This post and the video above covers the extraordinary ability criteria for entrepreneurs who are interested in the EB1a green card.

Why Consider the EB1a Green Card?

Most employment based green card categories require you to have an employer sponsor.

Also—in a typical case—your employer will have to go through a long and tedious process that is referred to as the PERM labor certification process. Unfortunately, many employers simply will not want to go through this process even if you would be a fantastic addition to their organization.

Fortunately—for a limited group of high performers— there are some employment based green card categories that allow you to file your own application and skip the dreaded PERM labor certification process. One such category is the EB1a which is reserved for people of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, athletics or business.

There is a good reason for including entrepreneurs in this group. They launch businesses that employ US workers and benefit the economy. Therefore, it makes sense that talented startup founders would be able to qualify for the EB1a green card.

Speaking of qualifications, let’s say you are an accomplished entrepreneur. How do you qualify for the EB1a green card?

To qualify for the EB1a extraordinary ability green card, you must prove that you have won a major internationally recognized award(think gold metal or pulitzer prize). Or, at a minimum, you must meet at least three of ten specific listed criteria. Additionally, you have to make a showing that you will continue to work in your field of genius. Finally, you must prove that your entry into the US will benefit the country.

Let’s take a look at the criteria and think about how an entrepreneur might qualify for the EB1a extraordinary ability green card…

The 10 Extraordinary Ability Criteria for Entrepreneurs

  1. Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor.

Now, some awards exist for business. But what if you haven’t won awards but you were selected for a highly competitive startup accelerator program(such as Y Combinator or Tech Stars)? In that case, i would argue that your selection is equivalent to a national or international prize.

2. Evidence of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievement of their members as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields.

USCIS will also consider….

3. Evidence of published material about the alien in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought…”

For example, being featured in Inc. or Entrepreneur can help to demonstrate your extraordinary ability.

4. Evidence of the alien’s participation as a judge of the work of others, either individually or on a panel, in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought.

5. Evidence of original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field.

6. Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.

7. Evidence that work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases.

8. Evidence of performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations or establishments.

9. Evidence of a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.

10. Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or sales of music.

There is also a catchall category. This is beneficial to entrepreneurs that may have evidence of accomplishments that do not match the criteria.

Under the catchall category… 

If the standards do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

Other EB1a Requirements

There is a common misconception that if you meet three of the criteria listed above, you will be able to get an EB1a green card. Unfortunately that is not the case. You still must convince a USCIS examiner that the evidence shows that you are among the small percentage at the very top of your field–in this case the field being entrepreneurship.

I have heard some brilliant immigration lawyers discuss this topic recently. They seem to agree that three of the extraordinary ability criteria carry more weight than the others.

Those factors are:

  • International/national awards
  • Published info about the applicant in major publications
  • Membership in organizations that require substantial requirements.

If you can hit all three of these criteria, you are in great shape. On the other hand, if you can’t meet any of these criteria, you could be facing a denial even if you meet three of the other criteria.

Conclusion: Extraordinary Ability Criteria

If you meet the extraordinary ability criteria for entrepreneurs and you want a green card, I would encourage you to explore this option further because the benefits are huge. You can self petition. And you can request premium processing. Therefore, the entire process can move relatively quickly.

If you feel that you might qualify, reach out to one of the many great US immigration lawyers that you can find across the globe.

 Thank you for your time!

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Benjamin Frear, Esq.

Immigration Lawyer For Entrepreneurs and High Growth Companies

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