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EB-2 Visa Requirements, Application Process

The United States welcomes people with exceptional skills, advanced degrees and a passion for contributing to its economy.

If you hold an advanced degree or boast an exceptional skill, you may be eligible for an EB-2 visa.

An EB-2 visa grants you the right to live and work in the U.S.

We’ll explain more below, breaking down the eligibility criteria, application process, cost and more.

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What Is An EB-2 Visa?

An EB-2 visa is an employment-based visa category designed for individuals who have advanced degrees or show exceptional ability or skill in their profession.

An EB-2 visa aims to attract highly skilled and talented people around the world to contribute to the U.S. economy and workforce.

An EB-2 visa provides multiple benefits to its holders, including:

  • Employment authorization: EB-2 visa holders have the right to work in their field of expertise, which provides them with opportunities for career advancement and professional development in the U.S.
  • A path to permanent residency: EB-2 visa holders are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (a Green Card) and later, for U.S. citizenship.
  • Dependent visas: EB-2 visa holders are allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age to the U.S. under EB-2 derivative visas.
  • Work flexibility: EB-2 visa holders can change jobs within the same field or occupation, provided they continue to work in their area of expertise.
  • Access to U.S. healthcare and education: EB-2 visa holders and their dependents have access to the U.S. healthcare system and can enroll their children in U.S. schools.
  • Potential for entrepreneurship: EB-2 visa holders with exceptional abilities or advanced degrees can start their own business in the U.S.
  • Faster application process: Some EB-2 visa holders, namely EB-2C visa holders, can avoid the labor certification process that is typically required for employment-based visas, which significantly expedites the visa application process.

Depending on the applicant, an EB-2 visa can be divided into three subcategories:

  • EB-2A: Advanced degree holders
  • EB-2B: Individuals with exceptional ability
  • EB-2C: National Interest Waiver (NIV) applicants

Who Can Apply For An EB-2 Visa?

Those eligible for an EB-2 visa include:

  • Advanced degree holders: This subcategory is meant for those who have an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) from a U.S. institution or an equivalent foreign degree. An EB-2A visa is also available to individuals with a Bachelor’s degree, if they have five years of progressive post-Bachelor’s work experience in their field. Individuals with advanced degrees can apply for an EB-2A visa.
  • Individuals with exceptional ability: This subcategory is for those who possess an exceptional ability in their line of work, including science, art, business or athletics. To prove exceptional ability, the applicant must demonstrate a high level of expertise, along with achievements in the respective field or recognition. Individuals with exceptional abilities can apply for an EB-2B visa.
  • National Interest Waiver applicants: This subcategory allows individuals to petition for a waiver of the typical labor certification process, by providing evidence that their work can be beneficial for one of five vital national interests of the U.S. in various spaces, such as health, economy, education, culture or other areas of national interest significance. NIW applicants can apply for an EB-2C visa.
Employer with a job candidate​
The applicants for an EB-2 visa include advanced degree holders, people with exceptional ability and National Interest Waiver applicants

What Are The Requirements For An EB-2 Visa?

The requirements for EB-2 visa applicants vary depending on the subcategory under which applicants are applying.

EB-2A Visa: Advanced Degree Applicants

Advanced degree applicants need to prove that they possess:

  • An advanced degree or foreign equivalent degree
  • A Bachelor’s degree and 5 years of progressive work experience

Documents that can serve as evidence for advanced degree applications typically include:

  • Transcripts and diplomas
  • Educational evaluations (if the degree is from a foreign institution)

EB-2B Visa: Exceptional Ability Applicants

Exceptional ability applicants need to prove that they:

  • Possess expertise in business, sciences or arts
  • Provide services which are sought by an U.S. employer
  • Meet labor certification requirements

Documents that can serve as evidence for exceptional ability applications typically include:

  • Awards and recognitions
  • Published articles or scholarly papers
  • Evidence of significant achievements
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Letters of recommendation from experts in the field
  • Any other relevant documentation highlighting the applicant’s exceptional abilities

EB-2C Visa: NIW Applicants

Although there is no set formula defining how an applicant can benefit the national interest, based on previous cases, NIW applicants need to prove that they:

  • Can provide skills, services or products beneficial to the national economy
  • Can contribute to improving environment and use of national resources
  • Can aid U.S. government agencies through their knowledge or skills

Documents that can serve as evidence to support NIW applications typically include:

  • A detailed description of the applicant’s work and its impact
  • Letters of recommendation from experts in the field
  • Evidence of significant contributions to the field
  • Examples of how the applicant’s work will benefit the U.S. economy, culture, health, education or another area of national interest
  • Any other relevant documentation supporting the national interest claim
A person filling out a visa application​
The requirements for an EB-2 visa vary depending on the subcategory under which you are filing your application

How To Apply For An EB-2 Visa From Within The US

The process for applying for an EB-2 visa differs based on whether the applicant files their petition from within or outside the U.S.

In addition, the NIW applicants do not need a labor certification from their employees to continue the process.

To apply for an EB-2 visa from within the U.S.:

1. Check Your Eligibility

Determine if you meet the eligibility criteria for an EB-2 category based on exceptional ability, advanced degree or National Interest Waiver.

2. Ask Your Employer For A Labor Certification

If a labor certification is required for your visa subcategory, ask your sponsoring employer to initiate the labor certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The aim of this process is to demonstrate the unavailability of qualified U.S. workers relative to the expertise you have.

3. Ask Your Employer To File Form I-140

Once your employer obtains a labor certification, they will need to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes your eligibility for the EB-2 visa.

4. Wait For An Available Visa Number

After Form I-140 is filed, USCIS will assign a priority date to your I-140 petition. Monitor the Visa Bulletin to check when a visa number becomes available for your category and area.

5. File Form I-485

File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the USCIS. If your application is approved, you can adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident.

6. Attend Biometrics Appointment & Interview

Attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints and other personal information. You may also be asked to sit for an interview with USCIS.

7. Receive Your Green Card

If USCIS approves your I-485 application, you will receive lawful permanent resident status (a Green Card), allowing you to live and work in the U.S.

How To Apply For An EB-2 Visa From Outside The US

To apply for an EB-2 visa from outside the U.S.:

1. Check If You Are Eligible For An EB-2 Visa

Determine if you are eligible for an EB-2 visa in any of the subcategories.

2. Ask Your Employer To Start The Labor Certification Process

If your EB-2 visa subcategory requires a labor certification, your employer will have to prove to the U.S. Department of Labor that they cannot find qualified U.S. workers in the area in which you are a specialist.

3. Ask Your Employer To File Form I-140

Once the DOL provides your labor certification, your sponsoring employer will need to submit Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker to establish your eligibility for the EB-2 visa.

4. Wait For An Available Visa Number

Your I-140 petition will be given a priority date by USCIS. Keep an eye on the Visa Bulletin to see when a visa number for your category and country becomes available.

5. Wait For The National Visa Center To Process Your Visa Petition

Once a visa number becomes available, the NVC will initiate visa processing. The NVC will send you a letter notifying you of the required fees and documentation you need to submit, along with details about filing Form DS-260.

6. File DS-260

Complete and file Form DS-260 online, providing detailed information about your background, family, employment and travel history. Pay the required visa processing fees by following the NVC’s instructions.

7. Attend Your Visa Interview

Visit the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country, where a consular officer will review your application and conduct a visa interview.

8. Receive Your Visa

If your application is approved, you will receive an immigrant visa stamp in your passport. After entering the U.S., you will receive a lawful permanent resident card (Green Card) via mail.

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Start The EB-2 Visa Process With Spar & Bernstein

Navigating the complex immigration landscape for each of the EB-2 subcategories can be a challenge, due to the different requirements for each subcategory and the evidence needed.

That’s where our experienced team at Spar & Bernstein comes in. Tackling all areas of immigration law, from employment and family immigration to citizenship and naturalization, we have a list of success stories that continues to grow.

  • Here’s what our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys can do for you as you are applying for an EB-2 visa:
  • Provide expert guidance tailored to your unique circumstances
  • Assess your eligibility and determine the most suitable EB-2 subcategory for your qualifications, whether based on advanced degrees, exceptional ability or a National Interest Waiver
  • Help you gather and organize the documentation required to support your case
  • Prepare and submit your application, ensuring all required forms and supporting materials are filed accurately
  • Guide you through the adjustment of status process or consular processing to secure your Green Card

Defending your interests as our own, our dedicated attorneys will work tirelessly to help you achieve your goals and continue your journey toward permanent residency in the U.S.

Looking for an immigration attorney?

Contact Spar & Bernstein

Bradford H. Bernstein

This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.

View Brad's Bio