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What is EB-2 Exceptional Ability?

For individuals who do not hold an advanced degree, you may still qualify for EB-2 classification on the basis of possessing “exceptional ability.” This may be a particularly strong option for individuals who have extensive experience in their field and have built an impressive track record of expertise, but who did not obtain a master’s or higher degree.

How Do I Qualify for EB-2 Exceptional Ability?

Exceptional ability is defined as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered,” demonstrated in the sciences, arts, or business. The beneficiary must provide evidence of at least 3 of the following criteria:

  • Degree relating to area of exceptional ability;
  • Letter from current or former employer showing at least 10 years of experience;
  • License to practice the profession;
  • Commanding a salary or remuneration demonstrating exceptional ability;
  • Membership in a professional association;
  • Recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.

In addition to providing documentation of at least 3 criteria, the evidence as a whole must demonstrate that the beneficiary possesses a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in their field, and that the expertise will be applied in a way that substantially benefits the United States’ economy, its cultural or educational interests, or welfare. For this reason, a particularly compelling form of evidence is letters from experts in the field who can attest to the beneficiary’s accomplishments, skills, expertise, and contributions.

How Do I Apply for the EB-2 Exceptional Ability I-140?

Prior to filing the I-140 petition, the beneficiary must first have a job offer from a U.S. employer with an approved PERM labor certification, or they must be applying for a National Interest Waiver. A PERM-based process requires employer sponsorship and the existence of a valid job offer from a U.S. company, whereas an I-140 petition based on a National Interest Waiver may be filed by the beneficiary personally. Evidence of the beneficiary’s exceptional ability would be submitted in support of the I-140 petition. Premium processing is available for these petitions.


If you are in need of a US work visa or permanent residency, speak with one of our immigration lawyers. Please contact us online, call our Houston business immigration attorney office directly at 713-953-7787, or schedule a consultation.