Understanding the EB1 and EB2 Visa Categories: Key Differences and Requirements

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Picture of Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

In the realm of U.S. immigration, two prominent visa categories often attract the attention of skilled professionals: the EB1 and EB2 visas. These visas provide structured pathways for talented individuals to contribute to American society and economy, each with distinct eligibility criteria and benefits.

Key Points to Consider:

  • EB1 Visa: Designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities, it does not require a job offer.
  • EB2 Visa: Geared towards those with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities and usually requires employer sponsorship.
  • Processing Times: EB1 applications generally process faster due to higher preference and lower demand compared to EB2.
  • PERM Labor Certification: Required for EB2 applicants but not for EB1.
  • Dual Filing: Applying for both EB1 and EB2 visas can increase chances of success but requires careful management and additional evidence.

EB1 Visa Category: A Gateway for Exceptional Talent

The EB1 visa is a prestigious category for individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professions. This visa is divided into three subcategories:

  1. EB1-1: Aliens of Extraordinary Ability – No job offer needed, must show top-tier expertise.
  2. EB1-2: Outstanding Professors and Researchers – Must have an offer from a U.S. institution.
  3. EB1-3: Multinational Executives and Managers – Must be transferring to a U.S. company branch.

Eligibility Criteria for EB1 Visa

To qualify for an EB1 visa, applicants must demonstrate extraordinary ability through sustained national or international acclaim. This can be proven by:

  • A major internationally recognized award (e.g., Nobel Prize).
  • Meeting at least three out of ten specified criteria, such as significant contributions to their field, publications, or leadership roles in distinguished organizations.

EB2 Visa Category: For Advanced Degree Holders and Exceptional Abilities

The EB2 visa caters to professionals with advanced degrees and individuals with exceptional abilities in the arts, sciences, or business. Unlike the EB1, the EB2 often requires an employer sponsorship and a PERM labor certification, unless the applicant qualifies for a National Interest Waiver (NIW).

EB2 Subcategories

  • Standard EB2: Requires an advanced degree or equivalent, or a bachelor’s degree with five years of progressive experience.
  • EB2 with National Interest Waiver (NIW): Allows applicants to bypass the job offer and labor certification if their work significantly benefits the U.S.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

The NIW is a key component for EB2 applicants, allowing those whose work is deemed beneficial to the U.S. to self-petition without an employer. This waiver is ideal for professionals whose contributions extend beyond personal gain to national interest.

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Comparing EB1 and EB2 Visa Requirements

Eligibility Criteria

  • EB1: Requires proof of extraordinary ability, typically demonstrated through major awards or significant industry contributions.
  • EB2: Requires an advanced degree or equivalent, or exceptional ability with a focus on substantial merit and national importance.

Documentation Needs

  • EB1: Extensive portfolio including major awards, significant publications, and recognized achievements.
  • EB2: Strong evidence of advanced education, professional experience, and contributions, often supported by letters of recommendation.


  • EB1: Allows self-petitioning for individuals with extraordinary ability.
  • EB2: Typically requires employer sponsorship unless applying under the NIW.

Processing Times and Application Strategies

Processing Times

  • EB1: Generally shorter due to higher preference and fewer applicants.
  • EB2: Typically longer due to more rigorous scrutiny and higher volume of applications.

Dual Filing

Applying for both EB1 and EB2 visas simultaneously can be a strategic move to increase the likelihood of success. However, this approach requires careful management of documentation and evidence to meet the standards of both categories.

Navigating the PERM Labor Certification

For EB2 applicants, the PERM labor certification is a critical step to ensure that no qualified U.S. worker is available for the job. This process involves rigorous recruitment efforts and approval from the Department of Labor.


Understanding the differences between the EB1 and EB2 visa categories is crucial for skilled professionals seeking to immigrate to the U.S. The EB1 visa offers a faster route for those with extraordinary abilities, while the EB2 visa provides a pathway for advanced degree holders and individuals with exceptional abilities, often requiring employer sponsorship and PERM certification. Dual filing for both visas can enhance the chances of success but demands meticulous preparation and evidence.

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