EB-1A Green Card Application

May 25, 2024

Navigating the US visa can be daunting. Here's a guide to help you understand the pathways to green card and ways to fast track this journey. Please use this as a guideline and not treat this as legal advice.

Visa Basics

Before we start, here's a primer on visas:

F1 Visa

The F1 visa allows you to study in the US for the duration of your academic program, typically ranging from 1 to 2 years for master's programs. After graduation, you are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which permits you to work in your field of study for one year. If your degree is in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics), you can extend your OPT for an additional two years, giving you a total of three years of work authorization post-graduation.

H1B Visa

The H1B visa is awarded through a lottery system held once a year. Approximately 85,000 H1B visas are available annually, with 20,000 allocated for Master's students. You typically have three chances to apply for the H1B lottery while on OPT/STEM extension, with a potential fourth chance depending on the timing of your job start date and graduation.

If You Don’t Get the H1B in 3 Attempts...

You have a couple of options.

You can enroll in another academic program to extend your student visa and continue working under Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Alternatively, if your company has presence in another country with friendly work visa policy, you can request your employer to relocate you. Or, you can consider returning to your home country.

Green Card

Understanding the Green Card (GC) process is essential for those planning to live and work in the US permanently. Here’s a brief overview:

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to live and work in the US permanently. It provides more stability and freedom compared to temporary work visas like the H1B.

Two Steps in the Green Card Process

  1. I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker): The first step in the Green Card process is filing the I-140 petition. Once your I-140 is approved, you can continue to renew your H1B visa indefinitely until your priority date becomes current. This approval is crucial as it secures your place in line for the Green Card.

  2. I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status): The second step involves filing the I-485 application. This can only be done when your priority date is current. The priority date is based on the date your I-140 petition was filed and depends on your country of birth and the employment-based preference category. Once your I-485 is approved, you will receive your Green Card, granting you permanent resident status in the US.

Why is Filing a Green Card important?

If you secure an H1B visa, it is initially valid for three years. You can renew it once for an additional three years, totaling six years. It is crucial to start your Green Card (GC) application within this timeframe. After you get through the first step of the GC process (I-140 approval), you can get unlimited renewals of your H1B visa.

Types of Green Cards

Green Cards can be obtained through different categories, primarily employment-based (EB) and family-based.

Employment-Based (EB) Categories

  • EB1

    • EB-1A: For individuals with extraordinary ability.

    • EB-1B: For outstanding researchers, typically PhD students.

    • EB-1C: For multinational executives and managers.

  • EB2: For professionals with advanced degrees.

  • EB3: For professionals holding at least a bachelor’s degree.

  • EB4: For special immigrants, such as religious workers.

  • EB5: For investors, requiring an investment of $1M that creates 10 jobs.


Granted to immediate relatives of US citizens and permanent residents.

The most popular routes to apply for green card, after H1B, are EB2 (for professionals with advanced degree like Master's) and EB3 visa (professionals with Bachelors degree). USCIS issues a limited number of green cards every year, and given the current backlog for Indian citizens, the wait time could be multiple decades.

EB-1A Green Card

What is EB-1A?

The EB-1A category is for individuals with extraordinary ability in their field, intended for those who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. It is not employer dependent, and can be self-petitioned.

Criteria for EB-1A

To qualify for an EB-1A Green Card, applicants must meet at least three out of the following ten criteria:

  1. Recipient of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.

  2. Membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts.

  3. Published material about the individual in professional or major trade publications or other major media.

  4. Participation, either on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization.

  5. Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field.

  6. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media.

  7. Work that has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases.

  8. Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations.

  9. High salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to others in the field.

  10. Commercial successes in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.

Except #7 and #10, most of the criteria can be demonstrated by individuals in the STEM domain.

My Journey to EB-1A

In 2015, I moved to the US on a student visa. Like most Indians, I did not anticipate what I had signed up for. After being told by several folks that you cannot start your own company on an H1B visa, my immigration team helped me achieve that. Even then, global mobility turned out to be a rather limiting factor on an H1B visa—waiting for approvals, visa appointment dates, carrying around all the paperwork.

My immigration team motivated me to pursue the EB1A route.

My application

Even though the requirement is to demonstrate 3 of the 10 criteria, my lawyers recommended to fulfill as many as possible. Here's an overview of my application:

  1. Critical role: With the business impact of my work at influential organizations and reference letters from leadership team, I was able to showcase the importance of my role

  2. Original Contributions: My role at Samsung, which involved product management and data science, gave me the unique advantage of developing ML models that drove high business impact. This work was shared across other organizations to benefit from my work and implement similar frameworks.

  3. Authorship: Being a member of Forbes Councils, allowed me to write multiple articles about my past work in Data Science, Growth, and Product Management in Forbes magazine

  4. High salary: With my Loopin equity at post-money valuation and Samsung salary being over the US median, I was able to fulfill this criteria

  5. Memberships: I joined prestigious invite-only communities like On Deck and Forbes Councils

  6. Media Publications: As part of building my startup, we received coverage from several publications like Techcrunch, Forbes, YourStory, Entrepreneur Magazine, etc.

  7. Panel/Judging: As an alum of Columbia University and startup enthusiast, I was invited to participate in several entrepreneurship hackathons

These requirements are subjective and requires support letters from distinguished professionals. Through my network and past work, I had a total of 10 reference letters in support of my application.

Note that the minimum requirement is to meet 3 criteria. The visa officer may choose to accept all or any of the criteria, so even though my case tried to justify 7, I'm not 100% sure which ones were finally accepted.


The process started in 2022 and took me nearly an year to put together a good case, with help from my immigration team.


I-140 filing fee with Premium processing: $3200
I-485 and Biometrics: $1225
Legal Team: ~$12-$15k
Total: ~$18-20k

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any other ways to fast-track GC application?
Yes, if you have worked outside US in a managerial capacity, you can file under EB-1C category.
If you have the capital, you can look into the EB-5 investor visa.
Or, you can marry an American citizen or permanent resident.

Should I directly apply for EB-1A vs. EB2 or EB3?
If you're employed at an immigration-friendly organization, file for EB2 or EB3 category at the earliest. You can parallely start working on your EB-1A application. Once you receive your I-140 priority date with EB2 or EB3, you can retain it once your EB-1A gets approved. This is the most efficient way.

How difficult is it to get an EB-1A visa?
Approval rate for EB-1A is a little over 50%. The chances depend on your background and qualifications. With a good immigration team and a bit of luck, this might work in your favor.

What is the most challenging part of the EB-1A visa application?
Assuming you have the technical chops, getting over the inertia to apply is the hardest part. It takes several months of work to build a case, and get reference letters. Once you file the case, it's just a waiting game.

How long does the visa approval take?
You can check approximate processing times here.

USCIS also publishes a visa bulletin every month. You can check the green card priority dates here.

I'm a Master's student. What can I do to increase my odds for EB-1A approval?
EB-1A is a merit-based pathway to obtain a green card, requiring significant personal achievements and recognition in your field. I would highly encourage you to develop deep expertise in a domain, strive for excellence, and make impactful contributions in your field of work.

I'm working on my OPT. Is there an alternative to H1B visa?
Yes, if you have an extraordinary skillset in your field of work, you can consider applying for an O1 visa. The acceptance criteria are similar but less stringent than those for an EB1A visa.

Can you help evaluate my chances?
Unfortunately, no. This post is a guideline based on my personal experience. Only a professional lawyer can provide best guidance personalized to your background and work experience. I worked with the amazing team at Serotte Law firm. Please feel free to reach out to them and provide my reference.

How can you help with my EB1A application?
I'd be happy to provide you with a recommendation letter if it helps your case. Feel free to reach out to me on email.