Generally speaking, employment-based permanent residence options require that an employer sponsor the foreign national, and that the foreign national have a permanent job offer. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this, including the EB-1 “alien of extraordinary ability” category, as well as the EB-2 National Interest Waiver category. For either of these categories, a foreign national can self-petition, meaning the person seeking permanent resident is also the petitioner, rather than an employer serving as the petitioner. There are several advantages to self-sponsoring in the EB-1A or NIW category:
- These categories can be great options for postdocs (or others) who are working in the US but do not have permanent job offers. We often find that to obtain permanent job offers, our researcher clients need to obtain independent funding, but to obtain independent funding, they need US permanent residence (a green card). The EB-1A and NIW categories allow a foreign national to pursue permanent residence without having to have the permanent job offer.
- If a foreign national self-petitions in the EB-1A or NIW category, that person can often change employers without jeopardizing the green card process. Of course the person must be continuing in the same or similar field of work, but these categories allow for more flexibility in changing jobs. If a foreign national is sponsored by his or her employer, the foreign national is often tied to the sponsoring employer at least until a certain point in the green card process. It is a good idea to consult with a qualified immigration attorney to review your strategy prior to making such changes, but it is often possible.
- Even foreign nationals who are not currently working in the US can use the EB-1A or NIW category to self-petition. It is not required that the person filing for permanent residence in these categories be working in the US at all. It is important however to show that the person intends to work in his or her field of expertise once in the US. This can be done by showing that prospective employers are interested in hiring you once you are in the US, showing that you currently collaborate with US professionals on joint projects, showing detailed career plans, documenting actions taken to seek employment in the US, etc.
Both the EB-1A and NIW categories can allow for greater flexibility and freedom, and are often a great stepping stone to helping our clients meet their professional and personal goals in the US.
If you are thinking about self-petitioning for an EB-1 visa, call us at our Richmond, Virginia immigration law office at (804) 396-3412 or contact us online today.