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Extraordinary Ability

Anyone who can demonstrate that they have achieved a certain level of success and recognition in their respective field may qualify for a merit-based visa.


You must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required.


This is the highest level of visa classification and USCIS looks very closely to determine that you have received or been nominated for a major industry award or meet at least 3 of the ten “alternate” criteria

Requirements & Eligibility

Step one is to assess whether you meet the specified number of criteria outlined below.  If the answer to that question is yes, USCIS will perform a subjective, qualitative assessment of whether you are “exceptional.”


In order to apply for this category, you must meet 3 out of the 10 criteria listed below:


  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence

  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members

  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media

  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel

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

  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media

  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases

  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations

  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field

  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts


Sustained National or International Acclaim: 


In determining whether the beneficiary has enjoyed "sustained" national or international acclaim, the officer should consider that such acclaim must be maintained. However, the term sustained does not imply an age limit on the beneficiary. A beneficiary may be very young or early in his or her career and still be able to show sustained acclaim. There is also no definitive time frame on what constitutes sustained.


If a person was recognized for a particular achievement, the officer should determine whether the person continues to maintain a comparable level of acclaim in the field of expertise since the person was originally afforded that recognition. A person may, for example, have achieved national or international acclaim in the past but then failed to maintain a comparable level of acclaim thereafter.

Continuing to Work in the Area of Expertise:


In general, if a beneficiary has clearly achieved recent national or international acclaim as an athlete and has sustained that acclaim in the field of coaching or managing at a national level, officers can consider the totality of the evidence as establishing an overall pattern of sustained acclaim and extraordinary ability such that USCIS can conclude that coaching is within the beneficiary’s area of expertise.


Entry to Substantially Benefit the United States: 


Whether the petitioner demonstrates that the person’s employment meets this requirement requires a fact-dependent assessment of the case. There is no standard rule as to what will substantially benefit the United States. In some cases, a Request for Evidence (RFE) may be appropriate if an officer is not yet satisfied that the petitioner has met this requirement.


In general, the petitioner must submit evidence that:


  • The person has sustained national or international acclaim; and

  • The person’s achievements have been recognized in the field of expertise.


The evidence provided in support of the petition must ultimately establish that the beneficiary "is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavour."

Letters of Endorsement

The statements made by the witnesses should be corroborated by documentary evidence in the record. The letters should explain in specific terms why the witnesses believe the beneficiary to be of the calibre of a person with extraordinary ability.


It is generally expected that one whose accomplishments have garnered sustained national or international acclaim would have received recognition for his or her accomplishments well beyond the circle of his or her personal and professional acquaintances

Two-Step Analysis of Evidence


Evaluating Petitions Filed on Behalf of O-1 Non-immigrants

Eligibility as an O-1 non-immigrant does not automatically establish eligibility for immigrant extraordinary ability classification. Each petition is separate and independent and must be adjudicated on its own merits, under the corresponding statutory and regulatory provisions. 


Officers issuing denials in such cases should provide a brief discussion as to why, notwithstanding the previous O-1 non-immigrant visa petition approval, the petitioner has failed to meet its burden to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility for approval of the immigrant petition for classification as a person with extraordinary ability.

Application process

For all of EB1 visas you must file form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.  For visa EB-1(a) you may petition for yourself. The I-140 is filed with USCIS and, depending on whether or not the green card is current, an I-485 form can be filed. 


This application can also be done while outside of the U.S., a process by which  the I-140 is filed with USCIS and the applicant receives the green card through consular processing.


Through this process, once I-140 is approved, schedule an appointment with the U.S. consulate or embassy in the home country to have an interview with a consular officer. Here you should bring the printed completion of DS-260 online immigrant application. 


If eligible,a package will be given. Do not open this packet, this will be given at the port of entry when inspected.

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