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Frequently Asked Questions about EB-1(a)

Q: Who is handling my case if I retain Z&A?

A: Our attorneys handle our clients' cases individually by preparing petition letters, contacting clients, and following up on pending cases. That is why we have more attorneys than clerks. Our law clerks' main objective is to help attorneys prepare clients' packages, and each client's package will be reviewed by one of our most experienced attorneys for final checking before it is sent out to the USCIS.

Q: What does EB-1 stand for?

A: It stands for Employment-Based First Preference Immigration.

Q: What is the EB-1(a) category?

A: EB-1(a) is a subcategory of EB-1 and called “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”.

Q: What are the minimum document requirements for EB-1(a) petitions?

A: An EB-1(a) petition consists of Form I-140 and supporting documents to show that the beneficiary meets EB-1(a) criteria. There are no other specific documents that are required under the immigration laws and regulations.

Q: Who has the burden of proof in an EB-1(a) petition?

A: The burden of proof in EB-1(a) cases rests solely with the petitioner and his/her attorney.

Q: If I have a choice between filing an EB-1(a) and EB-1(b) petition, which petition should I choose?

A: It depends. If you meet both criteria, generally we recommend that you file for an Alien of Extraordinary Ability petition, which will not bind you to any particular employer and which you may file on your own behalf. An Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition, however, requires a job offer and the sponsorship of an employer. In addition, a change of employers while your petition is pending may affect your Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition. Your particular situation may differ depending on your specific facts and circumstances. Please consult with an experienced immigration attorney for more information.

Q: Can I file both EB-1(a) and EB-1(b) at the same time?

A: Yes. Many of our clients opt for filing both petitions simultaneously. Often, one petition will be approved earlier than the other will. In addition, if one petition is denied for some reason, there is still a chance that the other petition may be approved.

Q: May a Ph.D. student apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. We have had successful cases of Ph.D. students obtaining EB-1 approvals. However, it may be very challenging for a Ph.D student to get an EB-1(a) petition approved, since it is very hard for a Ph.D. student to rise to the very top of his or her field.

Q: How many publications are sufficient to meet Eb-1(a) requirements?

A: There is no specific minimum publication requirement; rather, it is determined by USCIS on a case-by-case basis. Having at least some publications meets one of the ten criteria needed for EB-1(a). However, it is usually harder for researchers and scientists to have a successful EB-1(a) petition without a publication.

Q: What if I change jobs while my EB-1(a) petition is pending?

A: It will have no effect upon the status of your case. EB-1(a) petitions are self-petitions and do not require a job offer and an employer’s sponsorship. Therefore, you may change your employment and it will have no effect on your case as long as you stay within your field of expertise.

Q: I would like to file an EB-1(a) case but I plan to move in three months to a different state. What will happen to my petition if I move?

A: Nothing. Your petition will remain active and your move will have no effect. USCIS will contact your attorney with its decision on your case. You will need to file an AR-11 to notify USCIS of your change of address within ten days of your move. 

Q: Is it possible to file two petitions, such as an EB-1(a) and NIW, at the same time?

A: Yes. Some of our clients file two I-140 petitions simultaneously. Some clients file three I-140 petitions at the same time. There is nothing stated in the law that prohibits multiple filings. Multiple filings increase your chances of approval.

Q: What is a letter of recommendation?

A: A letter of recommendation is a letter written by an expert in the alien's field or some otherwise authoritative person in an allied or supporting field. The letter discusses the abilities and accomplishments of the alien seeking an EB-1(a). Letters of recommendation are an important part of an EB-1(a) petition.

Q: Whom should I contact to obtain letters of recommendation?

A: Recommendation letters should be written by experts or scholars in your field. Usually, our clients ask their former professors, supervisors, co-workers and individuals that they have met at meetings/conferences. Asking one or two people who are less familiar with the alien is also recommended, since they are more objective and independent. Anyone that knows your work directly or indirectly and has expertise in the field may write a Letter of Recommendation for you.

Q: Does your firm provide some samples of letters of recommendation?

A: Yes, we provide our clients with a sample recommendation letters relevant to alien’s particular field.

Q: If my boss is not willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for me, can I still have a successful EB-1(a)?

A: It is not necessary to obtain a strong letter of recommendation from your current supervisor to have a successful EB-1(a) petition if you will get strong evidence by other means. If you obtain letters of recommendation from other experts to support an EB-1(a) claim and your hard evidence is very strong, your case may be a successful one.

Q: How many recommendation letters should I obtain?

A: There is no specific number set forth by the USCIS. We generally include five to six letters of recommendation in our EB-1(a) cases.

Q: What information should be included in the Recommendation Letters?

A: Recommendation Letters provide the primary supporting evidence for your petition. For instance, they should include the writers' qualifications for their opinion, and your achievements, awards, publishing record, society memberships, etc. Moreover, the letters should tie your situation to the EB-1(a) criteria.

Q: Obtaining Letters of Recommendation will be difficult for me. Are these letters important?

A: If you can provide clear evidence that you fulfill the criteria for an EB-1, you may not need any letters of recommendation. For most EB-1 applicants, however, letters of recommendation are necessary to show that you meet the EB-1 requirements for approval.

Q: My professors are too busy and I hate to impose on them. What should I do?

A: Letters of recommendation are hard to draft. Often professors are too busy to draft these letters themselves and are happy to review and modify a draft and sign a letter provided to them by the candidate. Our attorneys can review and edit these drafts to ensure that they include the appropriate language and meet the EB-1(a) filing requirements.

Q: Once I sign the contract, how long does it take to file the petition?

A: It depends on how long it takes you to gather the recommendation letters and the supporting documents. Usually, it takes a couple of months for you to get everything ready. Once all the documents are in our hands, we will file your case usually within one week of receipt.

Q: Once filed, how long does it take USCIS to decide a case?

A: It depends. The quickest approval that we have experienced has been 1 day. Generally, USCIS EB-1(a) processing takes six months to one year. Since Nov. 13, 2006, the Premium Processing (PC) service has been available for EB-1(a).

Q: My friend has the same credentials as me and his EB-1(a) petition has recently been approved. Will my EB-1(a) petition also be approved?

A: It depends. Each case is different and although your credentials may be identical to someone else, your case may result in a different outcome. Z&A provides an initial free consultation where we review your resume and give you our professional evaluation on your particular case.

Q: If I do not have any published articles in journals in my field, may I still apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. There is no specific requirement that you need to have published articles in order to apply or obtain approval of an EB-1(a) petition. Having published meets one of the ten criteria for an EB-1(a). However, for scientists, researchers, engineers and other professionals, the requirement of publications is fundamental and easy to satisfy. Conversely, one does not have any publications, one’s EB-1(a) case may be very challenging.

Q: If I am not a member of any professional association, organization, or society in my field, may I still apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. There is no specific requirement that you be a member of any professional association, organization, or society in order to apply or obtain approval for an EB-1 petition. Moreover, an ordinary membership in a professional organization will not help an EB-1(a) petition. For example, it takes $25 to $75 to join the American Physical Society, American Cancer Society, American Biology Association, etc. Membership in these organizations will not be helpful for an EB-1(a) application since it does not require an outstanding achievement for membership.

Q: If I do not have a permanent offer of employment, can I still apply for an EB-1(a) petition?

A: Yes, EB-1(a) does not require a job offer or an employer’s sponsorship.

Q: If my EB-1 petition is approved, when may I file a petition for Adjustment of Status or an immigrant visa?

A: You may file for Adjustment of Status as soon as a visa number becomes available to you. The EB-1 category currently has immigrant visa numbers immediately available, so you may apply as soon as your petition is approved.. You may apply for adjustment of status after your EB-1(a) approval, or apply for EB-1(a) and Adjustment of Status concurrently.

Q: Besides an EB-1(a), what other employment-based immigration petitions are available that do not require Labor Certification?

A: Neither an EB-1(b) nor an NIW petition require a Labor Certification. Please click here for more information on NIW.

Q: Do I need to live within the U.S. to apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: No. Any alien, living either within the U.S. or in a foreign country, may apply for an EB-1 petition, provided, or course, that she meets the relevant requirements.

Q: Can an artist or musician qualify for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. Artists and musicians may apply for an EB-1. Our firm has successfully represented many musicians, painters, singers, dancers and other artists.

Q: I am not a member of any professional organizations in my field, but may join by paying a membership fee. Should I join the professional associations now in order to increase my chances of approval for an EB-1(a)?

A: No. Evidence that would support an EB-1(a) petition is membership in an association, organization, or society requiring "outstanding achievement" of its members. If the professional association is relatively easy to join, it will probably not serve as helpful evidence to support your EB-1(a) case.

Q: Does USCIS offer premium processing service for an EB-1(a) petition?

A: Yes.

Q: What are the similarities between EB-1(a) and EB-1(b)?

A: The similarities are: 1) Both of them are in the EB-1 category. Therefore, immigrant visa numbers are immediately available to all successful petitioners from any country. 2) Neither needs a Labor Certification and 3) Both have premium processing service.  Premium processing means that USCIS processes the petition within fifteen days if the applicant pays premium processing fees.

Q: What are the differences between EB-1(a) and EB-1(b)?

A: The differences are: 1) EB-1(a) does not require an employer’s sponsorship and a permanent job offer while EB-1(b) requires them; 2) EB-1(a) requires a higher standard of achievement than EB-1(b); 3) EB-1(a) does not require work experience, while EB-1(b) requires three years of work experience.

Q: May I file EB-1(a) and NIW petitions together?

A: Yes. You may file more than one I-140 petition together.  This will increase the probability of approval.

Q: Is there any negative impact if I file EB-1(a) and NIW petitions together?

A: No. There will be no negative impact.

Q: If I have a Labor Certification pending, may I also apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. They may be filed independently since they are not related. The Labor Certification process is done by the U.S. Department of Labor, whereas the USCIS handles EB-1 petitions. If your Labor Certification is ultimately denied, then you still have a chance of getting an EB-1 approved.

Q: If I have been denied a Labor Certification, may I still petition for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes, assuming you would otherwise qualify for an EB-1(a). The standards for an EB-1(a) petition and a Labor Certification are very different. A Labor Certification is based on a lack of available U.S. workers with minimum qualifications for the particular job. By contrast, an EB-1(a) is based on proving that the alien possesses "Extraordinary Ability".

Q: What is a "Request for Additional Evidence"?

A: Sometimes the USCIS is not convinced that the alien petitioning under an EB-1(a) category has adequately proven that she qualifies for the EB-1(a) category. In such cases they will typically make a "Request for Additional Evidence". Z&A takes great pains to present a strong EB-1(a) case so that it will be approved without a request for additional evidence. Nevertheless, there is no way to predict how a particular USCIS officer reviewing a particular case will respond; sometimes even a very strong case will receive a "Request for Additional Evidence". Even in such situations, our cases are usually approved after we prepare and submit the additional evidence.

Q: How can I determine the likelihood for the success of my case?

A: We recommend that you consult with our firm for a free consultation. Please kindly e-mail your resume and questions to Usually, Attorney Jerry Zhang will respond to your e-mail within twenty-four hours.

Q: Can Letters of Recommendation included in an NIW petition be used for an EB-1(a) petition?

A: Since EB-1(a) and NIW have different standards, the recommendation letters for NIW may not be effective for an EB-1(a) application. We usually suggest one set of recommendation letters used for NIW and another set of recommendation letters be used for EB-1(a). Nevertheless, they may come from the same group of experts.

Q: If I have filed an EB-1(a), when is my priority date?

A: Your priority date is the date that USCIS receives your EB-1(a) petition. Nevertheless, the priority date for EB-1(a) is not important since visa numbers are available for EB-1 categories for aliens from any country.

Q: I am in J-1 status and subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. May I apply for an EB-1(a)?

A: Yes. However, you need to either obtain a J-1 waiver or satisfy the two-year home residency requirement before you may adjust your status to permanent resident.

Q: I am currently in J-1 status and subject to the two-year home country residence requirement. If I apply for an EB-1(a) and get it approved, is my J-1 home country requirement waived?

A: No, a J-1 waiver and an EB-1(a) are two different things. A J-1 waiver is an application to waive the two-year home country residency requirement. An EB-1(a) is an immigration petition. Even if your EB-1(a) is approved, you are still subject to the two-year requirement. You need to either obtain a J-1 waiver or satisfy it before you may adjust your status to a permanent resident.

Q: How many EB-1(a) cases has your firm handled?

A: Our firm has successfully handled several hundred EB-1 cases. We have extensive experience representing clients in this matter.

Q: What is your firm’s success rate for EB-1(a) applications?

A: We have about a 95% success rate for EB-1(a) applications.

Q: Can your firm guarantee that my case will be successful?

A: No, we cannot promise that your case will result in a successful outcome. However, we can promise you that we will take your case as our own, give it the highest priority, and produce a first-rate product and the highest quality service.

Q: After my EB-1(a) is approved, do I need to remain working in the same field as indicated in my petition?

A: Yes, you need to continue working in the field specified in the filed EB-1(a). If you venture into another area, the USCIS may deny your Adjustment of Status (I-485) or even revoke permanent residency after an Adjustment of Status (I-485) is granted.

Q: What are the similarities between EB-1(a) and NIW applications?

A: The similarities are: 1) neither of them needs Labor Certification; 2) neither of them need an employer’s sponsorship or a job offer.

Q: What are the differences between NIW and EB-1(a)?

A: The differences are: 1) EB-1(a) is in the employment-based first preference category while NIW is in the employment-based second category. Because of the difference, immigrant visa numbers are available for all EB-1(a) aliens from any country of birth, while there are visa backlogs for NIW aliens who were born in India and China. 2) EB-1(a) requires a higher standard of achievement, while NIW has a more flexible and fluid standard. In addition, 3) the NIW doesn’t have premium processing service. Please click here to learn more about NIW.

Q: If I retain Z&A for EB-1(a), what do I need to do?

A: If you decide to retain us to do your EB-1(a), please read a copy of our EB-1 agreement, sign it, and mail it to us along a check as the initial attorney's fee. Once we receive the signed contract and fee, we will begin work on your case. Please click here for a copy of our EB-1(a) agreement.

Q: I know your firm has offices in Houston, TX, Chicago, IL, and New York, NY, but I live in another state. Can your firm handle my EB-1(a) case?

A: Yes. Since immigration law is based on federal laws, we represent clients located throughout and outside the U.S.  We can do so by using the latest technology in providing professional services to our clients. Please click here to see the map of our clients' locations in the United States.

Q: If I retain your firm, do I need to meet in person with one of the attorneys at Z&A?

A: No, it is not necessary to meet in person for us to handle your case. You may communicate with us via fax, telephone, mail, e-mail, and courier (Fed-Ex, UPS, etc.)..

Q: I want Z&A to evaluate my case. What do I need to do?

A: To receive your free initial evaluation, please e-mail your resume to Attorney Jerry Zhang will provide you with a free evaluation

For more information on EB-1 Visa, please refer to the following links: