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The EB2 visa is a second preference, employment based immigration category for workers with exceptional ability or advanced degrees. Like the EB1 visa category, the EB2 green card process is relatively fast. However, for most applicants, it requires a job offer and PERM labor certification which can itself be a lengthy process. EB2 visa applications are also highly scrutinized with aggressive eligibility standards, though the bar is set a little lower than for the EB1 visa.

The EB2 visa is a provision for members of professions who hold advanced degrees or their equivalent, or workers with exceptional ability. There are three sub-categories within the EB2 visa, 1) the Advanced Degree, 2) the Exceptional Ability, and 3) the EB2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). The first two sub-categories require a US employer sponsor who must also file for a PERM labor certification on behalf of the applicant. In the EB2 NIW sub-category, individuals may self-petition where the job offer, and PERM labor certification requirements may be waived.

140,000 employment based green cards are available each year, and these are distributed between the EB1, EB2, EB3, EB4, and EB5 categories. Of these, 28.6%, or approximately 40,000 visas, are allocated for the EB2 visa category. All in all, length of process for an EB2 visa will vary depending on the applicant’s country of origin as visas are capped by country, and whether you require labor certification, a process that can take upwards of eight months.  

What are the differences...

EB2 Advanced Degree

The advanced degree visa is issued to individuals who hold a US advanced degree or its foreign equivalent. A US baccalaureate degree with at least 5 years of progressive experience in the field may also be considered. The position being sought by the applicant must require the advanced degree or equivalent qualifications as a prerequisite for employment. A US employer must sponsor the applicant to petition on their behalf as well as obtain PERM labor certification on their behalf.

EB2 Advanced Degree Criteria

Applicants must provide evidence of their advanced degree status through documentation such as official academic records of degrees and/or letters from current or former employers stating that the applicant has at least 5 years of progressive experience in the field.

EB2 Exceptional Ability

This subcategory of the EB2 visa is issued to individuals who demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. “Exceptional ability” refers to a level of expertise that is significantly higher than what is considered standard in the applicant’s field. Like the advanced degree subcategory, a sponsoring employer with PERM labor certification is also required.

EB2 Exceptional Ability Criteria

Demonstration of exceptional ability for the purpose of this EB2 visa subcategory requires meeting at least three of the following criteria:

  1. An official academic record showing that the applicant possesses a degree, diploma, certificate or other award from an educational institution related to the area of ability
  2. Letters to document a minimum of 10 years of full-time experience in the occupation of ability
  3. A license to practice the profession, or certification for the profession or occupation
  4. Evidence of commanding a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates exceptional ability
  5. Membership in a professional association or associations within the field
  6. Recognition by peers. Government entities, professional or business organizations of the applicant’s achievements and significant contributions to the field
  7. Other comparable evidence of eligibility

The national interest waiver, or NIW as it is more commonly known, is a provision for qualified applicants to have the job offer and labor certification requirements waived for the sake of the national interest of the US. Applicants may self-petition rather than seeking employer sponsors.

EB2 NIW Criteria

NIW applicants may apply under the advanced degree or exceptional ability subcategories. In addition to the eligibility requirements for the applicable subcategory, NIW applicants must also meet the three NIW-specific criteria listed below:

  1. The applicant’s proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance, contributing to an important national goal to bring positive impact to the US
  2. The applicant must be well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, possessing all of the education, skills, and knowledge necessary for success
  3. The waiver must be beneficial to the US

Other Requirements for 2nd Preference Employment Based Immigration

There are several other requirements to consider throughout the EB2 green card process. Some of these are outlined below.

Aside from the support documents required to show eligibility for the EB2 visa and PERM labor certification, applicants must also present various identity and civil documents such as a valid passport, birth and marriage certificates, as well as completed medical examination forms. Additional passport photos will also be required, and any foreign language documents may need to be translated and any copies certified.  

All applicants and their dependents must undergo medical examination and receive certain mandatory vaccinations prior to attending the visa interview. Some elderly individuals or those with certain medical history and conditions may be exempt from some vaccines, based on determination by an authorized panel physician.

Filing fees for the EB2 visa typically include an I-140 filing fee, I-485 filing fee, and a DS-260 filing fee for those currently residing outside of the US. These filing fees can vary depending on the age and refugee status of the applicant. A list of current standard fees for each form can be found on the USCIS website. Other fees to consider include medical examination costs, vaccination costs, biometrics fee, as well as other documents fees, travel costs for an out-of-town interview (if applicable), and professional consultant fees.

How we can help...

At Immigration General Counsel, we are experts in the fields of business, professional, and investment immigration. Our specialties are in the full range of temporary and permanent employment based visa categories including H1B, L1, E2, J1 Waiver, EB1, EB2 (including NIW), EB3 (including Schedule A for nurses and physical therapists), and EB5, just to name a few. We are also highly experienced with complex and unusual cases and have had great success in obtaining approvals for USCIS RFE and NOID cases.

With a broad range of expertise, we are well positioned to guide your smooth transition from temporary work visa to employment based green card, and even citizenship should you so desire. We also have a subspecialty in family based immigration so you will not need to seek outside counsel if your situation changes. If you are looking for solid immigration counsel to strategically guide you through every step of the complex US immigration process, you can count on Immigration General Counsel!

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