EB-2 Visas for Individuals With Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability

The EB-2 immigrant visas, also known as “second preference” visas, are designed for professionals with advanced degrees and persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. This type of visa requires a permanent job offer from a U.S. employer (the applicant’s sponsor) and a labor certification issued by the Department of Labor (DOL).  

Advanced Degree

An individual who has an advanced degree must have at least a Master’s degree or, in some professions, a Bachelor’s degree as well as a minimum of five years of work experience to be eligible to apply for an EB-2 visa. The applicant must have an offer of employment from a company that operates in the U.S. or has subsidiaries within the U.S. before applying for entry clearance. Applicants must provide documentation, such as their academic transcripts, work records, and other verifying documents, that would be considered proof of prominence within their field.

Exceptional Ability

An individual who has an exceptional ability means that person has a degree of expertise significantly above that normally encountered in the sciences, arts, or business. The foreign national must have an offer of employment from a U.S. company. In some cases, applicants who can show an exceptional ability and that their employment in the U.S. would significantly benefit the nation may be able to self-petition. This is known as the National Interest Waiver (NIW). A person who can show his or her expertise would greatly benefit the nation may not need to have an employer sponsor him or her. The NIW is a good option for individuals who do not want to go through the lengthy labor certification process, or those who do not want to be confined to a specific employer during labor certification.

Labor certification is a lengthy process that requires substantial paperwork. The process exists to protect U.S. workers and the U.S. labor market by making sure that foreign citizens seeking employment-based immigration statuses are not replacing qualified U.S. workers who are ready, willing, and able to work in the same position. To receive DOL approval, the employer must demonstrate that DOL salary requirements and mandatory hiring guidelines are met. Once the DOL approves the labor certification, the employer files an immigrant visa petition, which is Form I-140, and the employee files his or her permanent residence application, which is Form I-485.

There are a number of benefits offered by the EB-2 visa, including permanent residency in the U.S., the ability to travel in and out of the U.S. freely, and the ability to work in the U.S. Additionally, EB-2 visa holders are permitted to bring their dependents to the U.S., including a spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 on a dependent visa. The spouse and unmarried children are eligible to apply for permanent residence. The EB-2 holder’s spouse is also eligible to file for a work permit known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). 

The period between the time that an individual applies for an EB-2 visa and the time that he or she actually obtains it can vary depending on a variety of circumstances. To get more information about whether you may qualify for an EB-2 visa, it is best to consult an immigration attorney in your area.