Everything You Need to Know about the EB-1 Visa

The EB-1 visa is usually reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities or those who have made significant contributions to their profession.
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by | Last updated Mar 3, 2020 | Published on Jul 26, 2018 | Immigration

EB-1 stands for “employment-based immigration – first preference.” This visa is for individuals with extraordinary abilities who want to live and work in the United States.

Of all the employment-based visas, the EB-1 visa is the most difficult to obtain.

In general, EB-1 applicants are considering outstanding in their field. It covers jobs ranging from notable businessmen to musicians and world-renowned professors.

The EB-1 visa is a permanent immigration visa. This means people with EB-1 visas can live and work in the U.S. for as long as they like.

In this way, EB-1 visa holders are automatically eligible for a green card.

USCIS defines three subcategories individuals may file under in order to receive an EB-1 visa. These subcategories give EB-1A, EB-1B, and EB-1C visas.

In this post, we’ll go over each of these types in detail.

Extraordinary Abilities in General

The first way of applying for an EB-1 visa is by showing you have a generally extraordinary ability. In this path, you’ll specifically file for the EB-1A visa subcategory.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) generally reserves these applications for extremely notable individuals.

For example, these applications could apply to world-renowned artists or thought leaders in certain fields.

For lesser-known applicants, applying for other visas types such as the EB-2 might be a better option.

Show an Achievement or Award

The simplest way of proving your worth is by showing that you’ve received a significantly important achievement or award that qualifies you as “extraordinary.”

To count towards your visa, these awards must be easily recognizable.

Examples of significantly important awards include OscarsOlympic medalsPulitzer Prizes, or other similarly notable achievements.

Meeting 3 Other Criteria

The much more common way of applying for the EB-1A visa subcategory is by meeting 3 out of any of the 10 criteria listed below.

The USCIS has an official list of 10 ways you can show extraordinary ability. If you can meet at least 3 of the 10, you’ll qualify for an EB-1 visa.

Of course, the USCIS will ask for proof of these achievements during your application process.

These 10 achievements and awards include:

  1. Notable international and national awards for excellence in your field.
  2. Membership in an exclusive organization in your field.
  3. A leadership role in an exclusive organization in your field.
  4. Judging, as an expert, another’s work in your field (as an individual or on a panel).
  5. Having another distinguished member of your field publish material about you in a trade or professional journal.
  6. Writing notable articles in trade or professional journals.
  7. Contributing in some other significant way to your field.
  8. Obtaining an abnormally high salary compared to others in your field.
  9. For artists: showing that your work has appeared in significant showcases and exhibitions.
  10. For performing artists: showing that you’ve been commercially successful in the performing arts.

As opposed to the other EB-1 variations, this method allows applicants to apply on their own merit.

Put another way, their significant achievements mean they don’t need a U.S.-based business to sponsor their application.

If you plan on applying in this way, you should fill out Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.

Outstanding Professor or Researcher

“Extraordinary ability” can also refer to abilities in academics and research.

Like the other categories, you can show proof of these abilities by meeting certain standards assigned by the USCIS.

This specific path leads towards an EB-1B visa.

If you’re filing for this type of visa, you only need to meet 2 of the following 6 criteria:

  1. Major awards or prizes for achievement in your field of study.
  2. Membership in exclusive academic associations (where members must be outstanding in their field).
  3. Articles or other material that is published about you by others in your field.
  4. Authoring books or articles in major publications.
  5. Significant and original research in your field.
  6. Being asked to judge another’s work as an expert in your field (as a panel or individually).

If you are seeking an EB-1 visa based on being an outstanding professor or researcher, you must also have three years of teaching and research experience in your area.

In addition, you can only enter the U.S. after a university invites you for a tenure-track or research position.

Unlike the “extraordinary ability” classification above, you must have a sponsor for this method.

Usually, your future employer (the higher learning institution) will file on your behalf.

Multinational Managers and Executives

Finally, influential managers and executives can also enter the U.S. with an EB-1 visa.

This is because of their extraordinary abilities in business management.

Keeping with the other two types, managers and executives applying for this visa will file under the EB-1C subcategory.

In order to qualify for an EB-1 visa in this way, you’ll have to meet all of the following criteria:

  1. A U.S. business has employed you for at least 1 of the last 3 years.
  2. That year of employment must have been as a manager or executive for the company.
  3. That year of employment must have been outside of the U.S.

In addition, your host company must also meet the following requirements:

  1. The employer petitioning on your behalf must be a registered U.S. company.
  2. That company must be the same company, or an affiliated company, to the one you worked for abroad.

Similar to the EB-1B subcategory, your employer must file Form I-140 on your behalf for you to receive an EB-1 visa.


The EB-1 visa is for people who have extraordinary abilities. Of all the employment-based visas, this one is the most difficult to obtain.

USCIS breaks these abilities down into 3 categories:

  1. Extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, sciences, business, or education,
  2. Outstanding professors and researchers
  3. Multinational managers or executives.

In order to qualify for an EB-1 visa in one of these categories, you’ll have to meet several USCIS criteria.

In some cases, you’ll also need a position waiting for you in the United States.

If you plan to apply for an EB-1 visa, talk to an immigration attorney first.

An attorney can help you understand whether or not you actually meet the requirements for an EB-1 visa, and can give you solid advice on the best ways to avoid immigration hurdles along the way.

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Ben Williams

Ben is a Richmond, Virginia immigration attorney, and a founding partner of Tingen & Williams. Ben leads the firm's immigration practice. Read More.

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