EB1A Visa Eligibility Criteria: A Complete Guide
Updated on 11/18/2023
To qualify for an EB1A visa, you will need to prove extraordinary ability in your field of endeavor – a very high, but not impossible, standard to meet. To judge extraordinary ability,the USCIS will firstreview your EB1A petition packet according to the eligibility criteria set out in the immigration regulations. In this article, we will go through each of the eligibility criteria in depth, including examples of qualifying evidence, so you can better understand how to best present your case for an EB1A visa.
Eligibility Criteria Review of EB1A Visa
The eligibility criteria for an EB1A visa are set out in the immigration regulations (8 CFR § 204.5). To qualify for an EB1A visa, the USCIS officer will review your petition packet forevidence of either A) a one-time achievement or B) three of the eligibility criteria listed in the regulations. If the Petitioner cannot provide evidence of either, their EB1A visa petition will be denied.
Receipt of a One-time Achievement for EB1A Visa
If you can provide evidence that you have received a one-time achievement, in the form of a major international award, you will have satisfied the eligibility criteria review and do not need to provide evidence of three of the listed criteria that follow.
Unfortunately, almost no Petitioners qualify this way as very few awards actually qualify as one-time achievements. For an award to count as such, it has to be so prestigious that it is most likely a household name. Examples include a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, or an Olympic Gold Medal.
Detailed list of Eligibility Criteria of EB1A Visa
If the Petitioner cannot prove a one-time achievement, the Petitioner must then provide evidence demonstrating that they meet at least three of the following eligibility criteria in order to qualify for EB1A visa:
1. Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
The awards that qualify under this criterion are one step down from the awards that qualify for the one-time achievement, but they must still be at a national or international level in scope, extremely prestigious, difficult to obtain, and in your field of expertise.
As many of these awards will not be household names, especially those given in technical fields, when presenting evidence for receipt of an award in this category, the Petitioner will need to prove the following:
- The award is difficult to obtain, and in your field – You will need to attach evidence summarizing what the award is, whom it is awarded to, how often it is given, what itseligibility criteria are, how many people were nominated, and how nominees are selected. You need to show that the process is extremely competitive and selective. Websites for awards often contain information about rules and the selection process which may be accepted as evidence. Letters from the award committee would also serve this purpose.
- The award is prestigious – You must show that this is a recognized award in your field. You may use media coverage of the award, such as newspapers or trade publications, or expert testimony as methods of demonstrating that the award is recognized.
- Receipt of the award – You will need to provide evidence that you won the award. This will mean having your name on the award or, if it is a team award, proving that you were a member of the team.
Other things to keep in mind:
- A team award is less valuable than an individual award.
- Local awards do not count e.g., aphysics award for Mexico City scientists will not be accepted but one open to all of Latin America may.
- Student awards, Academic Scholarships, and Grants generally are not accepted.
2. Membership in Associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their fields
The USCIS is looking for membership in associations that would indicate that the Petitioner is seen as accomplished, even among his or her colleagues. Therefore, the more exclusive and rigorous the organization’s membership criteria are, the more weight is given to the Petitioner’s claim of extraordinary ability. The Petitioner will have to show the following when submitting evidence under this criterion:
- Proof of membership – Petitioner will need to attach evidence, such as membership cards, certificates, or letters from the organization, to show they are a member in good standing of the association.
- The association is in your field – Petitioner will need to provide the USCIS witha summary of the organization, including its mission statement and its connection to your field of expertise. Detailed information is often found on anassociation’s website or inother organizational materials.
- Membership is exclusive – Associations that are open to all members of a field will be considered but given much less weight than organizations that are more selective. To show that membership in an organization is exclusive, you will need to provide evidence of the organization’s membership criteria, the organization’s membership selection process, and the number of members in the organization. Letters from experts in the field explaining the importance and exclusivity of membership in an organization will lend weight to the prestige of an organization.
3. Published material about Petitioner in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to the Petitioner's work in the field for which classification is sought
When submitting evidence in this criterion, the Petitioner should submit the actual article written about them, should fully cite and reference the article in their cover letter, and should provide a webpage for the article (if applicable).
The article published about the Petitioner must reference the Petitioner’s work in his or her field. It is not enough to have a story written about you in the newspaper, it must be about your work.
If the article is in a professional or trade publication, it will be beneficial to show that the publication qualifies as “major media”, even if is only important in your particular field. To do this you should provide information about the publication for the benefit of the USCIS officer, including its history, mission statement, readership numbers,and any other evidence that lends weight to it being a major publication.
For this criterion, simple academic citations of your work do not count, even if they are numerous.
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
The USCIS is looking for evidence that you are considered accomplished enough in your field to sit in judgment of your colleagues’ work. Therefore, the more prestigious the publication your review appears in or the more impressive the award nominees you are judging, the more weight your evidence will be given.
Examples of qualifying evidence in this category are peer-reviewing scientific articles or sitting on the selection committee for an award.
5. Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
Submitting evidence of a contribution of major significance in your field should generally occur in three steps:
- Evidence of the contribution – You must first present the USCIS proof of your contribution. If your contribution was scientific research, your evidence may be a peer-reviewed article you wrote about your findings or a presentation at a conference you made about the research. Another example is a patent for an invention you created if you are an engineer.
- Explaining the contribution – Second, you must explain to the USCIS what exactly your contribution is in non-technical terms. Letters from experts in your field are useful for this as can be used to summarize what your scientific research or patent means in a concise and simple way for the officer reviewing your petition.
- Showing the contribution is of major significance to your field – There are numerous ways of showing that your contribution is significant to your field. You can again utilize letters from experts to explain how important your contribution is, hopefully with concrete examples of how it has affected others’ work. For scientific research, you can submit evidenceof how many times your work has been cited and built on by others. You can provide proof of grants or private investments you have received to show that the US government or private industry believes your work is of importance and that you are revolutionizing your field. You may also submit newspaper and trade articles that explain how important the work is that you are doing.
6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media
When submitting evidence under this criterion, the Petitioner should submit the actual article which they authored, should fully cite and reference the article in their cover letter, and should provide a webpage for the article (if applicable).
The prestige of the publication lends weight to the evidence as a demonstration of extraordinary ability, so you should write a summary of each of the publications you are featured in.You should explain the publication’s history, mission statement, and accolades.It is likely that the USCIS officer will not be familiar with publications in your specialized field so this will help themmake a determination of your evidence’s worth. Many scientific journals have an Impact Factor or other metric that can be used to demonstrate their importance in their field which should be included. And above all, a scientific journal should be peer-reviewed if it is to be given credence.
Any articles submitted must be related to your field of endeavor or they will not be considered.
7. Evidence of the display of the Petitioner's work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases
The USCIS does not stipulate a minimum threshold of size or prestige for the event displaying your work, so you may submit evidence from any event in which your work is featured. Though it is likely that showcases in major museums and art galleries will be given more weight as evidence.
You should submit evidence of both the event and your work to the USCIS. This includes posters and advertisements for the exhibition and any media articles covering it. Any mention of your work should be highlighted, and if your name is not mentioned, you may submit photos of your art at the event.
8. Evidence that the Petitioner has performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation
When submitting evidence under this criterion, you will need to prove that both:
- the organization you worked for is distinguished; and
- you performed a critical role in the organization.
You may use many different forms of evidence to prove that an organization is distinguished. If you worked at a research university, for example, you may cite the university rankings found in numerous publications to show that it is highly regarded in your area of research. Information can often be found on the University’s website and in recruiting materials which can also be cited as evidence. This may include stats about how many Nobel Prize winners are on the faculty, the number of grants the department has received, and the amount of patents alumni in your field have generated.
To demonstrate you played a critical role in the organization, you must first start by submitting evidence that you worked at the organization. This would mean submitting a work contract or letter of employment.
To demonstrate that your role was critical, you may submit letters from people who knew of your work in the organization and who will explain what your duties were and why they werevital. Including concrete examples of what made your work critical – how many people you managed, your specialized knowledge and skills, and the ways you improved the organization in ways others could not–will give your evidence more weight. If there is any media coverage of your work in the organization that portrays you as vital, that should be included as well.
9. Evidence that the Petitioner has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field
The USCIS understands that certain professions command a higher salary than others, so it is not looking for evidence that you commanded a high salary in pure dollars. What you need to prove is that you made a high salary compared to your colleagues.
You will need to submit evidence of your salary in the form of tax returns, paystubs, or work contracts. This criterion includes all remuneration for work, so you may count bonuses, if they were regular, and non-cash compensation such as stock options.
You will then need to submit evidence of what the average salary of someone in your field is for comparison. This may take the form of private or government data charts, industry publications, or newspaper and magazine articles.
10. Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts, or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales
You should include as evidence both the number of units sold and the dollar amounts made to show that your commercial success is widespread in terms of both the number of people reached and the money earned.
11. If the above standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary's occupation, the Petitioner may submit comparable evidence to establish the beneficiary's eligibility.
If your profession does not easily lend itself to any or most of these criteria, you may provide evidence that closely mirrors one or some of these criteria.
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