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The EB-1 vs EB-2 Explained

EB-1 and EB-2 are employment-based immigrant petitions that put you on the path to get a U.S. green card.

The purpose of the EB-1 and EB-2 is that they permit you to apply for a green card and become a Lawful Permanent Resident, subject to your priority date eligibility (your place in the green card queue). 

Let’s dig deeper into the differences between EB-1 and EB-2.

The EB-1

The EB-1 is divided into three subcategories: EB-1A “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”, EB-1B “Outstanding Researcher”, and EB-1C “Multinational Manager”. One major benefit of the EB-1 is that all three subcategories allow you to skip the PERM, a lengthy process of testing the labor market for qualified U.S. workers.

  •  EB-1A: To be eligible for an EB-1A, you must demonstrate that you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. You can self-petition for the EB-1A, meaning that you do not need a sponsoring U.S. employer or job offer. To qualify for the EB-1A, you must either have received a major, internationally recognized prize or award, such as a Nobel Prize or meet at least three eligibility criteria.

Many different types of people may qualify for the EB-1A. For example, a startup founder with a record of business achievements, who has served in critical roles at companies, has been featured in media articles, and has received a high salary, may be a great candidate for the EB-1A.

  • EB-1B: Reserved for outstanding researchers, academics, and professors. To qualify for the EB-1B, you must meet at least two eligibility criteria. You must also have at least three years of teaching or research experience, plus a U.S. job offer to teach or work in a predominately research role. 

A good candidate for EB-1B could be a Data Scientist with a U.S. job offer, who has made original scientific contributions, has a strong publication and citation record, and has served as a judge at technical conferences.

  • EB-1C: Reserved for executives and managers of multinational companies. You must have worked as an executive or manager in the company’s foreign subsidiary for at least one year in the past three years, and you must be offered an executive or managerial role with the same company in the U.S.

An example of a possible EB-1C candidate could be Program Manager who had worked for a company in Spain for 2 years, and is now working for the same company as a Senior Project Manager in the U.S.

The EB-2

The EB-2 is designated for people with advanced degrees (e.g. Masters, PhD, etc.) or those with exceptional ability in their fields. There are two types of EB-2: PERM-based EB-2 and EB-2 National Interest Waiver.

  • PERM-Based EB-2: You must have a U.S. job offer. The U.S. role must require at least a Master’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree plus 5 years of post-Bachelor’s, progressive work experience. You must also meet the education, experience, and skills requirements for the role.  A major disadvantage of a PERM-based EB-2 is that it requires your employer to complete the lengthy PERM process to test the U.S. labor market for qualified U.S. workers, which can take one year to complete.

For example, an U.S. employer may sponsor a Software Engineer for a PERM-based EB-2, if the Software Engineer position requires a Master’s degree, the employee has the required degree and experience, and the employer was able to demonstrate through the PERM process that there were no qualified U.S. workers.

  • EB-2 National Interest Waiver: The EB-2 NIW allows you to “waive” the lengthy and burdensome PERM process. You can also self-petition for the EB-2 NIW, meaning that you do not need a sponsoring U.S. employer or job offer. To qualify for the EB-2 NIW, you need to either have a Master’s degree; a Bachelor’s degree plus 5 years of post-Bachelor’s, progressive work experience; or you have exceptional ability.

Then, you must also demonstrate how: 1) your work in the U.S. has substantial merit and national importance; 2) that you are well-positioned to do the work; and 3) that it would be in the national interest of the U.S. to waive the PERM and job offer requirements.

A great EB-2 NIW candidate could be a Founder of a biotech startup that has received funding. She has a Master’s degree in Biology. Her startup will improve rapid testing kits for COVID-19, which will benefit the U.S. healthcare system and economy.

EB-1 vs. EB-2 chart

The below chart summarizes the differences and similarities between EB-1 versus EB-2.

Key distinctions between the EB-1 and the EB-2

Now that we’ve gone over the general overview of EB-1 versus EB-2, we can dive deeper into the distinctions. A few key distinctions for comparison:

  1. Different standards: EB-1A “Extraordinary Ability” and EB-1B “Outstanding Researcher” have a higher threshold than EB-2 NIW. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes a two-step approach in evaluating EB-1 A and EB-1B petitions. Even if you meet all the eligibility requirements in the chart above, USCIS also performs a “totality test” for EB-1A and EB-1B. What this means is that USCIS reviews all the evidence together and makes a decision whether, taking everything into account, you have risen to the level of achievement where you should be classified as impressive enough for EB-1A/EB-1B classification.

The EB-2 NIW requirements are less arduous than the EB-1A and EB-1B, making it an easier option for many people.

  1. Visa Bulletin: Each month, the government releases the Visa Bulletin that informs people if they can file the green card application based on their priority date (their place in line).  Your birth country may impact whether you want to proceed with an EB-1 or EB-2. For example, if you were born in Italy and you are currently in the U.S., you could apply for the green card right away under either EB-1 or EB-2. On the other hand, if you were born in India, the EB-1 would allow you to have a much shorter wait before you can apply for a green card compared to the EB-2.
  2. No PERM: All three subcategories of EB-1 plus EB-2 NIW allow you to skip the length PERM process of testing the U.S. labor market for qualified U.S. workers.
  3. Job offer requirement: The EB-1A and EB-2 NIW both allow you to self-petition, meaning that you do not need a sponsoring U.S. employer or job offer. On the other hand, you must have a U.S. job offer for EB-1B, EB-1C, and PERM-based EB-2.

It’s important to review the requirements for each category and see which option better matches your experience and goals. Speak with a Legalpad immigration expert to determine which green card path is right for you.

About the author:

Nate Lozier