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EB-2 Visa, Explained

Learn about the cost, processing time, and how to apply for the EB-2 visa

What is an EB-2 visa?

An EB-2 visa is an employment-based visa available to non-U.S. citizens who possess an advanced degree or exceptional ability. An EB-2 visa holder is considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Before petitioning for this type of visa, the sponsor — usually the employer — will need to apply for a permanent employment (PERM) certification through the Department of Labor, using Form 9089 (officially called the “Application for Permanent Employment Certification”). It is possible, however, to bypass this prerequisite by petitioning for a National Interest Waiver (EB-2 NIW).

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of the EB-2 visa application process.

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How Much Does the EB-2 Visa Cost?

Below is a summary of the current filing fees for the EB-2 visa.

For applicants filing from within the U.S.:

  1. Form I-140 (“Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker”):
    • Filing Fee: $715 (this fee is paid by the employer)
    • Immigrant Fee: $235
  2. Form I-485 (the adjustment of status application):
    • Filing Fee: $1440

For applicants applying from outside the U.S.:

  1. Form I-140 (“Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker”):
    • Filing Fee: $715 (this fee is paid by the employer sponsoring you)
  2. Form DS-260 (green card application):
    • Filing Fee: $345
  3. Form I-864 (“Affidavit of Support”):
    • Filing Fee: $120

Note: While there’s no fee for the PERM certification, the employer will need to create a strict budget to account for any legal fees and any overhead associated with the recruitment process.

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How Long Does the EB-2 Visa Take to Process?

The wait time for Form I-140 currently averages 6.8 months, according to USCIS historic processing times data. If you opt for premium processing, the I-140 can be processed in 15 days.

Once the I-140 is approved, the applicant must wait for a visa to become available. Wait times will vary depending on the country of origin.

Once a visa is available, the applicant can apply for their green card. If the applicant is already in the U.S., the average processing time for Form I-485 for employment visa applications is 6.4 to 32.5 months.

If the applicant is applying from outside the U.S., their case will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward the application to the nearest embassy or consulate to schedule an interview. The wait time for this stage depends on where the applicant lives.

You can check the status of your case on the USCIS website, or they can use the handy processing times tool to get a general estimate.


EB-2 Eligibility

To successfully obtain an EB-2 visa, the applicant must meet certain criteria. Before they can move forward with the application process, they must be sponsored by an employer, who will need to apply for and obtain a PERM certification, unless a National Interest Waiver (NIW) has been granted.

For the purposes of the EB-2 visa, the non-U.S. citizen applicant may fall under 1 of 3 categories:

  • Advanced Degree
  • Exceptional Ability
  • National Interest Waiver

Each of these categories has its own set of requirements, which we will cover in the following sections.

Advanced Degree

If applying with an advanced degree, the applicant must be able to show:

  • That they have an advanced degree (or the foreign equivalent)
  • Or that they have a bachelor’s degree and 5 years of “progressive work experience”

If any other requirements are listed on the PERM certification, those must be satisfied as well.

Exceptional Ability

In this case, the applicant must be able to prove that they have an expertise “significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.” As above, the applicant must also meet any requirements found on the initial labor certification.

National Interest Waiver

If applying for a National Interest Waiver, the applicant may submit their own petition — without a sponsor and without a labor certification. To do this, they must be able to demonstrate that:

  • They have an advanced degree or exceptional ability (as defined above)
  • Waiving the labor certification would, on balance, be beneficial to the United States
  • The proposal is of “substantial merit and national importance”
  • The applicant is “well-positioned” to execute their proposal

For more information, read the Boundless guide on the EB-2 National Interest Waiver.


How to Apply for an EB-2 Visa

As long as the eligibility criteria has been satisfied, the employee — and their employer — may apply for the EB-2 visa. In this section, we’ll break down the application process into 4 basic steps:

  1. Securing a PERM certification
  2. Filing Form I-140
  3. Attending Follow-Up Appointments
  4. Preparing and Submitting the Green Card Application

Securing a PERM Certification

Prior to filing a petition with USCIS, the U.S. employer must first prepare and submit a PERM application with the Department of Labor (DOL). This process can take about a year to complete (6 months for pre-filing steps and approximately 158 days to process). Before the employer can submit Form 9089, they will need to complete several pre-filing steps. They must:

  • Fulfill the basic requirements
    • For instance, they must ensure that the wage offered is greater than or equal to the “prevailing wage” of the given field.
  • Complete pre-filing recruitment steps
    • These include printing 2 ads in 2 Sunday editions of a local newspaper and placing a job order with the State Workforce Agency (SWA).
  • Give advance notice to employees

Following these pre-filing steps, the employer may then fill out and submit the application for the permanent labor certification.

Filing Form I-140

Within 180 days of receiving the certification, the employer will need to file Form I-140 with USCIS. When reviewing Form I-140, the USCIS officer will want to determine that:

  • The prospective position is the same as that listed on the initial PERM certification
  • The non-U.S. citizen applicant is qualified for the job in question

The petitioning employer will need to gather documentary evidence to be submitted with the I-140. The evidence must show:

  • That a labor certification has been obtained
  • That the employer will be able to pay the promised wages, as soon as they file Form I-140
  • That, if the applicant has traveled to the United States, they have done so lawfully
  • That the applicant has an advanced degree or exceptional ability

The sponsor must also attach evidence showing that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria mentioned above. See the “Document Checklist” section (below) for a breakdown of acceptable proof. When filling out I-140, the employer will also need to provide:

  • A USCIS online account number (if they already have one)
  • A North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
  • A Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System code
  • Contact information for the relevant parties

The employer must pay the filing fee and complete every section of Form I-140. Failure to do so will most likely result in a rejection. Once finished, the employer may file the petition by mailing it to USCIS. If solely filing I-140, the sponsor may send it to one of the following addresses:

If using the U.S. Postal Service:

USCIS

Attn: I-140

P.O. Box 660128

Dallas, TX 75266-0128

If using UPS, FedEx, or DHL:

USCIS

Attn: I-140 (Box 660128)

2501 S. State Highway 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067-8003

If filing I-140 together with your green card application (using Form I-485), the employer may send the forms to:

If using U.S. Postal Service:

USCIS

Attn: NFB

P.O. Box 660867

Dallas, TX 75266-0867

If using UPS, FedEx, or DHL:

USCIS

Attn: NFB (Box 660867)

2501 S. State Highway 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067-8003

The sponsor may track the status of their form by creating a USCIS account, if they don’t already have one. For a more thorough breakdown of the Form I-140 process, read the USCIS instructions.

Attending Follow-Up Appointments

Once USCIS receives the petition, they will send out a notice confirming receipt. The applicant may also receive notices to appear for a biometrics appointment or an interview, though these are not required in every case.

The interview notice will contain all the relevant information, including the date and location — or instructions to contact the Embassy, if living outside the United States — and a list of required documents. The EB-2 applicant should be sure to bring the necessary documentation to the interview.

Once USCIS completes their review, they will send a notice containing their decision.

Preparing and Submitting the Green Card Application

Once Form I-140 is approved by USCIS, the applicant may begin the green card application process. Before they can fill out any paperwork, the applicant will need to determine whether there are any green cards available in their category. To do that, they can check the Boundless Visa Bulletin or visit the U.S. Department of State website.

Once a visa becomes available, they can start filling out the appropriate forms.

Adjustment of Status

If living in the United States, the applicant will need to file Form I-485. The applicant might also find it useful to apply for an “advance parole” document if they wish to travel abroad while waiting for their green card.

Certain evidence is required for Form I-485, including:

Once I-485 has been filed and received, USCIS will notify the applicant of their upcoming biometrics appointment and their in-person interview (if one is required). For more information, read the Boundless guide about the adjustment of status process.

Consular Processing

If the applicant currently resides outside the United States, they will need to apply for their lawful permanent resident card through consular processing. To do this, they will need to file Form DS-260 (officially called the “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration”), making sure to include all the necessary civil documents. These include but are not limited to:

The applicant will also need to attend a medical exam and an interview before a decision can be made. Consular processing will vary depending on where the application is being submitted, so it’s always a good idea to request specific instructions from the local Embassy or Consulate. For a detailed explanation, be sure to check out our consular processing guide.


Document Checklist

The employer will need to include certain types of evidence with Form I-140 to prove that the non-U.S. citizen applicant has either an advanced degree or an exceptional ability. In this section, we will provide a list of acceptable documents.

Advanced Degree

To prove that they have an advanced degree — or a bachelor’s degree with 5 years of experience — the applicant must provide:

  • An official record from an academic institution showing that they have an advanced degree (or an equivalent)
  • Or an official academic record showing that they have a bachelor’s degree, with letters from employers showing 5 years of relevant post-bac work experience

Exceptional Ability

To show that they have an ability above that “ordinarily encountered in the arts, business, or sciences,” the applicant must provide at least 3 of the following:

  • An official record showing that the applicant has obtained a degree or certificate in the relevant field
  • A membership at a related professional association or club
  • Official acknowledgement — from related organizations or colleagues — of applicant’s contributions to the field
  • Proof that applicant received payment for services related to their expertise
  • A license or certification for the applicant’s given profession
  • Letters proving that the applicant has worked full-time for at least 10 years in their given profession

National Interest Waiver

If requesting a National Interest Waiver, the applicant will need to submit evidence that satisfies the requirements listed in the “Eligibility” section of this guide. Namely, the evidence must show that:

  • Their proposed occupation is of great merit and worth to the United States
  • They are well-equipped to carry out the proposed project
  • It is in the national interest to waive the labor certification requirement

Acceptable evidence will vary depending on the situation. The important thing is to gather documentation that proves the national importance of the applicant’s skill and occupation.


EB-2 FAQs

The EB-2 visa is an employment-based immigration visa that allows foreign professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in certain fields to work and live permanently in the United States.

To be eligible for the EB-2 visa, you must fall into one of two categories: (a) individuals with an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) or a bachelor’s degree with at least five years of relevant work experience, or (b) individuals who possess exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

The main difference between the EB-2 and EB-3 visas lies in the educational and experiential requirements. The EB-2 visa requires an advanced degree or exceptional ability, while the EB-3 visa is for professionals with bachelor’s degrees or skilled workers with at least two years of experience.

The process typically involves the following steps: (a) obtaining a job offer from a U.S. employer; (b) the employer filing a Form I-140 petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); (c) waiting for the petition to be approved; and (d) applying for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status to become a permanent resident.

Yes, in most cases, a labor certification, also known as a PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) application, is required for the EB-2 visa. It involves the employer demonstrating that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position.

Yes, self-petitioning is allowed for certain individuals. Those with exceptional ability can self-petition by demonstrating their achievements and the national or international recognition they have received in their field.

Yes, the EB-2 visa category has an annual numerical limit. Additionally, individuals from certain countries with high demand may face a backlog, resulting in longer waiting periods. However, some individuals may be eligible for exemptions from these limitations.

Yes, immediate family members, including spouses and unmarried children under 21, can accompany EB-2 visa holders to the U.S. They may also be eligible for derivative visas.

EB-2 visa holders can change jobs after obtaining the visa, but the new job must be in the same or a similar occupational category, and the new employer must file a new Form I-140 petition on their behalf.

Yes, after maintaining lawful permanent resident status for a certain period (usually five years), EB-2 visa holders may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process.