The EB-1A is one of the most advantageous U.S. visas; but also the most challenging . One reason it's so difficult to obtain an EB-1A approval is that qualifying for the EB-1A by meeting the criteria is not enough. In addition to meeting three or more EB-1A extraordinary ability criteria, EB-1A must pass a "final merits test" that assesses whether they have "sustained acclaim."
Whether an EB1 candidate passes this test is entirely up to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer's discretion. While it’s a subjective test, you can improve your chances of passing. In this guide, we describe the EB-1A sustained acclaim requirement and discuss what you can do to increase the strength of your EB-1A petition.
What is the EB-1A visa?
EB-1 is short for employment-based first preference visa. There are three immigrant visas within the broader EB-1 category, including the EB-1A for foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities, EB-1B for outstanding professors and researchers, and the EB-1C for multinational executives and managers.
All these EB-1 visas, including the EB-1A, save you a "spot in line" to apply for an employment-based green card. Unlike most nonimmigrant visas, EB-1A visas do not give you legal status in the U.S. Instead, they are the first step in becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR). You can apply for the EB-1A outside of the U.S., but most applicants secure a work visa like the O-1 or H-1B to live in the U.S. throughout the employment-based immigration process.
EB-1A is unique in that it is meant for immigrants with a significant level of expertise at the very top of their field. EB-1A applicants don't need a U.S. employer sponsor or job offer in the U.S. to qualify for the EB-1A. Instead, they can self-petition (also called self-sponsor) their immigrant petition. In addition, EB-1As are eligible for expedited processing times when filed with premium processing. The EB-1 also provides a faster path to a green card because the PERM labor certification process is not required.
EB-1A Eligibility: Alien of Extraordinary Ability Criteria
There are two ways to qualify for the EB-1A visa.
First, you can qualify with evidence of a one-time achievement. For instance, you qualify if you received a major, internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or Academy Award.
Alternatively, you qualify by meeting a minimum of three EB-1A extraordinary ability criteria:
- You received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards in the field
- You are a member of associations in the field that require outstanding achievement
- There is published material about you in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
- You have been invited to judge of the work of others in your field, either individually or on a panel
- You have made original contributions of major significance to the field
- You have authored scholarly articles in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
- You have served in a leading or critical role for distinguished organizations
- You command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration
- Your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
- You have demonstrated commercial successes in the performing arts
What is the EB-1A final merits determination?
The EB-1A final merits test is the last step in the adjudication process for the EB-1A visa category. The case is adjudicated by a USCIS officer specializing in reviewing EB-1 cases. For context, the EB-1A adjudication process includes the following:
- A review of the applicant's immigration forms, such as the Form I-140
- A review of the applicant's submitted evidence for the EB-A criteria (an overview of these criteria is above)
- The final merits test
During the final merits test, the USCIS officer assesses whether the applicant has "demonstrated sustained national or international acclaim" in your field of extraordinary ability based on all the evidence submitted. In other words, EB-1A applicants do not need to submit additional evidence to the test. Instead, a USCIS officer will decide based on the evidence they reviewed in the second step of the adjudication process.
As a reminder, satisfying the EB-1A criteria in step two does not mean that you'll pass step three. USCIS officers can determine that you meet three or more criteria but not the final merits test.
So how do you satisfy the EB1A final merits requirement?
How do you satisfy the EB-1A sustained acclaim requirement?
- Strengthen each of your EB-1A criteria: The evidence you submit for your EB-1A criteria is directly linked to your success with the final merits test. The more you can do to build a stronger EB-1A profile, the more likely you will pass the test.
- Leave out weak evidence: Just because you have evidence related to the EB-1 criteria does not mean you should share it with USCIS. While we can not be sure, many immigration attorneys believe that weak evidence, even if accompanied by strong evidence, can negatively impact USCIS's impression of your case. Even if you have evidence for eight EB-1A criteria, your attorney's strategy may be only to submit evidence for six criteria, leaving out two weaker ones.
- Manage your online presence: Although USCIS is supposed to decide on your case solely based on the evidence submitted in your I-140 petition, many attorneys believe that most USCIS officers look up EB1A candidates online. Ensure your online profiles match or complement the evidence in your immigrant petition.
- Build up your overall profile: Accomplishments like speaking at conferences or having a significant online following don't impact your EB1A criteria. However, they may positively impact USCIS's impression of you when they look you up online.
- Obtain letters of recommendation from industry experts: Your immigration attorney may recommend obtaining letters of recommendation for certain EB1A criteria. When written by prestigious professionals in your field of expertise, these letters can leave a lasting impression that impacts whether the officer approves your case.
- Submit your evidence in a way an officer can understand: USCIS needs to understand the significance of your accomplishments. Rather than using dense industry language, make sure your petition clearly communicates why your accomplishments are important. A skilled immigration team can communicate it in a way that simplifies your unique accomplishments without oversimplifying.
Speak with an EB-1A expert
It's important to get an opinion from an experienced immigration attorney on your unique case. Even better, you can significantly improve your chance of an EB1A approval when you work with an attorney with a track record of success with EB1A cases in your field of endeavor. Connect with our business immigration team today.