EB-1-2 Visa for Outstanding Researchers: Allowing Employers to Attract and Retain the World's Top Research Talent

The United States government has a long tradition of encouraging the world’s top minds to teach and conduct their research in the United States. Since 1991, the EB-1-2 visa has been established for the purpose of allowing those foreign nationals who have been “recognized as outstanding in a specific academic area” to obtain a green card without the hassle of waiting for a priority date. While many people assume that America’s universities can hire top talent world-wide, what is not so obvious is that America’s private employers and companies may also take advantage of this attractive visa option.

The advantages of the EB-1-2 visa are enormous when compared to the normal Labor Certification process that must be endured in order to hire most foreign nationals with professional credentials. First, the EB-1-2 visa saves time. This means the PERM and Labor Certification process is completely cut out of the picture, saving a year or more of processing time with the Department of Labor. Secondly, once the USCIS determines that the foreign national is eligible for a green card under EB-1-2, a green card is immediately available allowing permanent residence. By comparison, persons from China or India who have been approved for green cards under the EB-2 category may need to wait up to five years to actually obtain legal permanent resident status.

Secondly, the EB-1-2 visa saves money. The Labor Certification through the PERM process usually involves significant cost. Again, the costs of the PERM process are avoided under EB-1-2.

Which Foreign Nationals Qualify?

The applicant must be a researcher who has been recognized internationally as outstanding in a specific academic area. Although not expressly stated, a PhD is almost always required to qualify for this visa category.

Where the real debate occurs is when defining what qualifies as “internationally recognized as outstanding.” The Federal Government has constructed six categories of evidence that if met by the foreign national, will show the alien’s academic work to be “outstanding” and “internationally recognized.”

The categories of evidence are as follows: (1) Receipt of a major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the academic field; (2) Membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members; (3) Professional publications written by others about the applicant’s work; (4) Participation as a judge of the work of others in the field; (5) Original research or contributions in the field; or (6) Authorship of scholarly books or articles in journals in the field.

The potential applicant must be able to produce solid evidence of at least two of these categories in order to qualify for the EB-1-2 category. The best practice is to try and prove as many of these categories as possible. Finally, these categories are not all created equal, meaning that receipt of a major international prize will be given more weight than fulfillment of any other one category.

The foreign national must also possess three years of experience in research after graduate studies have ended. However, a person may count research conducted while pursuing graduate courses if that research is considered outstanding. To prove the outstanding nature of such research, one should refer to the evidentiary categories above to prove this requirement.

Is the EB-1-2 Visa Option for you?

The EB-1-2 visa provides a mutually beneficial immigration option for those companies that need the best minds and for those minds that produce the best research. If you have questions about an immigration visa or green card matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney.