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Individuals who have attained a high level of achievement and recognition in the fields of science, arts, education, business, or athletics may petition for permanent residence without first obtaining a labor certification. These petitions may be made by individuals on their own behalf, or by U.S. employers on behalf of an individual employee. To qualify as a person of extraordinary ability, the individual must show that he or she posses a level of expertise indicating that he or she is at the very top of his or her field. The petition is filed on Form I-140 with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

Legal Requirements

In order to document a successful application under this category, the individual must provide evidence that he or she has sustained national or international acclaim that has been recognized by other top members in the field. This documentation requirement can be satisfied either by providing evidence that the individual has received one major international award (such as a Pulitzer Prize), or by showing at least three of the following 10 items:

  1. Documentation of the individual’s receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;
  2. Documentation of the individual’s membership in associations in the field or which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;
  3. Published material about the individual in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to the individual’s work in the field for which classification is sought;
  4. Evidence of the individual’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specification for which classification is sought;
  5. Evidence of the individual’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business related contributions of major significance in the field;
  6. Evidence of the individual’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  7. Evidence of the display of the individual’s work in the field at artistic exhibitions or showcases;
  8. Evidence that the individual has performed in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  9. Evidence that the individual has commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services, in relation to other in the field; or
  10. Evidence of commercial success in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts or record, cassette, compact disk, or video sales.

While an individual may self-sponsor by filing an I-140 immigrant petition under the Extraordinary Ability category on his or her own behalf, he or she must nonetheless prove by clear evidence that he or she will work in the United States in the field under which classification is sought. This evidence may take the form of contracts, commitment letters, or a statement by the individual of his or her plans to work in the United States.

Upon receipt of an approved I-140 immigrant petition, an individual may obtain permanent residence status either by filing a Form I-485 application for adjustment of status from within the United States, or through consular processing at a U.S. consulate outside the United States.

Application Procedures

Case Assessment

  1. Foreign national provides firm with detailed resume, individual statement regarding extraordinary ability, and list of potential references for testimonial letters.
  2. Firm analyzes information to assess probability of approval of petition.

Petition Preparation

  1. Foreign national provides firm with copies of publications and all other supporting material.
  2. Firm works with individuals references to draft testimonial letters supporting the contention that the individual is at the top of his or her field.
  3. Firm drafts I-140 petition forms and letter of support for Company or foreign nationals review and signature.

Filing Petition

  1. Firm consults with Company and foreign national to determine whether to file I-140 petition concurrently with I-485 application for adjustment of status.
  2. Firm files I-140 petition with USCIS office having jurisdiction over proposed place of employment.
  3. Foreign national uses approved I-140 to obtain permanent residence through either adjustment of status or consular processing.