding achievements in the field is an essential condition for becoming a member.
  3. Published material about the foreign national in professional or major trade publications or other major media relating to the foreign national’s work in the field for which classification is sought

    This criterion may be satisfied by providing materials published about the foreign national. The publications should show that he or she has risen to the top of the field. The published materials should be primarily about the foreign national’s work and achievements. Furthermore, the publication should be from a reputable source such as a professional journal, trade publication, or major news media outlet that has national or international circulation.
  4. Evidence of participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought

    The foreign national must serve as a judge of the work of others in the field. Some examples include conducting peer review for a scholarly journal, serving as part of a Ph.D. dissertation committee that makes final judgment on whether the candidate’s work meets the doctoral degree requirements, and judging the work of fellow experienced professionals.
  5. Evidence of original, scholarly, artistic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field

    The contribution should have changed the field in a way that is recognized to be significant by peers. If the contribution was part of a collaborative effort, then it is important to highlight the foreign national’s role in that collaboration. The type of evidence appropriate for satisfying this criterion varies depending on the field of expertise.
  6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade publications, or other major media

    Articles where the foreign national is the sole author are typically given more weight. If there are more than one author, then it is important to highlight the foreign national’s role in its authorship. The reputation of the publication in which an article is featured should also be considered.
  7. Evidence of display of the foreign national’s work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases

    It is important to provide evidence of the prestige of the exhibition or showcase. Furthermore, the foreign national’s work should be a significant part of that exhibition or showcase.
  8. Evidence that the foreign national has performed a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation

    Ideally, the foreign national have played a leading or critical role for the organization as a whole. But if the role is for a department or division of the organization, then is important to show the significance of that department or division in the overall success of the organization. In the context of team-based sports, the foreign national’s leadership contributions should be highlighted.
  9. Evidence that the foreign national has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field

    A key part of this criterion is “in relation to others.” This means both evidence of the foreign nationals earnings and earnings of individuals in the field need to be provided. The evidence should be from the country in which the foreign national earned his or her salary or remuneration.
  10. Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disc, or video sales

    This criterion requires evidence that demonstrate commercial success based on sales figures. For example, a publication describing the critical acclaim of a production would not be enough, it must also provide information of the production’s success in terms of sales.
Comparable Evidence

If the regulatory criteria do not readily apply to the foreign national’s field, comparable evidence can be submitted to establish eligibility. It is not necessary to show that all or most of the criteria do not apply. Rather, one must explain why a particular criterion does not apply to the foreign national’s field and why the alternative evidence is appropriate. There is no comparable evidence of a one-time achievement of a major, internationally recognized award.

Dependent Family Members

Spouse and minor children can be granted immigrant visa status as dependents. Special attention to the petition process is required if children are approaching 21 years old.

Application Process

An immigrant petition with documentary evidence establishing eligibility must be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This petition may be submitted via the premium processing option offered by USCIS. Those already in the United States under lawful status may apply for an adjustment of status upon the approval of the petition. If the foreign national is overseas, he or she must obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

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