EB-2 stands for “employment-based immigration – second preference.” This visa is generally reserved for people with graduate-level degrees, or those who display exceptional talents in their field.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about EB-2 visas. This overview will include all of the different ways you can apply for an EB-2 visa at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or U.S. consulate.
What is an EB-2 Visa?
EB-2 visas apply to individuals that either (1) hold an advanced degree, or (2) display exceptional abilities in their field. For example, professors, businessmen, and prominent researchers can all apply for this visa.
More specifically, EB-2 visas are given to people who fall under one of the following two definitions:
- Individuals who have completed a higher education program comparable to a U.S. graduate degree.
- Workers that display “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.“
Unlike the similar EB-1 process, however, the EB-2 visa normally doesn’t allow you to self-sponsor a green card. EB-2 applicants must instead gain the support of a U.S.-based business that will sponsor the visa on their behalf. Further, the sponsoring business must also file with the U.S. Department of Labor for a Permanent Labor Certification (Perm).
USCIS breaks down the EB-2 qualifiers into two main subcategories: EB-2A and EB-2B. In addition, USCIS also places the National Interest Waiver under the EB-2 umbrella. This waiver basically excludes you from needing a business’s sponsorship, allowing you to self-sponsor.
The easiest way of obtaining an EB-2 visa is by showing USCIS that you hold a significantly advanced degree in your field. This process falls under the EB-2A subcategory.
In general, applicants that would fit this requirement either:
- Hold degrees at the level of a U.S. master’s degree; or
- Are above, or comparable to, similar individuals in their field that hold a U.S. master’s degree.
For example, an applicant with a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) in an area related to their field can apply for an EB-2A visa under the second definition. However, they must also prove they possess a similar competency to similar workers who hold graduate degrees.
As a base guideline for what you can expect, USCIS usually approves EB-2 visas for applicants with both a bachelor’s degree and 5 years of full-time experience in their fields
Either way, you’ll have to provide extensive documentation of your qualifications to USCIS. Official academic records of your degree, as well as proof your your employment in the field, are required.
As an alternative for those without advanced degrees (or who don’t meet the working requirements detailed above), you can instead apply under the EB-2B subcategory. The EB-2B category covers people with exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business.
When applying for an EB-2B visa, you must hand over at least 3 individual records proving your exceptional ability. USCIS specifically notes the following 6 criteria as examples on their website. However, other comparable achievements may meet this requirement as well:
- Official academic records proving you have a bachelor’s degree, or similar award, relating to your exceptional ability.
- Written proof documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your field.
- An official license, or comparable certification, relating to your profession.
- Evidence of a salary significantly higher than the average pay for your position.
- Proof of membership or leadership in professional associations.
- Notable recognition of your achievements from your peers, government bodies, or other comparable organizations.
So, for example, if you (1) graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spain, (2) received an official license for your job, and (3) entered into some kind of professional association in your field, you could meet the requirements for EB-2B visa.
However, as with most all immigration cases, the final say comes down to the official in charge of your specific application.
National Interest Waiver
The National Interest Waiver is the final way to enter the U.S. on an EB-2 visa. Essentially, if you can perform a job that USCIS considers “in the national interest,” you may apply for this waiver. While rare, this waiver does offer another path for aliens planning on moving to the U.S. for work.
The point of this waiver is actually quite simple. Applicants who fulfill the EB-2 requirements can petition for this waiver if their project provides substantial benefits to the U.S. as a whole. The major benefit for the petitioner is that they can skip over the entire employer-sponsor process and self-petition. This saves them months (if not years) in waiting times and hundreds of dollars in fees.
There are no real statutory lists for which jobs fall under this waiver. USCIS generally approves these applications on a case-by-case basis. However, National Interest Waiver applicants commonly fulfill all the requirements found in the EB-2B above, as well as hold a few other specific traits.
Requirements for the National Interest Waiver
According to the Matter of Dhanasar decision from 2016, National Interest Waiver applicants much fulfill three requirements:
- Their proposed endeavor must have both substantial merit and national importance.
- The petitioner is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.
- It must generally be beneficial to the United States as a whole to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements.
Remember, USCIS doesn’t give out these waivers simply because of a shortage of workers in an individual field. You must prove that your qualifications are greater than the average U.S. worker with the same qualifications for the job. Whether or not such a worker can be found.
Applying for an EB-2 Visa
In most cases your employer will file for your EB-2 visa on your behalf. However, National Interest Waiver applicants may also perform all the following steps on their own. Further, knowing the steps involved with your visa can help you in the future.
The process itself is quite simple. However, figuring out exactly which forms to file, and where to file them, can sometimes be tricky. There are the general steps you should follow.
First, your employer will file for a Permanent Labor Certification (PERM) with the U.S. Department of Labor. This basically certifies that the job is open to U.S. applicants and pays a reasonable amount of money. Your employer must also actively search for available U.S. applicants, else the Department of Labor may reject their application.
The Department of Labor will approve this certification after your employer shows they advertised the job properly and thoroughly searched for U.S. applicants. Generally, this is done by filling out Form ETA-9089.
Second, the employer will file Form I-140 with USCIS on your behalf. This form allows alien workers to live and work in the U.S. permanently. This is the form that will specify that you’re applying for the EB-2 visa.
After USCIS receives your application, they will give you an EB-2 priority date. Think of this date as your spot in the waiting line. Those with an earlier date will be approved first, while those with later dates may have to wait months or even years for their visa.
Lastly, you’ll have to actually apply for your green card. If you’re outside of the U.S. you should go to the nearest consulate for a one-on-one immigration interview. If you pass this interview, all you need to do is wait for your official approval to arrive in the mail.
Applicants already in the U.S. should instead file for an adjustment of status using Form I-485. This will essentially change your visa status over to your new EB-2 visa.
The overall length of the EB-2 process can vary wildly based on the specifics of your case:
- Receiving your PERM certification – 6 months to 2 years.
- Filing Form I-140 – 6 months (if there are no complications).
- Your employer can lower this period to 15 days by paying the Premium Processing Service for an additional fee.
- Filing form I-485 – 6 months (if there are no complications).
So, at its shortest the EB-2 process can last for a few months. At its longest, the EB-2 process can last several years. Further, applicants from popular countries such as India and China may also have to wait for an additional few years. This is due to restrictions on exactly how many EB visas the U.S. can approve each year.
For these reasons, it’s highly recommended you consult with an experienced immigration attorney before starting the process in full.
Can I Bring My Family?
Yes, the EB-2 visa does allow you to bring your family with you. Your spouse and any children under the age of 21 (who are not married) may apply for immigration status. They are also eligible to file for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) while you are both permanent residents.
Your spouse will apply for E21 status while any unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for E22 status.
USCIS allows experienced individuals to apply for permanent visas in the U.S. under the EB-2 program. Generally, these individuals will have their new employers apply on their behalf. Of the five Employment-Based visas, the EB-2 visa is slightly harder to obtain, but also provides many benefits to successful applicants.
If you have an advanced degree, an exceptional ability, or think you may qualify for the National Interest Waiver, the EB-2 visa can be a relatively quick an easy way to enter the U.S. permanently for work. However, always consult with an attorney before applying for this visa.
An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate the many pitfalls of the application and make sure you’re fully prepared for the lengthy process when start your application.