Frequently Asked Questions about EB-1A Visas

Q: What does EB-1 stand for? 

A: It stands for employment-based, first-preference immigration visas. 

Q: What is the EB-1A category? 

A: EB-1A is a subcategory of EB-1 visas reserved for “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability.”

Q: What are the minimum documentary requirements for EB-1A petitions? 

A: An EB-1A petition consists of Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, and supporting documents that show that the beneficiary meets EB-1A criteria. The specific documents required depend on which criteria a specific petition is attempting to satisfy.

Q: Who has the burden of proof in an EB-1A petition? 

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

Q: If I have the choice between filing an EB-1A or EB-1B petition, which petition should I choose? 

A: It depends. If you meet the criteria for both petitions, we generally recommend that you choose the EB-1A route, since you’re able to file on your own behalf and you won’t be bound to any one employer. An EB-1B petition, however, requires a job offer and sponsorship of an employer. In addition, a change of employers while your petition is pending may affect your pending EB-1B case. Of course, your particular situation may differ depending on individual facts and circumstances. Please consult with one of our experienced immigration attorneys for more information. 

Q: Can I file both an EB-1A and an EB-1B at the same time? 

A: Yes. In fact, many of our clients opt to file both petitions simultaneously. Oftentimes, one petition will be approved before the other. And if one petition is denied for some reason, then obviously there is still a chance that the other pending petition will be approved. 

Q: How much more does it cost to file both petitions? 

A: We typically charge an initial attorney's fee of $3,000 to file both. If one of the two EB-1 petitions is approved, you’ll pay an additional $3,000. (In other words, the total attorney's fee is $6,000, provided at least one of the two EB-1 cases is approved.) Feel free to review our fee schedule here.

Q: I’m a Ph.D. student. Can I still apply for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes. We have had multiple successful outcomes in cases involving Ph.D. students applying for EB-1 visas. That said, it may be more challenging for a Ph.D. student to get an EB-1A petition approved since, generally speaking, it’s more difficult for a student to convince USCIS that he or she has risen to top of his or her field (i.e. compared to an established professional). 

Q: Could an artist or musician qualify for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes. Our firm has successfully represented many musicians, painters, singers, dancers, and other performing artists.

Q: How many publications should I have in order to meet EB-1A requirements? 

A: There is no specific minimum number of publications you are required to have. That said, having at least some publications meets one of the 10 criteria of an EB-1A visa, and generally speaking, it is more difficult for researchers and scientists to win approvals without publications.

Q: What will happen if I change jobs while my EB-1A petition is pending? 

A: In a word, nothing. EB-1A applicants can self-petition because neithera job offer nor an employer’s sponsorship is required. However, as long as you remain in the same field, your profession can change. 

Q: I’d like to file an EB-1A petition, but I’m planning to move to a different state. What will happen to my petition after I move? 

A: In a word, nothing. Your petition will remain active, and your move will have no effect. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will contact your attorney with its decision on your case. Note, however, that within 10 days of your move, you’ll still need to file an AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card, which serves to notify USCIS of your new address.  

Q: Do I need to live in the U.S. to apply for an EB-1A? 

A: No. Any alien, regardless of where he or she resides, can apply for an EB-1A visa, provided, or course, that he or she meets the EB-1A requirements

Q: Besides an EB-1A, what other employment-based immigration petitions are available that do not require a labor certification? 

A: Neither an EB-1B nor an NIW petition requires a labor certification. (To learn more about those visa categories, click on the hyperlinks.)

Q: What are the similarities between EB-1A and EB-1B visas? 

A: Both petitions are in the employment-based, first-preference visa category. Neither requires a labor certification. Additionally, premium processing is available for both applications. For more information on the similarities between EB-1A and EB-1B petitions, click here.

Q: What are the differences between EB-1A and EB-1B visas? 

A: While EB-1B requires employer sponsorship and a corresponding job offer, EB-1A requires neither. Further, EB-1B petitioners need to have at least three years of relevant work experience, while no such requirement exists for EB-1A applicants. Ultimately, a successful EB-1A petition hinges on a higher standard of achievement relative to that required for an EB-1B. For more information on the differences between EB-1A and EB-1B petitions, click here.

Q: What are the similarities between EB-1A and NIW petitions? 

A: Neither application requires a labor certification, employer sponsorship, or a job offer.

Q: What are the differences between NIW and EB-1A? 

A: EB-1A visas are a subtype of the employment-basedfirst-preference visa category. NIW applications are in the employment-basedsecond-preference (EB-2) visa category. While there’s currently a visa backlog for successful NIW applicants who were born in India and China, immigrant visa numbers are generally always available to successful EB-1 petitioners, regardless of nationality. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, however. For three times in a recent 10-month stretch – August 2016, September 2016, and June 2017 – the EB-1 category experienced a retrogression, impacting beneficiaries from mainland China and India. Given the quantity of applicants from both countries, this previously rare occurrence may become a trend in the years to come.

Other differences involve premium processing, which is not available to NIW applicants, and the standard of achievement required for each petition. Generally speaking, EB-1As require a higher standard, while NIWs are considerably more fluid in what measures of achievement are likely to merit approval.

Q: If I have a labor certification pending, can I still apply for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes. They can be filed independently since they’re unrelated. The labor certification process is handled by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), whereas USCIS handles EB-1 petitions. If your labor certification is ultimately denied, then you still have a chance of getting your EB-1A petition approved. 

Q: If my labor certification was denied, can I still petition for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes, assuming you would otherwise qualify for an EB-1A. The standards for an EB-1A petition and a labor certification are very different. Labor certifications seek to determine whether there is a lack of available U.S. workers with minimum qualifications for a particular job. In contrast, EB-1A applications center on proving that intending immigrants possess “extraordinary abilities.”

Q: Is it possible to file two petitions -- say, an EB-1A and NIW -- at the same time?

A: Yes. Several of our clients choose to file two Form I-140 petitions simultaneously. (In fact, many file three I-140 applications at the same time!) There is nothing stipulated in immigration law that prohibits multiple filings. In our view, statistically speaking, multiple concurrently filed petitions increase the probability you’ll win approval.

Q: Is there any negative impact to filing EB-1A and NIW petitions at the same time? 

A: Not at all.

Q: In the context of an EB-1A petition, what is a letter of recommendation? 

A: It’s a letter written by an expert in the alien's field or by some otherwise authoritative person in an allied or supporting field. The letter discusses the abilities and accomplishments of the alien seeking an EB-1A. In terms of the documentary evidence needed in an EB-1A petition, letters of recommendation play a critical role. 

Q: From whom should I obtain my letters of recommendation? 

A: Recommendation letters should be written by experts or scholars in your field. Usually, our clients ask their former professors, supervisors, coworkers, or peers they’ve met at meetings or conferences. We recommend asking people who are not too personally familiar with you since such individuals are more objective in their testimony about you. Ultimately, though, anyone who knows and can speak to your work whether directly or indirectly and who has expertise in your field is the sort of person you would want to write a letter of recommendation for your application. 

Q: Does your firm provide to sample letters of recommendation? 

A: Yes, and our samples are tailored to our clients’ unique fields. 

Q: My boss is unwilling to write a strong letter of recommendation for me. Will that doom my chances of getting my EB-1A application approved? 

A: A successful EB-1A petition doesn’t hinge on one recommendation letter from one specific person, your current employer included. If you obtain letters of recommendation from other experts to support your EB-1A claim and the totality of your evidence is compelling, your case can still be successful. 

Q: How many recommendation letters should I obtain?

A: While there is no specific number set forth by the USCIS, we generally include five to seven letters of recommendation in our EB-1A petition packages. 

Q: What information should be included in the recommendation letters? 

A: Recommendation letters are among the primary supporting evidence in your petition. They should include the writers' qualifications (in order to demonstrate why they’re eligible to speak to your accomplishments and abilities), as well as a discussion of your achievements, awards, publishing record, society memberships, etc. Most importantly, the letters should link your candidacy for an EB-1A visa to the criteria required.

Q: Obtaining letters of recommendation will be difficult for me. Are these letters really that important? 

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

Q: My professors are very busy, and I hate to bother them about writing recommendation letters. What should I do? 

A: We understand that letters of recommendation can be time-consuming and difficult to write. Professors are oftentimes too busy to write these letters themselves, but we’ve found that they’re happy to review, modify, and sign a draft letter provided to them by the candidate. Our attorneys can review and edit these drafts, which we’ve compiled in a database for our clients, to ensure that they include the appropriate language and meet the EB-1A filing requirements. 

Q: Can letters of recommendation included in an NIW petition be used for an EB-1A petition? 

A: Since EB-1A and NIW require different standards, recommendation letters are likely not interchangeable between the two types of petitions. While we usually suggest our clients obtain a set of letters of recommendation for each application, the letters can still come from the same pool of recommending experts or supervisors.

Q: Once filed, how long does it take USCIS to render a decision on a case? 

A: It depends. The quickest turnaround for approval we’ve experienced was 24 hours. Generally, however, EB-1A processing takes between six months and a year. Since November 13, 2006, premium processing, which guarantees processing within 15 days, has been available to EB-1A visa applicants, and so if you’re looking to speed up the process and don’t mind spending an extra $1,225, then this service might be for you.

Q: What is my EB-1A priority date? 

A: Your priority date is the date USCIS receives your EB-1A petition.

Q: My friend and I have the same credentials, and her EB-1A petition was recently approved. Is it safe to assume my EB-1A petition will also be approved? 

A: Not necessarily. Each case is different and adjudicated by an individual USCIS officer. Though your credentials may be identical to someone else’s, your case may nonetheless result in a different outcome.

Q: If I have not published any articles in journals in my field, can I still apply for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes. An EB-1A visa has no specific requirement of published works; rather, having a publishing history is one of the 10 criteria you can choose to satisfy. That said, for scientists, researchers, and engineers, among other scholarly professionals, having published articles in journals is often fundamental in terms of establishing one’s statute in the field. Moreover, because publishing articles is so standard in these fields, it makes it easy to satisfy one of the three criteria you’ll need to fulfill.

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

A: Yes. There is no specific requirement that you be a member of any professional association, organization, or society in order to apply for an EB-1A visa, or to win approval. Note that ordinary memberships in professional organizations will generally not help your EB-1A chances. For instance, it takes $25 to $75 to join groups like the American Physics Society, American Cancer Society, American Biology Association, etc. Because it is merely a nominal fee and not outstanding achievement that guarantees membership, having such associations demonstrates nothing about your extraordinary ability.

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

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

Q: After my EB-1A is approved, do I have to continue working in the same field as indicated in my petition? 

A: Yes, you must continue working in the field specified in your EB-1A petition. If you venture into another area, USCIS may deny your application for adjustment of status or even revoke your permanent residency after your Form I-485 is approved. 

Q: After my EB-1A petition is approved, when can I file for adjustment of status? 

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, which means you can submit your Form I-485 as soon as your petition is approved. Alternatively, you can choose to file both applications concurrently.  

Q: What is a Request for Additional Evidence? 

A: Sometimes, the adjudicating USCIS officer is unconvinced that an EB-1A applicant has adequately satisfied the extensive criteria required for a successful petition. Rather than outright deny the application, in such cases, USCIS will typically ask the petitioner for more information in what is called a Request for Additional Evidence, or RFE. Our attorneys strive to ensure that the original EB-1A petitions we submit on behalf of our clients are so strong that an RFE is not issued. But since there’s ultimately no way to predict whether or not a particular USCIS officer will request more evidence, we’ll always be prepared to respond promptly. When this happens, our firm still enjoys a near-perfect approval rate.

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

A: We’d first suggest you take advantage of our free consultation for all potential clients. To get in touch with us and obtain an expert evaluation of your immigration case, feel free to e-mail us your resume and any questions to Attorney Jerry Zhang or one of his associates will respond to you within 24 hours.

Q: I currently have J-1 status and am subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. Can I still apply for an EB-1A? 

A: Yes. Note, however, that you will either need to obtain a J-1 waiver or satisfy the two-year home residency requirement before you can adjust your status. 

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

A: No, a J-1 waiver and an EB-1A petition are two different things. A J-1 waiver is an application to waive the two-year home country residency requirement. An EB-1A is an immigration petition. Even if your EB-1A is approved, you are still subject to the two-year requirement. As such, you will either need to obtain a J-1 waiver or satisfy the two-year home residency requirement before you can apply for adjustment of status or be issued an EB-1A visa.

Q: How many EB-1A cases has your firm handled? 

A: Our firm has successfully handled thousands of EB-1 cases over the last two decades. We have extensive experience and are proud of our record representing clients in this visa category. 

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

A: Roughly 95% of our clients’ EB-1A applications are approved. That said, past performance does not necessarily guarantee future outcomes.

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

A: No, no attorney can ever promise that your case will result in the outcome you desire. What we can promise you is that we will take on your case as if it were our own, giving it the highest level of attention and dedication, and ultimately produce a first-rate, persuasive product on your behalf. 

Q: Once I sign a contract with your firm, how long will it take to file my petition? 

A: It depends on how long it takes you to gather the recommendation letters and other supporting documentation. In most cases, it takes a couple of months to get everything ready, but once all the documentation is in our hands, we’re generally able to file a case within a week’s time. 

Q: What will it cost for my EB-1A case? 

A: The cost will ultimately depend on the individual case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Q: I want to retain your firm. What do I need to do? 

A: Once you decide to entrust us with your case, you’ll read over a copy of our EB-1 agreement, and then sign and send it to us, along with a check for the initial attorney’s fee. After we receive those materials, we’ll begin working on your case. You can review our EB-1A contract here.  

Q: I know your firm has offices in Houston, New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere around the country, but I live in another state. Can your firm still handle my EB-1A case? 

A: Yes. Since immigration is a matter of federal law, we can represent clients residing anywhere in the country—and indeed, throughout the world. To ensure we’re always in touch with our clients, our firm employs the latest technology. If you’re interested in seeing the various locations our clients live, check out this map.  

Q: Will I ever need to meet with you in person as a client? 

A: No, it isn’t necessary to meet with us face to face, though we enjoy seeing our clients in person. It is seamless to communicate with us via fax, telephone, mail, e-mail, and courier (Fed-Ex, UPS, etc.).

Q: Who will handle my case at your firm? 

A: Our attorneys directly handle our clients’ cases, from start to finish, by preparing petition letters, contacting clients, appearing in court, and following up on pending cases. Because of how closely involved our attorneys are in all stages of our clients’ cases, we have more attorneys than clerks at our offices nationwide. Our law clerks’ main objective is to help attorneys prepare clients’ petition packages, but each client’s case will be directly handled and reviewed by one of our experienced immigration attorneys before a petition is submitted to USCIS.

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