EB2 Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability

As the evolution of technology and science continues to gain speed, now more than ever, the U.S. needs a highly educated work force. Foreign workers bring new ideas and fresh perspectives advancing the country’s contribution to mankind. Immigrants holding advanced degrees who wish to obtain permanent residence in the U.S. (green card) often have questions about the EB2 visa. Also known as the second preference visa, the EB-2 classification grants permanent residence to people with a specific job offer of work in the U.S. requiring advanced degrees.

The EB-2 can also be applied to persons of exceptional ability. This page was designed to help foreign workers, and their U.S. employers, learn more about the process of obtaining an EB2 visa and decide if they should consult an immigration attorney. The following topics covered on this page include:

  • EB2 Basics
  • Labor Certification
  • Advanced Degree
  • Exceptional Ability
  • National Interest Waiver
  • Applying for an EB2 Visa
  • Filing Fees
  • Can My Family Apply For Immigrant Visa Too?
  • Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

While this page covers certain legal concepts, it is not intended as a substitute for speaking directly with a qualified immigration attorney. The process of obtaining an immigrant visa can be overwhelming. An attorney can help an applicant navigate the bureaucratic maze and avoid costly or time-consuming mistakes.

EB2 Basics

The EB-2 is issued to persons who are offered employment requiring advanced degrees (beyond baccalaureate) or who show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business. There is also a national interest waiver.

Unlike the category of visas granted to individuals in the EB1 classification, the EB-2 application requires an employer to first obtain certification from the U.S. Department of Labor before a visa can be approved. The employer typically “sponsors” the foreign worker, and files the appropriate petition on his or her behalf.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues a limited number of immigrant visas to qualified foreign workers seeking employment inside the U.S. The process of securing an immigrant visa is a major step toward obtaining a green card. In the case of EB2 visas, the state department issues about 30,126 annually. This accounts for 28.6 percent of the yearly allotment of employment-based visas.

EB2 Advanced Degree EB-2 Exceptional Ability Visa Immigration Lawyer

Advanced Degree

The successful applicant petitioning for a visa under this subcategory must possess an advanced degree (post baccalaureate) from a U.S. university or foreign equivalent. During the application process the foreign employee must also submit evidence of the following:

  • Official academic record showing receipt of advanced degree.
  • Letters from current and former employers showing at least five years of post baccalaureate work experience in the applicant’s chosen field.

The USCIS looks to the Electronic Database for Global Education created by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Administrators Officers to determine the validity of foreign credentials.

Exceptional Ability

The successful applicant will demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business. Art primarily involves athletes and entertainers. USCIS defines exceptional ability as a level of expertise significantly above what is encountered in the sciences, arts or business. USCIS lists seven criteria for demonstrating exceptional ability. The successful applicant must provide evidence of three:

  • Official academic record proving successful completion of degree from a college, university or other institution of learning relating to the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the applicant’s chosen profession.
  • A license or certification to practice the chosen profession.
  • Evidence of a salary demonstrating exceptional ability.
  • Membership in a professional association.
  • Recognition from government entities, or professional organizations for contributions made to the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Other evidence of eligibility is acceptable.

It is extremely important to note that in order to obtain an EB-2 the applicant must establish that he or she will substantially benefit the economy, welfare, culture, or education of America. This must be specified in the application. You’re immigration lawyer will best be able to articulate what the INS deems to satisfy this requirement.

National Interest Waiver

This category is for inventors, founders of start-up enterprises, or researchers, whose skills may substantially benefit the USA. Applicants in this subcategory are requesting a waiver of labor certification because it is in the interest of the U.S. In addition to demonstrating that issuing a visa is in the national interest, the applicant must show three of the following:

  • Official academic record proving successful completion of degree from a college, university or other institution of learning relating to the applicant’s chosen field.
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the applicant’s chosen profession.
  • A license or certification to practice the chosen profession.
  • Evidence of a salary demonstrating exceptional ability.
  • Membership in a professional association.
  • Recognition from government entities, or professional organizations for contributions made to the chosen field.
  • Other evidence of eligibility is acceptable.

Labor Certification for EB2

Before an employer can submit a EB-2 petition to U.S. Immigration and Customs Services (USCIS) on behalf of a foreign worker, the U.S. Department of Labor must first issue what is known as a labor certification. The purpose of this step is to make certain that there are not enough U.S. workers available, willing, or qualified to accept the job opportunity being offered to the foreign worker. The DOL must certify to the USCIS that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. For more information on obtaining labor certification, visit the DOL website.

Applying for an EB-2 Visa

Unless the foreign worker is applying for a national interest waiver, the sponsoring employer is usually required to apply for labor certification through the DOL. Once certification is approved, the employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) on behalf of the foreign national. This document is filed with USCIS.

USCIS currently lists the filing fee for Form I-140 at $580. Unfortunately, this form is not included on the list of forms eligible for a fee waiver based on financial hardship.

Can My Family Also Receive Immigrant Visas?

In many cases, the answer is yes. Based on the applicant’s approved petition for an EB-2 visa, spouses and unmarried minor children (under the age of 21) may apply for immigrant visa as well.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for an EB-2?

In the case of EB2 visas, it is typically the employer who is responsible for filing the necessary paperwork to obtain permanent residence for a foreign employee. While a lawyer is not required, the process of obtaining an EB-2 can be overwhelming. It is important that the foreign worker and employer applying for permanent residence files under the correct category of visa. A qualified legal professional can help the employer or foreign worker navigate a complex maze of bureaucratic hurdles. If you would like more information on applying for an EB2 visa, don’t hesitate to contact an immigration lawyer.

Other Resources:

To learn about the other types of employment-based visas, visit our employment-based immigration page.