Overview of the EB-1A Green Card

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Understanding the EB-1A Visa

The EB-1A classification, or Alien of Extraordinary Ability, is essentially an achievement-based category for green card applicants. Individuals who qualify for this opportunity have shown extraordinary ability in their particular field of endeavor, which has in turn allowed them to rise to the top of their profession.

Unlike with labor-based certifications, EB-1A individuals notably do not require the sponsorship of a U.S. employer or university to qualify for a green card.


Generally, an EB-1A alien will meet one of the two following criteria:

  1. He/she has demonstrated extraordinary achievement and ability in either the arts, sciences, education, athletics, or business fields via national and international recognition. Examples would be winning an Academy Award (Oscar) or being awarded the Nobel Prize.
  2. He/She has garnered accomplishments and achievements that has been previously vetted by extensive and comprehensive documentation via recognized authorities in their field.

Alternative Qualifications

Even if the alien has not yet garnered a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, or other internationally recognized accomplishment, an EB-1A applicant can still establish him/herself as extraordinary in their field if they can show documentation of at least three of the following:

  • Receipt of lesser known prizes, awards, and commendations that recognize and celebrate high achievement.
  • Being a member in good standing of an association where membership requires exemplary and extraordinary achievement, as vetted by recognized experts in that field.
  • Ample published materials in well-known and major publications, written by other authors that examine and discuss the alien’s work and exploits.
  • Serving as a judge (in an official capacity) of the work and exploits of colleagues and contemporaries.
  • Major, original, artistic and scholarly offerings and contributions to the alien’s field of endeavor.
  • Articles and publications that have garnered critical acclaim.
  • Shows and exhibits where the alien’s work was featured or on display.
  • Leadership post or role in an organization with a noteworthy and respected national/international reputation.
  • Significantly higher salary or remuneration when compared to contemporaries and colleagues.
  • Commercial success as evidenced by substantial sales, units and tickets sold, and/or gate receipts across standard sources of intellectual media (i.e. CDs, books, DVD’s. etc.).

Even when meeting three or more of the above criteria, the alien must not only demonstrate that they will continue to pursue their work while here in the U.S., but that their work will benefit prospectively the United States.

The EB-1A category in a lot of ways is very similar to the O-1 visa application, but the standard of review is much higher.

Pros and Cons of an EB-1A Petition

There are several pros and cons of attempting to obtain a green card through the EB-1A designation as opposed to other employment based green card categories.


  • No requirement for a job offer from a U.S. employer
  • No requirement for a PERM labor certification
  • Considerably faster than most other employment based green card categories
  • Allows for self-petitioning, as no sponsorship is required


  • Petitioner must show extraordinary, not merely competent or good, achievement in his/her field. Essentially, it is a very high standard of achievement that few can meet.
  • There exists an increased element of unpredictability when opting for the EB-1A, since the qualifications and criteria are somewhat abstract.

For help with the EB-1A Green Card, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online.

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2015 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.