Comparing EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green cards: which one is right for you?

EB1A vs EB2 NIW green cardsAs you explore your options for obtaining a green card in the United States, you may find yourself considering the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW categories. While these two categories share some similarities, such as allowing self-petitioning and targeting highly skilled individuals, they also have notable differences. In this article, I’ll help you understand the key similarities and differences between these two green card categories so that you can make an informed decision for your own case.

Exploring the Similarities Between EB-1A and EB-2 NIW Green Cards

Self-Petitioning: A Unique Feature of EB-1A and EB-2 NIW

Both the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green card categories allow applicants to self-petition, meaning they don’t require a job offer. This feature makes them particularly appealing to professionals in organizations that don’t sponsor immigration petitions, as well as individuals living outside the United States looking to immigrate.

Bypassing Labor Certification for a Faster Process

Since both categories allow self-petitioning, they do not require labor certification, a lengthy process that typically takes over a year to complete. This means that applicants for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green cards can save considerable time in their immigration journey.

Reducing Costs by Self-Petitioning

Applicants for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green cards can choose whether or not to hire an immigration lawyer, potentially reducing their overall costs. By preparing their own petition, applicants can save thousands of dollars compared to hiring an attorney.

Targeting Highly Skilled Professionals

Both the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW categories cater to highly skilled professionals, as they require proof of extraordinary ability (EB-1A) or an advanced degree or exceptional ability (EB-2 NIW).

Demonstrating Benefits to the United States

In both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW applications, applicants must demonstrate that their presence and work will bring significant benefits to the United States. By providing evidence of substantial contributions and potential future advancements, applicants can strengthen their cases.

For EB-1A applicants, showcasing their extraordinary ability and its potential positive impact on the United States is crucial. They must establish that their skills and accomplishments in their respective fields will lead to significant advancements, resulting in national or international benefits.

Similarly, EB-2 NIW applicants must prove that their work is in the national interest of the United States. This entails illustrating that their exceptional ability or advanced degree will contribute to the nation’s well-being in areas such as the economy, healthcare, education, or technology. The applicants must also demonstrate that waiving the labor certification requirement would be advantageous for the United States, as their unique skills and expertise will lead to significant improvements in their respective fields.

For both categories, it is important to provide clear and convincing evidence of the benefits their work will bring to the United States. This can include letters of recommendation from experts in the field, publications, citations, awards, or any other relevant documentation that attests to the applicant’s expertise and the potential impact of their work.

Premium Processing Availability for Both Categories

The availability of Premium Processing for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW applicants has evolved over time, with both categories now offering the expedited service.

Previously, Premium Processing was exclusively available for EB-1A applicants. However, USCIS announced in 2022 that they would extend this service to EB-2 NIW cases as well. Following a gradual implementation period, Premium Processing became accessible to all EB-2 NIW applicants starting January 30, 2023.

It is important to note that the expedited processing times for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW cases differ. When opting for Premium Processing for an EB-1A application, the processing time is reduced to a mere 15 calendar days. In contrast, EB-2 NIW applicants who choose Premium Processing will experience a slightly longer processing time of 45 days, which is still a significant improvement over standard processing times.

By offering Premium Processing for both categories, USCIS provides applicants with the option to expedite their cases, making the overall green card application process more efficient and less time-consuming.

Differences in Premium Processing for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW

Difference #1: Extraordinary vs. exceptional abilities

EB-1A has a higher standard for applicants compared to EB-2 NIW. The EB-1A green card category is designated for individuals with extraordinary ability. To qualify, applicants must provide evidence of meeting at least three of the ten criteria listed on the USCIS website.

For EB-2 NIW, applicants may demonstrate that they hold an advanced degree (master’s or Ph.D.) or possess exceptional ability. While EB-1A requires extraordinary ability, an advanced degree may be sufficient for EB-2 NIW, provided other category requirements are met. If the applicant does not have an advanced degree, they must prove exceptional ability by meeting at least three of the criteria listed on the official website.

Difference #2: Final Action Dates and Priority dates for EB-1A vs. EB-2 NIW

EB-1A and EB-2 NIW fall into different employment-based green card categories and have different rows on the visa bulletin. Generally, EB-1A wait times are shorter than those for EB-2 NIW. For applicants from countries like India and China, the EB-1A category offers a faster path to permanent residency.

Let’s take a look at an example from the Visa Bulletin from August 2022. The row for EB1, which includes EB-1A, shows all countries were Current. This means that a petitioner may file I-140 and adjustment of status concurrently. However, for the EB-2 row (which includes EB-2 NIW), China and India showed a date of 2019 and 2015, respectively. This means that people born in China or India would need to wait years between their I-140 submission and their adjustment of status.

Visa Bulletin August 2022
Screenshot from Visa Bulletin from August 2022

Choosing Between EB-1A and EB-2 NIW

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You need to review the requirements for each category and make an informed decision based on your unique situation. Factors to consider include:

  1. Your qualifications: EB-2 NIW requirements are generally easier to meet, but some applicants may have a strong enough profile to qualify for both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW.
  2. Your country of birth: If you believe you qualify for both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW, check the visa bulletin to determine your wait time. For Indian and Chinese applicants, EB-1A might be the better choice due to long wait times in the EB-2 NIW category.

Applying for Both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW

Leveraging Overlapping Requirements to Maximize Chances

If you think you have a strong chance in both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW, you can apply for both categories. Many requirements overlap, and you can use much of the documentation for one category in the other. The main effort will be adapting the petition cover letter for each category.

Applying for both may increase your chances, but it will also cost more due to USCIS fees for both applications. However, if you apply for I-140 only, without concurrent adjustment of status, the financial risk is limited to $700.

You can indeed apply for two I-140s simultaneously, as the applications for EB-1A and EB-2 NIW are independent and do not conflict with each other.

In fact, pursuing both categories simultaneously has been the path chosen by some applicants, resulting in successful outcomes. That was my own case! I submitted two I-140 petitions, one for EB-2 NIW and another one for EB-1.

By strategically leveraging the overlapping requirements of EB-1A and EB-2 NIW, you can maximize your chances of obtaining a green card while minimizing the time, effort, and financial resources spent on the application process.

Financial Considerations When Pursuing Both Categories

When considering applying for both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW categories, it is essential to weigh the financial implications. Pursuing both categories simultaneously means paying the USCIS fees for each application, which can be a significant financial investment.

However, it is important to note that by applying to both categories, you increase your chances of approval, potentially making the investment worthwhile. The additional cost associated with filing for both categories amounts to approximately $700 if you are applying for I-140 only, without concurrent adjustment of status.

In addition to the USCIS fees, you may also incur costs for professional services such as hiring an immigration lawyer. While you can choose to prepare your petitions independently, some applicants prefer to hire the services of an experience immigration attorney.

It is crucial to evaluate your financial situation and weigh the costs and benefits of pursuing both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW categories. By making a well-informed decision, you can maximize your chances of obtaining a green card while ensuring that you make the best use of your financial resources.

EB-1A vs. EB-2 NIW: Final Thoughts

In this article, we have explored the similarities and differences between the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green card categories. As a potential applicant, it is crucial to carefully evaluate your qualifications, the requirements for each category, and your country of birth before making a decision.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to which category is the best choice, as each case is unique. Factors to consider include you country of birth, your qualifications, and your financial status.

If you believe you have a strong case for both categories, you can consider applying for both EB-1A and EB-2 NIW simultaneously. This approach may increase your chances of success and provide a backup option should one of the applications not be approved. However, it is important to note that applying for both categories will result in additional USCIS fees for each application.

In conclusion, the decision to apply for either the EB-1A or EB-2 NIW category depends on your unique circumstances and qualifications. By carefully weighing the requirements, benefits, and potential wait times, you can make an informed decision about the best path to secure your green card.


EB1 vs EB2 NIW in video format

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