Knowing the relevant information for a self-petition of an EB-1 visa is a necessity for anyone who can illustrate they have ‘Extraordinary Ability.’

Extraordinary Ability may sound, and seem, vague, but if an applicant can prove to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that he or she qualifies based on extensive documentation, it is possible to get a visa even without an offer of employment.

This means that many people refer to the application process as self-petition since the applicant does not need anyone beyond themselves to get a green card. Extensive documentation is required 

EB-1A, also known as the visa for an Alien of Extraordinary Ability, is available to anyone who “can demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.”

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The bar is very high to be considered an ‘Alien of Extraordinary Ability,’ and there is extensive documentation required.

Specific data since 2010 is not available but the success rate of EB-1 self-petition between 2005-2010 ranged from 47% to 62%. 

Being informed and knowledgeable about the process and success rate is essential.

The EB-1A Visa Requires Specific Criteria

Overall, to successful self-petition an EB-1 visa, an applicant must meet three of ten criteria or provide evidence of a significant one-time achievement such as a Pulitzer Prize, Oscar, or Olympic medal.

The ten criteria include:

  1. Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  2. Evidence of membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  3. Evidence of published material about applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  4. Evidence that applicant have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  5. Evidence of your 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
  9. Evidence that command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  10. Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts

The label ‘extraordinary ability’ means a level of expertise in a field that only a very small number of people have achieved. Basically, a successful applicant has risen to the top of his or her field. 

If an award is not the caliber of an Olympic medal or Pulitzer Prize, the applicant has the burden to provide evidence that a national or lesser known international award is still widely recognized.

For example, a description of the prize or award, the number of nominees, if it is an individual award, etc. 

Because the EB-1A is one of the categories of first-preference, employment-based immigration, the applicant does not need a labor certificate. This provides a counterbalance to the high standards imposed by the USCIS on the applicant.

The EB-1A Self-Petition Process

Unlike the other two sub-categories of the EB-1 visa (EB-1B for outstanding researchers and professors and EB-1C for multinational executives and managers), the application for an Alien of Extraordinary Ability does not require an offer of employment.

Therefore, an applicant can self-petition without an external source, making it one of the quickest paths to receiving a green card.

To complete the process and receive a green card, an applicant needs to take specific steps.

Filing Form I-140

The process begins with an applicant filing an I-140 Immigrant Petition and providing supporting documentation and evidence. 

An applicant must indicate that he or she intends to continue working in their field of excellence as well as provide confirmation of his or her achievements. 

Filing Form I-145

Once the I-140 Form has been approved, the applicant can proceed to filing an I-145 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status

Once approved, the applicant officially becomes a legal permanent resident in the United States. 


The success rate of a self-petition EB-1 visa is largely determined by the documentation provided.

A cover letter should summarize the applicant’s impact on the field, the potential for broader influence, current work and its future applications, and how the applicant’s expertise is essential to the field and how his or her work will impact the United States.

Letters of Recommendation

EB-2 Visas for Entrepreneurs

Providing letters of recommendation and other forms of documentation proving excellence in the field are requirements.

An applicant can submit between three and seven letters from experts and at least the majority should be independent recommenders who have not worked directly with the applicant. The letters should speak to the applicant’s expertise and influence in the field.

Make sure that the recommenders themselves are highly qualified experts who can comment on the applicant’s achievements.

It is important that these letters appear unique from one another and are written in plain English even when describing highly specialized work.

The statements in these letters need to corroborate the other evidence provided about the applicant’s expertise and extraordinary ability. 

The USCIS offer who reviews the applicant’s application is reliant on the experts for the relevant information and context. But applicants need to be aware that the evidence should not just meet the requirement.

Proving that they are among the best of the best and their self-petition of a EB-A visa will be successful is essential. 

Hints To Increase The Likelihood of EB-1A Self-Petition Success 

The USCIS very carefully scrutinizes an applicant. As mentioned above, the success rate has varied and is often determined by providing the required evidence of excellence.

Do not cut corners or assume anything. Success in the self-petition proves for an EB-1 applicant can mean receiving a green card in a matter of months rather than years.

One-time Achievement

As mentioned above, a one-time achievement must be considered a recognized international award. An award known to a single nation or region of the world will generally not suffice.

Other Criteria (dos and don’ts)

Lesser awards can, and must, also signify excellence as well as national or international recognition. National awards need to be compared to American versions – such as the ‘English version of the ___’.

Media attention can also provide the proper context and give the applicant an edge over others. Getting media appearances can be hard to do on your own, but there are companies that can help promote you. Echo Park Marketing is one such company.  

The key for any applicant is to make sure that the impact and importance of any award, credentials, and the impact of the applicant on the field.

This includes contextualizing research, highlighting contributions, and explaining membership in any organization that can illustrate the excellence of the applicant. 

There are also mistakes that applicants often make that need to be avoided. Make sure to provide documentation, including media coverage, that is extensive and clear.

Do not assume that any award, research, citation, organization, or other submitted evidence will be understood without explanation. Provide documentation as to each contribution is important or vital to the field.

For example, simply listing patents is not sufficient. Showing how the patents impact the field will help an applicant find success. 

Hiring A Lawyer

Self-petition does not mean an applicant has to approach the process alone. It is generally advisable to hire an immigration lawyer who knows what USCIS is looking for in an applicant with Extraordinary Ability. The attorney should specialize in EB-1 visas.

A good attorney can help an applicant avoid pitfalls.  The USCIS looks closely at evidence of exceptionalism in the field and how the applicant is different than others in similar situations.

Avoid unauthorized employment and provide clear material about how his or her work will benefit the United States.