EB-2 Visas for Employment-Based Immigration to the U.S.
Many people are eligible for EB-2 visas to immigrate to the United States. However, these visas are only available to people who are members of certain professions and meet certain criteria – and you can’t apply for your own EB-2 visa.
Your employer must petition the U.S. government for you. This guide explains the EB-2 second preference program, who qualifies and how to apply for this business immigration benefit.
What is an EB-2 Visa?
An EB-2 visa is based on employment. It’s an immigrant visa that leads to a green card, which means that a person who has an EB-2 visa can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship if they choose to do so. However, citizenship is not an immediate benefit, nor is it required; you can have an EB-2 visa and remain a lawful permanent resident for the rest of your life if you don’t want U.S. citizenship.
Only people who are members of certain professions, have advanced degrees, or have exceptional abilities qualify for EB-2 visas, as do some people who meet the criteria for a national interest waiver. Typically, you must have a job offer before you can apply for the EB-2 program (though there are exceptions).
EB-2s for People With Advanced Degrees
You may qualify for the EB-2 program if you apply for a job that requires an advanced degree and you have that degree (or its foreign equivalent). Typically, the term advanced degree refers to a baccalaurate degree, plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience in the same field.
EB-2s for People of Exceptional Ability
If you can show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business, you may qualify for the EB-2 program. Generally, the term exceptional ability means a degree of expertise that’s significantly above what people would normally have in those fields.
EB-2s Under National Interest Waivers
A national interest waiver may be available to you if you have an advanced degree or exceptional ability and:
- Are proposing an endeavor that has substantial merit and national importance
- You are well-positioned to advance your proposed endeavor
- It’s in the United States’ best interest to waive the requirement that you have a job offer
What Kind of Proof Do You Need for the EB-2 Program?
If you intend to apply for a visa and a green card under the EB-2 program, you’ll have to provide a significant amount of proof to the U.S. government. Some of the documents your immigration attorney will advise you to gather include:
- A copy of your license to practice your profession (or, if a license is not necessary, certification that shows you can practice your profession).
- Evidence that you have earned a salary or other compensation for services you’ve rendered that are related to your exceptional ability.
- Letters that document the fact that you have at least ten years of full-time experience in your occupation.
- Proof of membership in professional associations.
- Recognition for your achievements in your industry or field.
- Recognition for your significant contributions to your industry or field.
- Your official academic record. Your record must show that you have a degree, diploma, certificate or a similar award from a university, college, school or other educational institution. The record must indicate that your learning is related to your area of exceptional ability.
- Other, comparable evidence of your eligibility.
Commonly Asked Questions About EB-2 Visas
Check out these commonly asked questions about EB-2 visas. If you have another question that we haven’t answered here, please call our office to talk to an experienced immigration attorney who can give you the answers you need.
Do You Need a Job Offer for the EB-2 Program?
Usually, you do need a job offer before you can apply for a visa or green card through the EB-2 program. However, if you meet the criteria for a national interest waiver, you may be able to apply without a job offer. You’ll still need to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, which your attorney can help you with.
In the vast majority of cases, you can’t simply apply for the EB-2 program yourself (unless you’re seeking a national interest waiver). Your employer must file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf.
Is an EB-2 a Nonimmigrant Visa?
An EB-2 is not a nonimmigrant visa. It’s an immigrant visa that leads to lawful permanent residency in the United States. However, even if you have an EB-2 visa or green card, you do not need to apply for U.S. citizenship – though you can if you’d like to in the future.
These visas are issued to foreign nationals who intend to live and work permanently in the United States. Again, though, you may keep your lawful permanent resident status for the rest of your life – you don’t have to apply for citizenship unless you want to.
There are several benefits that come with U.S. citizenship, including a U.S. passport, protection from deportation, citizenship for children and other family members, and eligibility for government jobs. It’s up to you whether you’d like to take that additional step after holding your green card for the required amount of time.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card Through EB-2?
It usually takes about 18 months to get a green card through the EB-2 program. Until your green card comes through, you’ll be in the United States on an immigrant visa.
The reason it takes so long to get a green card through the EB-2 program is that there are three distinct steps to the process. First, the company that wants to hire you must obtain a permanent labor certification. That certification allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the U.S., and that takes some time.
The employer must follow several steps to show that no U.S. citizen worker is available to fill the position, as well as prove that wages won’t be driven down by hiring foreign workers. The entire process takes place between the employer and the U.S. Department of Labor, or DOL. When the employer receives the permanent labor certification, it can begin the process of sponsoring a foreign worker (you) for the open position. (Note that this step isn’t required for people who are applying for a national interest waiver, so if that’s you, your process will likely go faster.)
After the employer has the permanent labor certification, it begins the immigrant petition. This part of the process usually takes 6 to 9 months. The employer files Form I-140 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, if you’re asking for a national interest waiver, this step doesn’t apply to you either. Your attorney will file Form I-140 on your behalf. It still takes 6 to 9 months for USCIS to process Form I-140, regardless of who files it.
After your attorney or your future employer submits Form I-140, you’ll receive a priority date. The priority date tells you when you can apply for your immigrant visa or apply for adjustment of status. For some countries, there’s virtually no waiting period – people from these countries can apply right away. However, for other countries, there may be a significant wait time (sometimes several years). The best way to find out how long you’re likely to wait is to consult your immigration attorney or check the USCIS Visa Bulletin.
If your priority date is current and you’re already in the United States, you may be able to file an adjustment of status application with your Form I-140. If USCIS approves your petition, you’ll get your green card right away.
How Long Do You Need to Hold an EB-2 Green Card Before Applying for Citizenship?
Like most other green cards, you need to hold an EB-2 green card for at least 5 years before you can apply for U.S. citizenship. The clock starts ticking the day your green card is approved; you can apply for citizenship exactly 5 years after that date. If your permanent residency is approved on January 1, 2023, you can apply for citizenship on January 1, 2028.
Can a Work Visa Lead to Citizenship?
Work visas can lead to citizenship – but not all of them qualify. Only immigrant work visas lead to citizenship; nonimmigrant work visas require you to leave when your visa expires. Nonimmigrant visas do not provide a path to citizenship.
Is an EB-2 Visa Better Than an EB-3 Visa?
EB-2 visas are different from EB-3 visas, and one isn’t better than the other – though it’s likely that only one will apply to your situation. Unlike an EB-2 visa, EB-3 visas are available to skilled workers, professionals and other workers. They’re both immigrant visas, but the requirements to get an EB-2 visa are more stringent and require you to have more education.
Does EB-2 Require H-1B?
You do not need to be in H-1B status to get a green card under the EB-2 program. In fact, you never need to hold H-1B visa status to get an EB-2 green card. You can get an EB-2 visa and apply for an EB-2 green card without ever holding an H-1B visa.
How Much Does an EB-2 Visa Cost?
Employers typically pay for the costs of EB-2 visas and green cards. However, if you’re applying for a national interest waiver, you will be responsible for the costs associated with getting this type of immigrant status. USCIS fees are always subject to change, so the best way to find out how much an EB-2 visa will cost you is to talk to your immigration attorney or check the USCIS fees page.
It’s important to note that a variety of fees come into play. You’ll have to pay the Form I-140 filing fee, as well as a biometrics fee. Your attorney can explain the fees to you.
Can Your Family Come to the United States With You if You Have an EB-2 Visa?
If the U.S. government approves your Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, your spouse and unmarried children may be eligible to apply as E-21 and E-22 immigrants. However, every case is different, so if you’re seeking an EB-2 visa or green card and you have a family you’d like to bring to the U.S. with you, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Obtaining an EB-2 Visa or Green Card?
If you’re interested in getting an EB-2 visa or green card, or if you’re an employer that needs to hire a permanent foreign worker, we may be able to help you. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney who understands the entire EB-2 program – we’ll be happy to answer your questions.