Immigration Options for People with High-Skill or Extraordinary Ability

Immigration Options for People with High-Skill or Extraordinary Ability

If you are reading this article, it means that you're interested in immigration options for somebody who has high skills or extraordinary abilities in their particular field.  Also, you are probably wondering about the different immigration options available for you to come to the United States.  The good news, we will cover those topics in this article.  We will discuss a number of different options for you to potentially come to the United States based on having a high degree of skill or extraordinary ability in your particular field.


We are Ashoori Law, led by Michael Ashoori, a U.S. immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles, California.  At our law firm we work with clients from all over the world, and we regularly post articles and videos to make sure that you are up to date with the latest immigration news.  If, after reading this article, you have more questions, then we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law.  Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.


Visa and Green Card Options for Those with High Skills – the EB1A Visa


Let us first discuss those visa options and green card options for people who have high abilities or high skills in their particular field. 


To begin, we need to talk about the EB1A green card option. EB1A is for people who have an extraordinary ability in a particular field.  For example, say that you have an extraordinary ability in science or math.  Or, assume you have extraordinary ability in a particular sport.  If you do, then you could potentially qualify for a green card through EB1A. 


The benefit of EB1A is that it allows you to apply for your green card on your own through self-petition, without the need of an employer to sponsor you, without the need for a job offer, or without the need for a family member to sponsor you.  It allows you to apply for a green card on your own. 


EB1A is a tremendous option to come to the United States to get lawful permanent resident status in the United States.  That said, you might be wondering:  how do I know if I qualify as somebody that has an extraordinary ability? 


How Does USCIS Determine Whether Somebody Has an Extraordinary Ability? 


USCIS employs a number of different criteria.  In order to qualify as somebody with an extraordinary ability, you have to satisfy at least three of those different criteria.  Here are some examples of the different criteria:


  • Evidence that you won prizes or awards that are either nationally or internationally recognized in your particular field. 
  • Evidence that you're a member in an association or organization that requires outstanding achievement in your field. 
  • Evidence that you have published material about you such as press releases relating to your field. 
  • Evidence that you have authored publications in your particular field of extraordinary ability. 
  • Evidence that you have high compensation compared to others in your field. 


USCIS essentially goes through a two-part process to determine whether you have extraordinary ability.  First, they will review all of the evidence that you submit to them to determine whether you meet the evidentiary threshold, i.e., the different criteria as discussed above.  Here it is essential to submit sufficient evidence to adequately prove your extraordinary ability, from as many categories as possible.  


Next, the case moves to step two, which is the “final merits determination.”  During this stage USCIS will evaluate your case as a whole.  They will evaluate the totality of the evidence that you've provided to them to determine whether you are one of the few who has risen to the top of your field.


Also, while no offer of employment is strictly necessary, you must be able to show how you will continue your work in the United States.  In what way, will you use your extraordinary ability and achievement upon entering the United States?  In other words, you must have plans to remain active in your field. 


The EB2 National Interest Waiver


The national interest waiver is specifically for people who would be coming to the United States because their work in the United States would be in the national interest.  For example, think about a cancer researcher or a particular scientist who is coming to the United States to develop a cure for a certain type of a disease.  That is someone whose work in the United States would be in the national interest. 


The national interest waiver has a number of benefits.  One of the major benefits of the national interest waiver, similar to EB1A, is that it does not require an employer to sponsor you.  It allows somebody to apply for their green card on their own through self-petition without the need for a job offer or a company sponsorship.  That is a tremendous benefit of the EB2 national interest waiver. 


In order to qualify for an EB2 national interest waiver, you must first meet the requirements for the EB2 immigrant classification.  You must also show that the work that you plan to do in the United States has substantial merit and national importance.  Additionally, you must be well positioned to advance whatever it is that you're proposing to do in the United States.  Lastly, you must show that it is in the national interest to waive the requirements for you to have a job offer from a U.S employer and for that U.S. employer to go through the Labor Certification process to show that they were unable to hire a qualified U.S. worker.

Immigration Options for People with High-Skill or Extraordinary Ability
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The O1 Visa


The O1 visa is for people who have an extraordinary ability in a particular field.  Now, this option is quite similar to the EB1A option except that the O1 is a non-immigrant visa.  “Non-immigrant visa” means that it is not an option that directly leads to a green card.  It is only temporary.  As with the EB1A, you must show that you have an extraordinary ability in a particular field such as having an extraordinary ability in math or science or a particular sport or in business.  Similar to the EB1A, the way that you demonstrate that you have an extraordinary ability is by showing that you satisfy at least three of those different criteria.   This can include evidence such as that you've received prizes or awards, that you've judged the works of others, that you're a member in an association that requires outstanding achievement to be a member, or whether you receive a high salary or high compensation compared to others in your field. 


When comparing the O1 to the EB1A, the O1 requires that you have an agent or a U.S employer to file the petition on your behalf.  EB1A, by contrast, is eligible for self-petition (meaning that you can apply for the visa on your own without the need for any sort of a sponsor).  Remember, the O1 is a non-immigrant option whereas the EB1A is a green card option.  The initial period of stay on an O1 visa is generally three years, with extensions in one year increments.  Finally, the O1 generally has a lower threshold to get approved compared to EB1A.  While there are similarities between how you prove extraordinary ability, the thresholds to get approved for an O1 are lower than for EB1A. 


In sum, there are three separate options for people to qualify for either a visa or a green card based on having an extraordinary ability, a high degree of skill in their particular field, or whether they are doing work in the United States that is in the national interest. 


My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.  If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.

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Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.