Researchers and Scientists

Our office has an excellent team that focuses on applications for Researchers and Scientists to be able to enter the U.S. and work in their field.

Most Researchers and Scientists obtain nonimmigrant work permits through the H-1B or O-1 visa programs.  You can read more about those programs on our ‘Workers’ link.

Regarding US permanent residency, we typically encourage filing EB-1A (Extraordinary Ability), EB-1B (Outstanding Researchers and Professors) and the EB-2 (National Interest Waiver) cases for Researchers and Scientists.  All of these categories carry with it a high standard, one that we vet carefully to ensure that the applicant has a good case.

female scientist on a research visa looking through a microscope

EB-1 Extraordinary Ability 

This is an employment-based first preference classification for people with (1) extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation; (2) who seeks entry to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability; and (3) whose entry will substantially benefit the United States.

Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required.  You must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts

This is a category where we really have to prove that you have risen to one of the top percentages in your field.  It takes a lot of work and collaboration between the applicant and our office, thus documenting your accomplishments in the field through objective sources is critical to presenting a good case to the USCIS.

EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers

This is an employment-based first preference classification for Professors and Researchers, making immigrant visas available to foreign nationals (FN) who are internationally recognized as outstanding in their academic field.  This category, unlike Extraordinary Ability, requires a petitioner to sponsor the FN for immigration.  The FN will then need to work for the Petitioner upon ultimate approval of the permanent residency (“Green Card”) process.

The FN must be internationally recognized prior tothe submission of the I-140 and have at least 3 year’s teaching or research experience in the academic area. The FN must be seeking “entry” into the US to: teach in a tenure or tenure track position within a university of institution of higher education; conduct research at a university or institution of higher education; or conduct research with a private employer which employs 3 full-time researchers within the same department or division that the FN is being offered a position and the department or division has received recognition for accomplishments in the field.

To first establish eligibility for the OP/R category, evidence of at least 2 of the 6 following criteria must be met:

  • Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement
  • Membership in an association which requires outstanding achievement
  • Published material in professional publications written by others about FN’s work
  • Participation as a judge of the work of others.
  • Original scientific research
  • Authorship of scholarly books or articles in the field.

Attainment of at least 2 of the above criteria establishes eligibility for the classification, however, the Outstanding Professors and Researchers category is subject to a “final merits examination” which decides if the evidence presented in totality indicates that the FN has been recognized internationally as outstanding in his/her academic field.  The Final Merits stage has become an increasingly more difficult hurdle as USCIS often applies higher scrutiny of the evidence submitted in support of the criteria listed above and a FN’s work should stand well apart from other researchers within the academic field.

young researcher on a EB-1a visa presenting a powerpoint

EB- 2 National Interest Waiver

The employment-based second preference National Interest Waiver allows an applicant to completely skip the PERM (Labor Certification) process and to file for Permanent Residency without a sponsoring employer.

Professionals in certain fields – and with particular abilities and accomplishments – may qualify for an Employment-Based Two (EB-2) national interest waiver. They must be:

Immigrants who hold advanced degrees. These immigrants must have an advanced degree such as a Masters degree or Doctorate in their field. Most scientists and researchers meet the advanced degree requirement.


Immigrants who have exceptional abilities. Immigrants who are particularly gifted in science, the arts or business may qualify for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver based upon their proven achievements.

In order to apply for a National Interest Waiver, you must show that you meet the criteria of possessing an advanced degree and having exceptional abilities. In addition, you must demonstrate that: 1] that the benefit of your proposed activity will be national in scope; 2] you seek employment in an area of “substantial intrinsic merit” to the U.S.; and 3] that the requirement of a Labor Certification will adversely affect the national interest.

National. Your work must benefit the U.S. as a nation, and not just one area of the country. An example is an applicant who worked for a State Department of Transportation. It was not at all difficult to document that his achievements in developing structure materials for bridges surpassed those of the majority of his peers. Unfortunately, his work only impacted a certain region of the U.S. You must be ready to provide evidence that the results of your work are national in scope.

Interest. Proving the merit of your specialty involves a thorough explanation of the work, and a description of its application to real life. Your petition should include a thorough CV and letters of support from experts in the field. Some topics we’ve worked with include cancer research, research into alternative energy sources, and even a researcher who worked on the Space Elevator. These fields of study and development are fundamentally significant. Their very nature interests and benefits us all.

Waiver. The application must also address the fact that the time, effort and expense of a PERM application (or Labor Certification) would be of little worth. The PERM process is meant to determine whether there are qualified U.S. workers for the position, and if there would be an negative impact to the U.S. workforce by the hiring of a foreign national. In the case of an approvable NIW case, it should be clear that the immigrant’s work is so highly specialized that their Permanent Residence in the U.S. would be of no detriment. Basically, that the immigrant’s background and accomplishments in the field are so significant that there is no negative impact to the U.S. workforce by foregoing the labor certification process.

A National Interest Waiver is approved for only the highest echelon of professionals in the sciences, arts and business. Because its benefit is so great, the application must be prepared with the utmost care. Call us to discuss the details of your work, your achievements, and your desire to contribute to the United States.
US Capitol, immigration lawyer theme

If you are interested in the EB-1A (Extraordinary Ability), EB-1B (Outstanding Researchers and Professors) or the EB-2 (National Interest Waiver), call us to schedule a consultation to determine your eligibility in these green card categories.

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