After the 2022 massive wave of tech layoffs, thousands of tech workers from the tech giants Meta, Amazon, Google, Apple, and many others found themselves scrambling to find new jobs, not to lose their rights to stay in the United States.

There is a false belief that the only path to a green card is through a sponsorship of a U.S. company. This way, the U.S. employer must go through the Labor Certification process at the U.S. Department of Labor and prove that the company was unable to find a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position for which you are being hired. 

Once this requirement is met, the U.S. Department of Labor will issue a Labor Certification. Only then can the employer file the immigrant visa application on behalf of the worker.

However, there are ways to get a green card without depending on a U.S. employer sponsor.

  • EB-1A visa, and
  • The National Interest Waiver.

This means that you can get a green card through self-petition, a process in which you act as both the petitioner (the person applying for the immigrant visa) and the beneficiary (the person receiving the visa).

The EB-1A Visa

This is a category of immigrant visa granted to people who demonstrate an Extraordinary Ability in their particular field of endeavor, which has, in turn, allowed them to rise to the top of their profession.

We are talking about an achievement-based visa category with a path to a green card. The applicant must demonstrate extraordinary academic, science, arts, business, or athletics abilities to qualify for such a visa.

Extraordinary ability refers to a person’s exceptional ability to rise to the very top in their field and succeed in their endeavors. The U.S. government tends to see individuals who were successful in the past as potential assets to the future of the country.

Note that there are 3 categories of EB-1 visas (Employment-Base Immigration: First Preference):

  • EB-1A – which this article focuses on, and it is for individuals with extraordinary abilities;
  • EB-1B – for individuals who are outstanding professors and researchers;
  • Eb-1C – for individuals who are multinational managers and executives

The benefits of applying for EB-1A – Green Card through Self-Petition

  • Do not need a U.S. job offer,
  • Do not need Labor Certification. Getting a labor certification can take 3-7 months.
  • Quicker processing when compared to other employment-based green card categories.

EB-1A Visa Eligibility

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines 3 requirements for establishing eligibility for Extraordinary Ability Classification:

1. You must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim [8 CFR Section 204.5(h)(3).

The USCIS sets up the criteria demonstrating Extraordinary Ability. At least 3 out of the 10 criteria listed must be met.

  • Awards: Evidence of receipt of lesser-known prizes or awards for excellence that are recognized nationally or internationally.
  • Membership: Evidence of membership in a renowned association in your field of expertise, which requires superior and exceptional achievements of their members.  
  • Published material: about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media related to your expertise.
  • Judging: Evidence of your participation as a judge of the work of others in your field of expertise.
  • Original Contributions: Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, or business-related contributions of major significance to your expertise.
  • Authorship: Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional major trade publications, or other major media.
  • Critical Role: Evidence that you have performed a leading or critical role for organizations with an impressive and respected reputation.
  • High Remuneration: Evidence that you have commanded a high salary for services provided compared to others in your expertise.
  • Success in Arts: Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts by substantial sales, units, and tickets sold.
  • Exposure: Display your work in your field at artistic exhibitions or showcases.

Substantial evidence must be submitted to solidify that you meet the criteria and that your extraordinary ability has been sustained and is not being interrupted. 

The USCIS allows the submission of comparable evidence to establish eligibility if any of the 10 criteria does not apply to your field of expertise.

 2. You must aim to enter the U.S. to continue to work in your field of expertise. 

This can be demonstrated by a personal statement explaining in detail the type of work you plan to do in the United States.

 3. Your entry into the U.S. will substantially benefit the country in the future.

Now we know the eligibility requirements and the criteria for the EB-1A visa. Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of the application process.

EB-1A Visa Application Step-by-Step

Documents Required

  • Valid passport,
  • Proof of qualifications in the field of expertise (diplomas, transcripts, or certifications),
  • Required evidence and supporting documents.

If you are currently in the United States:

  • Step 1: File Form I-140 (Petition for Alien Worker)

Once approved, the petitioner can apply for an immigrant visa through consular processing or adjustment of status. Form I-140 is the initial and crucial step in getting permanent residence in the United States.

After you file Form I-140, you will receive a confirmation notice that the USCIS received your petition. After all, you will receive a notice of the decision.

  • Step 2: File Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) along with Form I-131 (Application for Travel Documents) and Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)

If your application is approved, you will receive a U.S. permanent resident card, also known as a green card, and must work within the required field of expertise for at least 6 months after the green card approval.

In situations where backlogs occur, the USCIS may issue Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and travel permit while still processing your green card application.

 If you are applying for EB-1A from abroad:

  • Step 1: File Form I-140 (Petition for Alien Worker) with the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services.

After your Form I-140 is approved, you will receive via email an AIVF letter with your case number, which will allow you to access the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) system

Certain actions must be taken to ensure that you are invited for an interview, such as:

  • Login to CEAC,
  • Pay filing fees,
  • Carefully fill out Form DS-260 and submit it to the National Visa Center (NVC),
  • Submit supporting documents,

Once the NVC receives all the documents, they will be thoroughly reviewed, and it can take up to 14 months to have your interview scheduled.

  • Step 2: Consular Interview

Once the visa is available, the consular office will schedule an interview. Based on the interview will then process the case and declare its final decision.

  • Step 3: Entering the United States

Once the visa is granted, the consular office will give the petitioner a Visa Packet that must be given unopened to theU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The packet will be inspected. It becomes official if the CBP officer grants you entry to the United States without any problems. From that moment on, you are considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States of America.

You should expect to receive your green card within 45 days of your arrival in the country.

EB-1A Processing Time

According to the USCIS, 80% of the cases processed in Texas and Nebraska field offices are processed in 22 months.

However, premium processing is available for Form I-140 (Petition for Alien Worker). Premium processing provides expedited processing and guarantees that the case will be adjudicative within 15 business days.

To request premium processing, the petitioner must file Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing). The 15-day period will start to count when the USCIS acknowledges receiving it. 

Cost to file for EB-1A visa

If you are living in the United States and are seeking a change of status:

  • Form I-140 filing fee: $700
  • Form I-485 filing fee: $1,140
  • Biometrics: $85
  • Premium Processing (optional): $2,500
  • Medical Exams: can vary from $300 to $400 since these costs are not regulated by the USCIS

If you are applying from your home country and need to go through the Consular Processing

  • Form I-140 filing fee: $700
  • Form DS-260 filing fee: $345
  • Biometrics: $85
  • Premium Processing (optional): $2,500

Medical Exams: can vary from $300 to $400 since these costs are not regulated by the USCIS

Conclusion

An important point that needs to be made to understand the whole topic of being an individual of “extraordinary ability” is that culture drives behavior. In the United States, professionals are highly expected to promote themselves, their accomplishments, and their abilities as a personal brand. There is an unwritten rule of “no modesty allowed”.

This approach is not often used or appreciated in other cultures. Therefore, many foreign professionals who qualify for EB-1A but are modest underestimate their abilities missing this great opportunity.

Although this can be a complex process and the decision of this process is highly discretionary, if you fill that, you can leave the modesty aside and have what it takes to be extraordinary. I suggest you schedule a free appointment with a specialist from our legal team to assess whether you would be a strong candidate for an EB-1A or if there is a better option to suit your goals.

Frequently asked questions about getting a green card without employer sponsorship.

  • What does it mean to get a green card through self-petition?

    In the immigration process, you will act as both the petitioner (the person applying for the immigrant visa) and the beneficiary (the person receiving the visa).
  • How can I apply for a green card through self-petition?

    You can go through an EB-1A visa process. You must file a Petition for Alien Worker and, once approved, either the Application for Register Permanent Residence (From I-140) or Adjust Status (Form I-485) if you are in the United States or the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (Form DS-260) if you live abroad.
  • Is EB-1A a visa or green card process?

    It is an employment-based, first-preference visa for people with extraordinary abilities whose achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally. However, once this visa is approved, the beneficiary can get a green card through an adjustment status or consular processing.
  • What is the EB-1A visa?

    It is a category of immigrant visa granted to people who demonstrate Extraordinary Ability in their field of endeavor and have risen to the top of their field.
  • What are the categories of EB-1 visas?

    · EB-1A – which this article focuses on, and it is for individuals with extraordinary abilities; · EB-1B – for individuals who are outstanding professors and researchers; · Eb-1C – for individuals who are multinational managers and executives.
  • What are the benefits of applying for an EB-1A category of immigrant visa?

    · Don’t need a job offer from a U.S. company, · You don’t need to go through the labor certification process, · The fastest way to get a green card when compared to other employment-based green card categories, · You don’t need a U.S. company to sponsor you for a green card
  • What are the eligibility requirements for the EB-1A visa process?

    1. Demonstrate that you are an alien with extraordinary ability in the areas of science, business, arts, education, or athletics. 2. Seek to enter the United States to continue to work in your area of extraordinary ability. 3. Demonstrate that your entry into the United States will substantially benefit the country in the future.
  • How many criteria do I need to meet to be considered an individual with extraordinary ability, and what are the requirements?

    You need to meet at least 3 out of the 10 criteria established by the USCIS, and they are: Awards: Evidence of receipt of lesser-known nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards. Membership: Evidence of membership in a renowned association in your field that requires outstanding achievements of their members. Published material: about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media related to your work and extraordinary achievements. Judging: Evidence of your participation as a judge of the work of others in your field of expertise. Original Contributions: Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, or business-related contributions of major significance to your field of expertise. Authorship: Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in your field, in professional major trade publications, or other major media. Critical Role: Evidence that you have performed a leading or critical role for organizations with an outstanding and respected reputation. Remuneration: Evidence that you have commanded a high salary for services provided compared to others in your expertise. Success in Arts: Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts by substantial sales, units, and tickets sold. Exposure: Display your work in your field at artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • What are the documents needed to file an EB-1A application?

    · Valid passport, · Proof of qualifications in the field of expertise (diplomas, transcripts, or certifications), · Required evidence and supporting documents.
  • How much does the EB-1A visa process cost?

    Applying from the United States: $4,425 ($700 (Form I-140), $1,140 (Form I-485), $85 (Biometrics), and $2500 (Premium Processing – optional) + medical costs that can vary from $300 to $400. Applying from abroad: $3630 ($700 (Form I-140), $345 (Form DS-260), $85 (Biometrics), and $2500 (Premium Processing – optional) + medical costs that can vary from $300 to $400.
  • What is the processing time for an EB-1A immigrant visa?

    According to the USCIS, 80% of the cases are processed in 22 months. However, premium processing is available for Form I-140 (Petition for Alien Worker) and can guarantee that the case will be adjudicative within 15 business days.