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EB-2 Exceptional Ability Criteria Explained

To qualify for the EB-2 NIW or EB-2 PERM, you need to have an Advanced Degree or "Exceptional Ability." What is Exceptional Ability, and how do you prove that you have it? 

Background on the EB-2 Visa

The EB-2 is officially known as the employment-based second preference visa. The EB-2 is not a green card, but it does get you on track to obtain a green card


There are two types of EB-2: 

  • EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) 
  • EB-2 PERM. 

While the NIW and PERM each have separate processes, both have the same basic EB-2 qualifications. 

Qualifying for the EB-2 Visa

USCIS designates two ways to qualify for the EB-2. 

First is the Advanced Degree route. You qualify via Advanced Degree if you have (1) a U.S. Master's degree (or foreign equivalent) or (2) a U.S. Bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent) plus five years of progressive work experience. 

Second, if you do not have an Advanced Degree, you can still qualify for the EB-2 by satisfying the Exceptional Ability requirement. 

EB-2 Exceptional Ability Criteria Overview

Not to be confused with EB-1 or O-1 Extraordinary Ability criteria, there are six EB-2 Exceptional Ability criteria. To get your EB-2 approved with Exceptional Ability, you must demonstrate to USCIS that you meet at least three criteria.

1. Degree, diploma, or certificate 

Official USCIS language: Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability

The key here is to make sure that the qualification is relevant to the work you're doing now. 

For example, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration would be an excellent fit for a CEO. A Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science might not seem like a good fit for a CEO of a financial services startup, but it could work for the CEO of an environmental organization. 

2. Ten years of work experience 

Official USCIS language: Letters from current or former employers documenting at least ten years of full-time experience in your occupation

With this criterion, you'll want to ensure you have documentation of ten years total, subtracting any gaps in employment. 

You'll also want to ensure that all ten years were in roles related to your current work.

3. Professional license or certification 

Official USCIS language: A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation

This criterion should be straightforward if you work in an occupation requiring a certificate or license. 

For example, a relevant certificate for an accountant would be a Certified Public Accountant license. On the contrary, a teaching certificate would not work for a software engineer.

4. High remuneration 

Official USCIS language: Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability

Your total remuneration package should be within the top 10% of remuneration earned by other professionals in your role and location. 

Your total remuneration can include your salary, bonuses, and equity. 

5. Membership

Official USCIS language: Membership in a professional association(s)

You can meet this criterion by joining professional associations in your field. 

A software engineer might join the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, or a doctor might join the American Medical Association.

6. Recognition by peers, government entities, and professional organizations 

Official USCIS language: Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations

There are many different ways you could show that you meet this criterion.

Prizes and awards are both an easy fit. You could also include press articles written about you. Have you authored peer-reviewed articles or patented inventions? Those could also work.

You can be creative here with any accomplishments that seem relevant. 

Next Steps 

Understanding the required qualifications for the EB-2 puts you one step closer to getting a green card. To learn more about getting a green card, attend one of Legalpad's upcoming permanent residency workshops

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.