People who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field of expertise can qualify for an EB-1(a) visa. A person with extraordinary ability is a person who is at the top of his or her field of expertise. This expertise must be in business, the arts, sciences, education or athletics. A successful EB-1(a) extraordinary ability candidate is eligible for a green card for permanent residency in the U.S. This differs from an O-1 visa, which is for people with extraordinary ability who will only work in the U.S. temporarily.
To apply for a visa based on extraordinary ability, an applicant must file an application, including form I-140 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under the EB-1(a) category, people of extraordinary ability do not need an employer to sponsor their application, but can apply on their own. Furthermore, they do not need a job offer at the time of the application, nor do they need to file a labor certification.
However, successful applicants must show documentation that they have an extraordinary ability which has been recognized either nationally or internationally, and that they will continue to work in their field of expertise in the U.S. If an applicant does not have a job offer, this can be demonstrated through letters from potential employers, other proof of some form of employment commitment, or even an applicant’s own description of the intended work in the U.S. Lastly, an applicant must demonstrate that his or her entry into the country will benefit the U.S.
The key to a successful application is the ability to prove extraordinary ability. An applicant’s expertise must be recognized in the field by “sustained or international acclaim.” There is no clear indication of how long the acclaim must last, just that it be “maintained.” This may be shown by a one-time achievement such as receipt of a major award recognized around the world, such as a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize. Fortunately, the regulations allow an applicant who may not have received an award such as the Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, to demonstrate sustained acclaim in their field by showing a combination of at least three, and hopefully more, of the following:
2.) Membership in an association in his or her field that requires its members to have extraordinary achievements.
3.) Professional journals or other major media have published articles about the applicant.
4.) The applicant has judged the work of others in his or her field of expertise.
5.) The applicant’s scientific, artistic, scholarly, athletic or business-related works that have had a major impact on his or her field of expertise.
6.) Scholarly articles written by the applicant in his or her field of expertise have been published in professional journals or other major media.
7.) The applicant’s work has been on display internationally in artistic exhibitions or showcases.
8.) The applicant has played a leading or critical role for organizations with distinguished reputations.
9.) The applicant’s salary is higher than most other people’s in his or her field.
10.) The applicant has had commercial success in the performing arts, such as box office receipts or music sales.
USCIS considers the weight of an applicant’s documentation of extraordinary ability to determine whether an applicant in at the top of his or her field of expertise. The more documentation an applicant can provide for any of these categories, the better his or her chances are that the application will be approved. USCIS cannot request that an applicant meet a specific one of the criteria on the list, but it may decide that an applicant does not have enough evidence to show extraordinary ability. In this case, USCIS may require that an applicant provide additional evidence. “Comparable evidence,” such as expert opinion letters, may also be submitted if the criteria are not applicable to the particular field of expertise.
The quality of documentation submitted has a huge impact on the chances of success. Choosing the type of evidence to submit takes knowledge, skill and care. Our attorneys have years of experience, which enables us to provide expert guidance on how to improve the chances of a successful application for a visa for persons with extraordinary ability.