There are plenty of reasons why thousands of foreign nationals desire to immigrate to the United States, from uniting with loved ones in America to fulfilling their ambitions of achieving the “American Dream.”
While there are several ways of obtaining a green card, such as self-petition, the EB-2 visa is one of the best options. However, many can find getting an EB-2 visa complicated and confusing.
In this post, we will answer some of the key questions you have, including what an EB-2 visa is, who qualifies for it, and how to prove exceptional ability and national interest.
What Is an EB-2 Visa?
Sometimes, professional or business organizations are unable to find a US citizen qualified enough for a particular job. As a solution, the employer might turn to foreign nationals to fill the position, creating an opportunity for employment immigration.
Employment or work immigration is when a foreigner obtains an immigrant visa granting them permanent residency through an American job offer.
There are five major EB visa classifications, with each having its distinct conditions. These five classifications are:
- EB-1 for priority workers
- EB-2 for professionals with exceptional ability, advanced degrees, or a foreign equivalent degree
- EB-3 for professionals, skilled workers, and unskilled workers
- EB-4 for certain special immigrants
- EB-5 for immigrant invest
Many foreign nationals prefer EB-2 work visas because their overall processing time is quicker than other visa categories.
Who Qualifies for an EB-2 Visa?
There are three ways to apply for an EB-2 work visa, with each approach requiring you to meet separate collective conditions.
You should also keep in mind that if you are applying for an EB-2, a US employer must sponsor you. In fact, it is the employer who’s responsible for filing documents with the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the Department of Labor. In the forms, you will be classified as the “beneficiary” and the employer as the “applicant.”
The three categories for EB-2 eligibility are foreigners with:
- An advanced degree in art, business, or science or a foreign equivalent degree
- Exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business or international recognition
- A National Interest Waiver, proving that their work has the ability to benefit the United States
Qualifying for an EB-2 Visa with an Advanced Degree
To qualify for this category, you must have an official academic record of at least a master’s degree or meet foreign equivalent qualifications. On top of that, you must have a minimum of five years of experience and a confirmed American job offer.
The category also requires you to submit certain documents, including proof of:
- Your bachelor’s degree
- An advanced degree like a master’s or doctoral degree or membership in a professional association
- A US job offer in line with your field of study
A unique aspect of this category is that you can still qualify even without an official academic record of an advanced degree because of how the USCIS defines what an advanced degree is.
Yes, the agency views an advanced degree as anything above a baccalaureate. However, its regulations continue to state that a baccalaureate degree and at least five years of continuous experience in the field will be considered a foreign equivalent degree to a master’s or a doctoral degree.
However, you must have gained those five years of experience after obtaining your bachelor’s degree.
The final step to qualifying for this category is to wait until your potential employer has obtained an approved labor certification or other comparable evidence. We should note that you must have met the minimum requirements before current or former employers begin the labor certification process.
Unless the employer can prove that it would be unfeasible to train a new employee, the Department of Labor doesn’t permit you to use the experience you gain with the sponsoring employer as a way to qualify for a labor certification.
What You Need to Know about Labor Certification
A labor certification is a confirmation by the U.S. Department of Labor that not enough U.S. workers meet the minimum requirements for a position a foreign national intends to fill.
To prove this, the employer will have to advertise for the position, interview potential candidates, and ultimately reject American applications. The employer must also clearly define what the position’s minimum requirements are.
For instance, if the employer states on the labor certification application that they will accept a candidate who has less than an advanced degree or equivalent, their case will not qualify for an EB-2.
Qualifying for an EB-2 Visa with Exceptional Ability
To qualify in this category, you must prove exceptional ability, showing that you are better than most people in your field of business, sciences, or arts. Additionally, you must have at least ten years of experience in the field.
Applicants must meet at least three of the requirements below:
- Proof that you have worked for at least ten years in your field (this could be a letter from current or former employers)
- Official academic record
- If necessary for your line of work, you must have a professional license
- Membership in a professional association in the field
- Proof of a salary
- Proof of awards and prizes, showing exceptional ability evidence
As far as awards go, the exceptional ability category doesn’t need you to have international recognition in your field. Though you must still be significantly more accomplished than the average professional, proving sustained national acclaim will still satisfy the category’s requirements.
While this category requires labor certification as well, you can avoid the need for one by using the national interest waiver exception.
Finally, should you obtain a work permit, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 might be eligible for green cards as your accompanying relatives.
Qualifying for an EB-2 Visa with a National Interest Waiver Petition
For a national interest waiver, applicants must show that it is of national importance that they gain lawful permanent residence by demonstrating that their exceptional ability and talents has substantial merit to the United States.
What does “benefiting” the U.S. entail? For starters, you will have to show that your work is of national interest and will have a favorable impact on important aspects, such as the country’s economic, educational, employment, environmental, cultural, or housing situation.
Secondly, you must show that the said favorable impact is of national importance. For example, a public health researcher at a university or federal agency could qualify for a national interest waiver.
The requirements applicants must meet are similar to the requirements under the exceptional ability category. However, unlike the exceptional ability and advanced degree categories, you can qualify for a national interest waiver without having a labor certification or even a U.S. job offer.
Finally, a national interest waiver requires you to show that there is an extremely urgent interest in your field of expertise to warrant skipping the entire labor certification process.
How to Apply for an EB-2 Visa
You need to complete the following steps when applying for EB-2 work visas.
Your Employer Applies for a Permanent Labor Certification
The process begins with your U.S. employer applying for a certification using Program Electronic Management Review (PERM). It involves the employer proving that they advertised the position for a period (normally 30 days), interviewed prospective employees, and found no candidate suitable for the job.
This step gives the government an opportunity to test and examine the American job market, determining whether any American citizens are qualified and willing to fill the position.
In doing so, they promote the idea that businesses first seek U.S. citizen workers before presenting the position to foreign workers. It also helps the government ensure that the U.S. labor market is not negatively affected.
Once the Department of Labor confirms that the employer meets all labor certification requirements, they will issue a permanent employment certification, allowing the EB-2 application to proceed to the second step.
Employer Files an I-140 Form
The second step involves your current employer (the applicant) filing Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker, showing their intention to hire a foreign national upon approval.
When filing the form, they must include the labor certification along with significant documentation proving that you are qualified for the position. This documentation consists typically of:
- Proof of the job offer
- Proof the employer has the financial ability to pay you
- Proof of your exceptional ability
- Your official academic record or foreign equivalent degree
After filing the form with the USCIS office, the employer must wait for it to be processed. The organization must issue a receipt and written notice of approval before moving on with the proposed endeavor.
Employee Files Form I-485
The worker’s priority date refers to the date your employer filed the labor certification with the Department of Labor or, in cases when the labor certification is not needed, the date your employer filed Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker.
The final application step involves waiting until the priority date is current to adjust status to be granted work authorization and become a lawful permanent resident.
If you are already in America and are present in legal status, once the date is current, you can apply to adjust status by filing Form I-485 with the USCIS. After security processing and a final interview, you will receive notification whether you have been granted or denied an employment visa via mail.
However, if you’re outside the United States, you would have to apply to adjust status via consular processing at the American consular office in your country. This process includes a final interview to establish substantial merit and determine whether you will obtain your employment visa.
There are cases when the priority date will be current during the filing of the I-140 Petition for Alien Worker. Should this happen, you can file for the application of your visa and adjustment status concurrently, which could shorten the overall application process.
How Long Does It Normally Take to Obtain an EB-2 Visa?
Several factors will determine how long the overall application process takes, with the exact length varying from case to case.
For instance, one of the determining factors is whether you will need to get a PERM certification. Should you need one, your application could take longer. Another factor is your priority date and whether there will be any retrogression on the employment-visa calendar.
Usually, workers applying from countries like India and China might experience longer waiting periods due to the high amount of applications the United States receives from those countries. In extreme cases, applicants can find themselves waiting for several years for a national interest waiver or to prove exceptional ability in their field.
Fortunately, there are options available if you would like to shorten the application process. For example, applying for a NIW could save you a few months. Though costly, you could also opt for the premium processing route, which might shorten the petition processing period from six months to two weeks.
The best way to determine how long your EB-2 application could take is to ask your immigration attorney.
Start Your Visa Applications Today
Working in the United States is an exciting prospect many people dream of. While applying for the work permits can be daunting, frustrating, and confusing, thanks to The Costas Network Law Center, LLC, it doesn’t always have to be.
We are an immigration law firm dedicated to providing legal services to people and families across all 50 American states and around the world.
With quality attorney-client relationship a priority, our team understands the immigration process and is ready to guide you throughout the entire proposed endeavor. We ensure you understand the legal strategy we implement every step of the way.
Do you need help resolving your work permit’s application glitches or handling immigration records? Our immigration attorneys can offer you sound legal advice on your immigration rights.
What Sets Us Apart?
With most of our staff being immigrants, they have first-hand experience of the immigration process. On top of that, we are native speakers and do not use interpreters, ensuring we promote clear, direct communication every step of the way.
If that wasn’t enough, we offer several payment plans to make financing the entire process easier for you.
With the right immigration attorney to guide you through the process, your immigration story can have a happy ending. Start your EB-2 application today and move a step closer to gaining your American citizenship.
Contact The Costas Network Law Center, LLC, at (216) 616-3103 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation regarding your EB-2 employment visa application.