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Self-sponsored Green Card

What is a self-sponsored visa?

Employment-based visas are permanent worker immigrant visas that allow the holder to apply for lawful permanent residency in the U.S. and obtain a green card. Most paths to a green card require sponsorship by either a company or a family member. With employment-based visa petitions, the process can be lengthy because the applicant must show that they have already obtained a job in the U.S. and that their employer has an approved labor certification to hire foreign nationals. The employer also needs to go through an in-depth recruiting process to show that no Americans are qualified for the job. This process can take a long time.

Luckily, there are a few options to self-sponsor an employment-based visa petition and skip the process of having to find a qualifying job first.

The two main options are:
1) EB-1(a) visa – Self-sponsorship available to foreign nationals who have extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, athletics, business or educational fields.
2) EB-2 national interest waiver - Self-sponsorship available to foreign nationals who have an advanced degree or an exceptional ability and plan to provide services that are in the national interest of the U.S.

Employment-based visas are valid for a period of ten years. They are capped yearly and divided into five preferential categories. EB-1(a) visas are in the first preference category and EB-2 visas, including those approved with the national interest waiver, are in the second preference category. Preference status is important because applying for an employment-based visa can be a waiting game. Generally, those in the first preference category will be approved faster than those in the second category.

Do I qualify for a self-sponsored visa?

For the EB-1(a) self-sponsored visa, the applicant needs to be a foreign national who has demonstrated extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, athletics, business or educational fields. These are generally the people who are at the very top of their field and who are recognized nationally and internationally. To prove this, the applicant can show a prestigious one-time award like a Nobel Peace Prize, Pulitzer, Olympic Medal, or Academy Award. The applicant also needs to show that they are entering the U.S. to use their extraordinary abilities in a way that will benefit the U.S.

If the applicant does not have a prestigious one-time award, they can also prove extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, athletics, business or educational fields by having a combination of other qualifications. These could include being nationally recognized as a successful artist, being a renowned actor, receiving critical accolades for a top-rated novel, being published in numerous scholarly articles, gaining membership in an exclusive organization, or commanding an exceptionally high salary compared to others in the same field. Extensive documentation of these achievements will be required. The applicant would also need to show that they are entering the U.S. to use their extraordinary abilities in a way that will benefit the U.S.

The EB-2 visa is not solely a self-sponsorship process. To qualify for the waiver, the applicant must first meet one of the other two requirements for the visa. Once this is accomplished, they can apply for the waiver. The applicant must prove that they have either an advanced degree or that they have an exceptional ability. The applicant must then show that a waiver is needed for the usual, time-consuming employment-based visa qualifications to already have a job offer and that the employer has a labor certification. To do this, it would need to be shown that the type of work the applicant intends to do requires their degree or exceptional ability and that their time in the U.S will advance the national interest of the U.S.

What is the process to apply for a self-sponsored visa?

For both the EB-1(a) visa and the EB-2 visa, the applicant will self-petition by filing form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Extensive documentation should be included in the application including a personal statement of intent, letters of reference, copies of articles published by the applicant, pictures, awards won, proof of salary, evidence of admittance into a prestigious and exclusive organization, or even news articles that show the applicants successes.

After this form is filed, the applicant must wait until their priority date becomes current. Priority dates are limited and only a certain number from each preference category are approved each year. The categories are also capped by country. In general, EB-1(a) applicants have a short waiting period but the EB-2 waiver visa can take significantly longer.

If the applicant is in the U.S. and their priority date becomes current, they can file form I-485, petition to adjust status and obtain a green card. This is common if the applicant was already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa. If the applicant is outside of the U.S. and their priority date becomes current, they would need to go through a U.S. Embassy or consulate for processing.