The first preference, employment-based visa for individuals of extraordinary ability (EB-1A) offers an attractive option for foreign nationals who have earned a certain level of acclaim in their field to live and work in the United States. This visa is one of the few employment-based visas that allow for self-sponsorship, which allows individuals to work independently or for multiple employers in the United States. In determining whether an applicant qualifies for an EB-1A visa, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) performs a two-step analysis that involves both subjective and objective review of a foreign national’s past history of achievement in their area of expertise. This two-part process of qualifying for an extraordinary ability visa presents issues for many applicants who may rely solely on the plain language of the regulations in submitting their applications.
How is “extraordinary ability” determined?
For purposes of the EB-1A visa, USCIS defines an individual with extraordinary ability as someone who has demonstrated sustained national or international acclaim in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics and whose achievements have been recognized by others in their field through extensive documentation. Because this visa category includes all professions, this documentation of achievement can take a variety of forms depending on the area of acclaim. For example, a scientist may present evidence of innovation, citations, and university research positions while an actress may present evidence of box office success and media publications.
The criteria for extraordinary ability must be met
USCIS utilizes a two-step approach in determining whether an individual has achieved a level of acclaim for EB-1A approval. The first step can be established in one of two ways: achieving a major, internationally recognized award (such as an Olympic Gold Medal, Emmy Award, Academy Award Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize). If you have not obtained these major international awards, the first step can be established by demonstrating that at least three of ten enumerated criteria are established by a preponderance of the evidence.
Once this individual demonstrates they have met three of the ten criteria or received a one-time achievement, USCIS will then perform a ‘final merits determination’ taking into account all evidence provided to determine if they have been recognized as one of the top few in their fields internationally and has attained a sustained level of international acclaim.
Getting an EB-1A visa may require legal assistance
Although the term “extraordinary” might seem mundane, because each individual’s achievements and areas of expertise vary, an approvable petition can take several different forms. An experienced immigration attorney is invaluable in determining how to best meet this complicated series of requirements and to assist you in obtaining an EB-1A visa. David Hirson & Partners, LLP has extensive experience in assisting extraordinary individuals in the arts, athletics, businesses, education, and sciences in navigating this complicated process.