EB-1A Visa: Alien of Extraordinary Ability

An Alien of Extraordinary Ability, or EB-1A, classification applies to aliens who have distinguished themselves professionally in their fields of work or study. Notably, these employment-based, first-preference visa candidates do not have to secure sponsorship from an employer, as an EB-1A petition requires neither a job offer nor a labor certification.

Who Qualifies?

Aliens residing in the U.S. or abroad are eligible to apply for this designation, provided they meet two general qualifications stipulated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • They are able to demonstrate “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim,” and
  • This extraordinary ability is well-supported through “extensive documentation.”

A major, internationally recognized award like an Olympic Medal, Nobel Prize, or Oscar will suffice.

No Nobel Prize? Not (Necessarily) a Problem

In the absence of such a rare honor, however, applicants can still demonstrate their extraordinary abilities, supported by extensive documentation, by meeting any three of the following 10 criteria:

  • Evidence of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.
  • Evidence of membership in associations in the field that demand outstanding achievement of their members.
  • Evidence of published material about the applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence of participation by the alien as a judge, either individually or on a panel, of others’ work.
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence of work that has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • Evidence of having taken on a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations.
  • Evidence that the applicant commands a high salary or other significantly high remuneration relative to others in the same field.
  • Evidence of commercial success in the performing arts, as shown by either box office receipts or cassette, compact disc, video, or DVD sales.

In addition to fulfilling the above criteria, applicants must prove that they will continue to pursue work in the U.S. in the field in which they have demonstrated extraordinary abilities. To this end, they strive to show that their work is of substantial and prospective benefit to U.S. national interests.


Procedurally, an EB-1A application is filed with Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Because there is no job offer or employer sponsorship required, aliens may petition for this visa themselves, taking the pains to ensure that their applications include supporting documentation meeting the fundamental criteria above. Because aliens can self-petition, EB-1As provide aliens one of the fastest channels to obtaining a green card.

Case Study

Let’s consider a real-world example of an EB-1A petition to illustrate the above.


Dr. Samantha Easton received her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand, a prestigious university in South Africa. Her research centers on composite materials, an area of civil engineering that can prospectively benefit the U.S. economy, citizens, and military alike. Her accomplishments have garnered national recognition, including awards in technical excellence from the South African Institution of Civil Engineering. Considered one of the top engineers in her field. Dr. Easton frequently participates as a judge of other scholars’ work by reviewing submissions for such journals as the Journal of Composite Materials, and Dr. Easton herself authored more than a dozen articles in academic journals with international circulations. 

Would Dr. Easton qualify for an EB-1A visa?

Yes, and you’d be hard-pressed to fault Dr. Easton in her EB-1A application. More specifically, she qualifies as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability because she has risen to the top of the civil engineering field, and can demonstrate this status through documentation including national awards and authored works. As long as she can establish that she’ll continue to pursue her work in the U.S., As long as she can establish that she’ll continue to pursue her work in the U.S., Dr. Easton won’t need an employer’s sponsorship.

For more information on the EB-1A visa, refer to the following links:

Our experienced immigration attorneys are here to assist you in your EB-1 application. For more detailed information on the EB-1 category, including minimum requirements and USCIS policies, refer to the following links:

Updated 04/05/2017