Green Cards for Priority Workers: EB‑1 Visa Eligibility

Find out who is eligible to get an employment-based green card under the employment first preference category of U.S. immigration.

Under the employment first preference category of U.S. immigration, green cards (lawful permanent residence) are available to people who qualify as “priority” workers. This group is divided into three subcategories:

  • workers of extraordinary ability
  • outstanding university professors or researchers, and
  • transferring executives or managers of multinational companies.

Applying for a U.S. green card as a priority worker is easier than applying in most of the other employment categories, because your employer doesn’t need to start out by seeking labor certification on your behalf. (For more information on that long and complex process, see “Timeline of the U.S. Labor Certification Process.”)

In fact, in the subcategory for workers of extraordinary ability, you do not even need a job offer. (People applying as professors or researchers, however, do need job offers.) And transferring executives or managers must, obviously, already be employed by the company that’s transferring them.)

EB-1; Workers of Extraordinary Ability Subcategory

If you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, you may qualify for a green card as a priority worker. Your achievements must have been publicly recognized, and resulted in a period of sustained national or international acclaim. In general, if you can show that you are a widely acknowledged leader in your field, then you will be able to show that you have gained sustained acclaim.

You do not need a specific job offer in this subcategory so long as you will continue working in your field of expertise once you arrive in the United States. If, however, you have been offered a job, your employer can help with your application by filing the initial petition for you. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) tends to be more willing to trust, and therefore approve, “extraordinary ability” petitions submitted by an employer-sponsor.

That is because USCIS can more readily imagine that you will in fact be performing these feats involving extraordinary ability if a company wants to hire you for this purpose. So if you have a choice between a “self-petition” and having an employer sign off on the petition, it might be best to have your employer sponsor you.

EB-1; Outstanding Professors and Researchers Subcategory

If you have an international reputation for being outstanding in a particular academic field, you may qualify for a green card as a priority worker under the outstanding professors and researchers subcategory. You need three years’ minimum experience at either teaching or research in that field. You must also be entering the U.S. to accept a specific tenured or tenure-track teaching or research position at a university or an institution of higher learning.

Unlike the “extraordinary ability” category described above, you will need a specific job offer from a qualified employer in order to qualify in this subcategory. Alternatively, you may accept a job conducting research in industry or with a research organization. The U.S. company or institution employing you should have a history of making significant achievements in research and must employ at least three other full-time research workers. Research positions must not be temporary, but be expected to last for an unlimited or indefinite time.

EB-1; Multinational Executives and Managers Subcategory

If you have been employed as an executive or manager by a qualified company outside the U.S. for at least one out of the past three years, you may qualify for a green card as a priority worker under the multinational executives and managers subcategory. Or, if you’re already in the U.S. on a temporary visa, you may qualify if you were employed as an executive or manager at that company for one of the three years before you arrived here.

You must now be going to take a managerial or executive position with a U.S. branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company. The U.S. office must have been in business for at least one year. (The qualifications needed are similar to those for L-1 intra-company transferee visas.)

Not only do you need to meet the various qualification requirements under this subcategory, but the foreign and U.S.-based offices of your employer must meet certain qualifications as well, including that they either be:

  • different branches of the same company
  • a joint venture where the parent company owns half or has equal control and veto power
  • related so that one company is a majority-controlled subsidiary of the other, or
  • affiliated such that both companies are under the control of the same person, persons, company, or group of companies.

Because your own job position, both in and out of the U.S., must be “executive” or “managerial” in nature, the exact meaning of these terms is important. A manager is defined as a person who:

  • manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization
  • supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function of the organization
  • has the authority to hire and fire those persons supervised, or if none are supervised, works at a senior level within the organization, and
  • has the authority to make decisions concerning the day-to-day operations of the activities or function of the organization over which the manager has authority.

Note that all four of the above criteria must be met for someone’s job to be considered managerial. A supervisor below the level of middle management, often called a first-line supervisor, is not normally considered a manager for green card qualifying purposes—unless the employees being supervised are professionals. The word professional here means a worker holding a university degree.

An executive is defined as a person who:

  • directs the management of the organization or a major part or function of the organization
  • sets the goals and policies of the organization or a part or function of the organization
  • has extensive decision-making authority, and
  • receives only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, a board of directors, or the stockholders of the organization.

For more information on whether you might qualify as an EB-1 priority worker, or help with the application process, consult an immigration attorney.

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