U.S. Immigration benefits may be obtained through the employment-based immigration category (EB). The employment-based immigrant category is divided into subcategories to include the EB-1 and the EB-2 preference categories. Each category requires the applicant to submit specific documents pertaining to his/her qualifications, in relation to the requirements set out by the preference category.
The EB-1 vs EB-2 question is a popular topic of discussion due to the advantages and disadvantages that each one possesses. In this post, we’ll not only identify the similarities and differences between each one but also the green card process. Keep reading to learn how the EB-1 and EB-2 visas differ in certifications and green card processing times.
THE EB-1 VISA
An EB-1 visa is the first preference category for applicants who are leaders in the fields of science, art, education, business, or athletics. The EB-1 category is divided into three subcategories:
EB-1A – The first subcategory is reserved for those that possess an extraordinary ability and can prove that they are in the top percentile in their field. This subcategory has 10 different eligibility criteria. You must meet at least three of those requirements. Those that qualify typically have evidence of this such as international awards, exclusive memberships, or a high salary. Eligible applicants can self-apply for the EB-1A and do not need a sponsoring employer or job offer.
EB-1B – The second subcategory is meant for outstanding researchers and professors. Eligibility for this green card is shown through the applicant’s contributions to their field. You must have international recognition, at least three years of experience, and a job offer for a permanent position in the U.S. Apart from these, the EB-1B subcategory also has six different eligibility criteria. You must meet at least two of those requirements.
EB-1C – The third and last subcategory of the EB-1 green card is geared toward the executives and managers of multinational companies that have a branch in the U.S. and in at least one other country. To qualify, you must meet the USCIS standards for an executive and manager. You must also have worked as an executive or manager in the company’s foreign branch for at least one year in the three years leading up to your EB-1C application, making this a difficult green card to obtain for those in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa category such as the L-1 or H-1B.
The EB-1 green card does not require the PERM Labor Certification, and priority dates for the EB-1 category are typically always current. The current status of priority dates can be found in the DOS Visa Bulletin.
THE EB-2 VISA
The EB-2 visa is the second preference employment-based visa. The EB-2 visa is designated for individuals with advanced degrees (above bachelor’s) or applicants with exceptional ability in the fields of art, science, or business. The EB-2 category does not include individuals who have excelled in academics and athletics as in the EB-1 category.
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The EB-2 green card category requires an offer of employment and a PERM Labor Certification. In certain circumstances, an applicant for an EB-2 visa can seek a waiver for the PERM labor certification if it is determined that the waiver would be in the national interest. In order to qualify for the National Interest Waiver (NIW), specific documentation must be supplemented with the EB-2 application.
Don’t have an advanced degree? Learn how to qualify for EB2 without an advanced degree and other details pertaining to the EB2 green card process.
Advantages of the EB-1 Compared to the EB-2
The EB-1 green card is considered more advantageous and prestigious than EB-2 for the following reasons:
Ability to Sponsor Yourself
The main advantage to this preference category is that EB-1A applicants do not need a job offer to file and so can self-petition without the involvement of an employer.
Generally Shorter Priority Date Waiting Time
Another advantage is the fact that the priority date waiting time is typically much shorter for the EB-1 green card than it is for the EB-2. Priority dates for both categories fluctuate based on the applicant’s country of citizenship, but the EB-1 tends to have fewer applicants due to the higher requirements. However, it must be noted that the best way to be sure of your priority date, for either the EB-1 or the EB-2, is to make sure to check the visa bulletin before making any decisions. The current status of priority dates can be found on the DOS visa bulletin.
Eligibility to Waive PERM Labor Certification
Additionally, you don’t need to undergo the PERM Labor Certification process if you qualify for an EB-1. The PERM process can sometimes be cumbersome and lengthy—it may take around four to six months for the DOL to process. And if your case receives an audit review notice, this can make the process even much longer. So, qualifying for an EB-1 will likely significantly expedite the entire green card process.
Another advantage is that many EB-1 applicants can file their I-140 and I-485 petitions concurrently (filing both petitions at the same time), which will lead to a quicker decision on the entire process.
Early Work Authorization for Your Relatives
If you submit your EB-1 I-140 and I-485 petitions concurrently, this can pave the way for early work authorization for your spouse and/or children to get employment before the green card application is approved.
Disadvantages of the EB-1 Compared to the EB-2
The disadvantage is that the prestigious qualifications for this green card make it very difficult to obtain.
More Stringent Requirements
The EB-1A has the most stringent requirements among all green card categories, making it a no-go area for many applicants. It is considered to be only for the top percentile in different fields.
Advantages of EB-2 Compared to EB-1
The EB-2 visa requirements are relatively lower than those of the EB-1, making it an easier option for more applicants. While the EB-1, especially the extraordinary ability subcategory, is reserved for only the individuals with the highest recognition and achievements in their fields. Therefore, a wider range of people is generally approved for the EB-2. It is even more advantageous if you qualify for the EB-2 NIW, which also allows self-petitioning just like EB-1A.
Disadvantages of EB-2 Compared to EB-1
Because the EB-2, regardless of the subcategory, is a second preference employment-based green card, the priority date will depend on your country of origin. This may make the process quite longer than the EB-1 category, especially if you are from certain countries with very long waiting times. Also, if you are applying for an EB-2 NIW, despite its advantages, you may find it more difficult to provide substantial evidence to prove that:
Your proposed endeavor has both “national importance” and “substantial merit”
You are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
On the balance, the proposed endeavor will be beneficial to the U.S. to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements.
How Do Priority Dates Work for EB-1 and EB-2 Green Cards?
It doesn’t matter whether you are getting an EB-1 green card or an EB-2, you will need to deal with priority dates. If you are not sure what a priority date is, here is a quick run-through.
Your priority date is the day that the USCIS obtains your green card petition. The Department of State sends out a visa bulletin every month detailing the “final action” dates for each green card category according to the applicant’s country of origin.
You will need to check each month’s bulletin to see how your priority date matches up. Once your priority date meets or passes the final action date in your category and country, your date will be current and you can either adjust your status by filing an I-485 petition or go through consular processing. If the date for your category and country is already current, then you can move forward as soon as your I-140 is approved.
Are There Any Differences Between the Adjustment of Status Processes?
The adjustment of status process for both the EB-1 and the EB-2 green card is the same. Once the priority date becomes current, you need to submit your I-485 petition to the USCIS. It must be filed along with your supporting documents such as a letter of employment, medical examination record, affidavit of support, etc. If your I-485 petition is approved, you will be issued a green card to indicate you are now a lawful permanent resident.
Consular Processing for EB-1 and EB-2 Green Cards
The consular processing method is also the same for both green cards. The USCIS will send your approved I-140 petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once that is done, you will receive a notice of receipt from the NVC. You will also be sent the details of how and when to submit your visa processing supporting documents and fees, which will include:
A copy of the I-140 petition
Notice of Approval
Notice of Receipt of the I-140 petition
Your birth certificate
Your marriage certificate
Your valid passport
Any criminal records
After providing the above records and other country-specific documents required at the embassy or consulate, you will receive an appointment notice for your medical exam, biometrics screening, and one-on-one visa interview. If you have a successful interview, you will be granted an immigrant visa to travel to the United States and become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) afterward.
Do you require the PERM Labor Certification or Documentation of Recognition?
Since the EB-1 does not require the PERM Labor Certification, the EB-1 green card applicant must provide additional evidence of expertise and leadership in his/her qualified field. As an example, the EB-1 green card applicant must demonstrate extraordinary achievement by receiving awards of international recognition.
Alternatively, the EB-2 applicant filing for exceptional abilities does not require proof of national or international recognition. However, he/she must provide documentation of educational certifications and important contributions to his/her industry.
If the EB-2 green card applicant does not file a National Interest Waiver petition, the applicant is obligated to obtain a PERM Labor Certification as well as an offer of employment from a U.S. employer.
The Difference in Processing Times for EB-1 and EB-2
EB1 Green Card Processing Time
In general, the EB-1 green card processing time is much faster than EB-2 wait time for most applicants. There are two reasons for that:
EB-1 Green Card does not require PERM certification, resulting in a significant reduction in EB1 processing time.
All of the chargeability countries have current priority dates. This means that a visa number will be available the month that you file your petition.
Because of these two factors, you only need to wait for your I-140 petition to be reviewed and processed. Depending on how busy your local USCIS center is, it may take a few weeks to several months for this to be done.
EB2 Green Card Processing Time
The EB-2 processing time is usually delayed when compared to the EB-1 processing time because of the necessity for a Labor Certification and the fact that petitioners from India and China must wait several years for their priority dates to be current.
The USCIS only grants 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas annually. Because of this, applicants in lower green card preference categories may need to wait a significant amount of time before a visa number will become available. This will greatly increase the EB-2 processing time as well as that of lower preferences.
Therefore, an applicant would need to first wait for their LCA to be approved before their employers file an I-140 petition. Then they would need to wait until the DOS announces that their priority date is current. If the applicant’s priority date will not be current for a significant amount of time, the petition will not be processed until much closer to your priority date.
However, please note that the way that the USCIS prioritizes your I-140 will not impact your priority date. They should process your petition before your priority date becomes current.
Thus most applicants have to wait several months or years to apply for adjustment of status (I-485), which leads to a long EB-2 green card processing time for these applicants. The availability of visa numbers for EB-1 and EB-2 categories can be found in the US Department of State visa bulletin.
Can I Use Premium Processing?
Premium processing is an optional service offered by the USCIS that expedites the processing time of certain petition forms to 15 calendar days for an additional fee. Fortunately, the I-140 is one of those petitions, giving you the opportunity to drastically shorten your EB-1 or EB-2 processing time.
However, there are some things to note before going ahead with premium processing. It cannot be used to expedite any other form in the green card process, only the I-140. Also, it does not increase your chances of approval at all, it only shortens the amount of time it takes for the USCIS to reach a decision.
Lastly, premium processing cannot be used for any I-140 petitions filed for the EB-1C green card for managers and executives and the EB-2 National Interest Waiver.
Which Green Card Should I Choose?
Each applicant’s choice of a green card will depend on their preference and whether they meet the eligibility requirements for that category. If you meet the criteria for an EB-1, it may be more advantageous to pursue that than the EB-2. But if your achievement and experience in your field are not at that level, the EB-2 category may just be your best bet. It is recommended that you speak with an immigration expert to help you make an informed decision.
Can I Apply for Both At the Same Time?
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to choose. You can apply for both the EB-1 and EB-2 green cards at the same time. Plus, there is no limit to the number of petitions you can submit for different green cards.
Therefore, if you would like to increase your chances of being selected for any green card, you may want to consider filing for the EB-1 and the EB-2 simultaneously. This way, if you are not approved for one, you may be approved for the other. If you are approved for both, then you can choose whichever green card suits your needs. Keep in mind that you will still need to pay the fees for both petitions.
If My Self-Filed Petition Was Rejected, Can an Employer File Another One for Me?
Yes. If your self-petitioned EB-1A or EB-2 NIW is rejected, you can file another one through an employer. Again, there is no limitation as to the number of petitions that can be filed, either simultaneously or at different times, or either independently or via an employer.
The USCIS decision on one petition does not affect the other. In case you are filing both your I-140 and I-485 concurrently (if allowed in your case), you can save costs by filing multiple I-140 petitions but only one I-485. This is because you may be allowed to transfer the I-485 to any of the I-140 petitions that receive approval.
Are There Differences in Cost?
The I-140 carries the same filing fee regardless of which green card you choose. The same also goes for the premium processing fee. The real difference in cost doesn’t come from whether you choose the EB-1 or the EB-2, it more depends on whether you adjust your status or go through consular processing. Additionally, your immigration attorney may have differing fees depending on which green card you choose. You can see our flat charges on our fees page.
Can I Port From an EB-2 to an EB-1?
This question is usually asked by those that already have an I-140 filed for the EB-2 green card. Technically, there is no way to simply switch your petition to a different green card. However, if your qualifications change and you obtain a new job that makes you eligible for the EB-1 green card, you may be able to file a new petition for the EB-1 and retain your EB-2 priority date.