Employment-Based Immigration: Second Preference (EB-2)

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Among five preference categories for employment-based permanent residence, EB-2 ranks second overall. Green card applicants are categorized based on their qualifications. Lower preference category numbers are generally faster, but factors like country of origin and US government processing times may slow things down.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allots about 40,000 immigrant visas each for EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 each fiscal year. Any unused visa numbers in EB-1 can also be used for EB-2.

Foreign nationals are eligible to apply for EB-2 green cards if they have one of the following:

  • Advanced degrees in professional occupations – EB-2(A)
  • Exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business – EB-2(B)

The prospective applicant must also have a job offer with a US company in order to qualify for an EB-2 immigrant visa. Additionally, their employer must complete the labor certification process. Labor certification includes a test of the local labor market, to see whether there are willing and able US candidates for the job in question. This ensures that a US worker will not be displaced when hiring a foreign one.

Foreign nationals in the EB-2 category may qualify for a National Interest Waiver (NIW), which means they must establish that their permanent residence in the US would be in the national interest. A job offer is not required for a NIW and neither is labor certification. Therefore, the foreign national can file for themselves.

An EB-2 filer’s spouse and children (under the age of 21) are also eligible to apply for green cards under E-21 and E-22 immigrant status, respectively. As of October 2017, EB-2 applicants and their dependents are required to do an in-person Adjustment of Status (AOS) interview.

EB-2(A) Advanced Degree Holders

How do I qualify for EB-2(A)?

Foreign nationals under EB-2(A) must have a job offer for an occupation that requires an advanced degree. An advanced degree is defined as any degree above a baccalaureate. Examples of an advanced degree include a Master’s, PhD, MD (medicine), or JD (law degree).

The foreign national must have the degree required for the job, either a US degree or its foreign equivalent. Alternatively, the foreign national can qualify with a baccalaureate degree plus five years of progressive experience in the specialty.

Professions qualify for EB-2(A) if a US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent is a minimum requirement for entry. Specific qualifying professions include:

  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Lawyers
  • Physicians
  • Teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academies, or seminaries

Documentation Required

The foreign national must prove they are a professional holding an advanced degree by submitting evidence to USCIS, including:

  • An official academic record showing that the foreign national has a US advanced degree or a foreign equivalent degree; or
  • An official academic record showing that the foreign national has a US bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent degree, and evidence in the form of letters from current or former employer(s) showing that the foreign national has at least five years of progressive post-bachelor’s experience in the specialty.

Exceptional Ability – EB-2(B)

Exceptional ability is defined as a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business. EB-2(B) applicants do not necessarily need to hold an advanced degree.

In order to demonstrate that the foreign national has exceptional ability, immigration law requires at least three of the following:

  1. An official academic record showing that the foreign national has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of exceptional ability;
  2. Evidence in the form of letter(s) from current or former employer(s) showing that the foreign national has at least ten years of full-time experience in the occupation for which he or she is being sought;
  3. License to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;
  4. Evidence that the foreign national has commanded a salary, or other remuneration for services, which demonstrates exceptional ability;
  5. Evidence of membership in professional associations; or
  6. Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.