Gudeon and McFadden
Immigration Options for Investors, Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

Updated: July 31, 2020

4.  Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Business – EB-1-1

Aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics can qualify for lawful permanent residence in the first employment-based immigrant preference category. The extraordinary ability preference offers many advantages to the qualified applicant, among them the valuable option to self-petition, thereby dispensing with the need to obtain a sponsor.

In order to qualify for an immigrant visa and lawful permanent resident status as an alien of extraordinary ability in business, the applicable regulations of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (‘USCIS’) require that one demonstrate ‘sustained national or international acclaim’ and show that one’s ‘achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.’ Less onerous is the requirement that the alien show he is seeking to enter the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability, and that his entry will ‘substantially benefit prospectively the United States.’

What is ‘extraordinary ability’? The USCIS regulations define it as ‘a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.’ An applicant must demonstrate ‘extraordinary ability’ by producing evidence satisfying at least three of the 10 criteria set out in the regulations. Those criteria include such indicia as press coverage in major media, membership in associations that require extraordinary ability of their members, and performing in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation.

Like the EB-1-3 immigrant visa for multinational executives and managers discussed in section 1 above, the EB-1-1 immigrant visa has an associated nonimmigrant visa which allows a qualifying applicant to live and work in the United States, during which time he may if desired petition for immigrant status. The O-1 nonimmigrant visa for aliens of extraordinary ability, which can be obtained for an initial period of three years and for which extensions are available, is addressed elsewhere on our website in the article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability. For further information please consult Not Just for Rocket Scientists: Green Cards for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Business.

The immigrant visa for persons of extraordinary ability in business is not an easy one to obtain, but it is always a possibility worth considering, particularly if the alternative is a potentially expensive green card via investment.

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