History of the EB-1A “Einstein” Green Card

The U.S. has historically aimed to attract top talent from around the world, and the EB-1A green card is great way for this to happen. The EB-1A allows individuals of extraordinary ability to sponsor themselves for green cards and, in doing so, the U.S. hopes to remain competitive in various fields by drawing in internationally recognized experts and talents.

Some people have referred to the EB-1A green card as the “Einstein Green Card” and this is because it’s for people with demonstrated “extraordinary ability”. However, don’t let the “Einstein” label fool you – it’s not only for those who work in science, it can work for those in any field like arts, education, business, startups, or athletics.

Over time, the EB-1A has seen various changes in terms of its application and interpretation, especially in how “extraordinary ability” is defined and assessed. Just recently, the USCIS updated the Policy Manual for the EB-1A and gave us great examples of how someone can meet this “extraordinary ability” test.

This article provides an overview of qualifying for the EB-1A green card, explains the criteria, and provides insights into each one.


Defining ‘Extraordinary Ability’

The term “extraordinary ability” is not merely a casual expression; it is an explicitly defined term by the USCIS, signifying “a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” This definition is not only a testament to one’s skills, but also a reflection of their impact, and recognition in their respective field, substantiated by “sustained national or international acclaim.” However please also keep in mind that you may be more extraordinary than you think, so let’s dive into how you might prove this.


Eligibility Criteria: A Closer Look

To be considered eligible for the EB-1A, applicants must either be recipients of a major, internationally recognized award, such as a Pulitzer or an Olympic Medal, or fulfill at least three out of the ten criteria set by the USCIS.

Let’s delve deeper into these criteria:


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Leading or Critical Role in Distinguished Organizations or Establishments:
    • Explanation: Your role in organizations or establishments should be pivotal or influential, demonstrating leadership or critical involvement.
    • Examples:
      1. Serving as a director or a key researcher in a renowned institution.
      2. Senior faculty or senior research position for a distinguished academic department or program.
      3. Senior research position for a distinguished non-academic institution or company.
      4. Principal or named investigator for a department, institution, or business that received a merit-based government award.
      5. Member of a key committee within a distinguished organization.
      6. Founder or co-founder of, or contributor of intellectual property to, a startup business that has a distinguished reputation.
      7. Leading or critical role for a distinguished organization or a distinguished division of an institution or company, as explained in detail by the director or a principal investigator of the relevant organization or division.


Original Contributions of Major Significance:
    • Explanation: Your work should introduce novel ideas or advancements in your field.
    • Examples:
      1. Developing a breakthrough technology or methodology in science or business.
      2. Your original work cited at a level indicative of major significance in the field.
      3. Patents or licenses deriving from your work or evidence of commercial use of your work.


    • Explanation: Your work or achievements are recognized and featured in notable publications or media or trade publications.
      1. Note: your work need not be the only subject of the material – published material that covers a broader topic but includes a substantial discussion of your work in the field and mentions you in connection to the work may be considered material about you relating to your work.
    • Example: Articles or features about your work in newspapers, journals, or online platforms.


    • Explanation: Recognition through national or international awards, even if they are not as prestigious as a Pulitzer or an Oscar.
    • Examples:
      1. Receiving awards for innovation or excellence in your domain.
      2. Certain awards from well-known national institutions or well-known professional associations.
      3. Certain doctoral dissertation awards.
      4. Certain awards recognizing presentations at nationally or internationally recognized conferences.


High Salary or Other Remunerations:
    • Explanation: Your earnings should be significantly higher compared to your peers in the same field.
    • Example:
      1. Being one of the top earners in your industry or specialization.


Judge of Others:
    • Explanation: You should have been entrusted with evaluating the work of others in your field. You must show that you have, not only been invited to judge the work of others, but also that you actually participated in the judging of the work of others in the same or allied field of specialization.
    • Example:
      1. Being a jury member in a prestigious competition or award ceremony.
      2. Peer reviewing for a scholarly journal, as evidenced by a request from the journal to the person to do the review, accompanied by proof that the review was actually completed.
      3. Peer review of abstracts or papers submitted for presentation at scholarly conferences in the respective field.
      4. Serving as a member of a Ph.D. dissertation committee that makes the final judgment as to whether a candidate’s body of work satisfies the requirements for a doctoral degree, as evidenced by departmental records.
      5. Peer reviewer for government research funding programs.


Membership in Associations:
    • Explanation: Inclusion in associations that require notable achievements for membership.
    • Example: Being a member of an elite scientific or artistic society.


Scholarly Articles:
    • Explanation: Your contributions to scholarly articles in recognized publications.
    • Examples:
      1. Publishing research or insights in reputed journals or magazines.
      2. Publications in professionally-relevant peer-reviewed journals.
      3. Published conference presentations at nationally or internationally recognized conferences.


Commercial Success in the Performing Arts:
    • Explanation: Achieving notable success in the performing arts, reflected through box office, ratings, or sales.
    • Example: Having a bestselling album or a highly grossing theatrical performance.


Artistic Exhibitions:
    • Explanation: Your work should have been showcased in significant exhibitions.
    • Example: Displaying your art in a renowned gallery or exhibition.


Crafting a Robust Application

Building a robust EB-1A green card application requires meticulous documentation and a strategic approach to convincingly demonstrate your extraordinary ability. Engaging with experienced immigration attorneys can be pivotal in navigating through the complex application process, ensuring that every criterion is substantiated with compelling evidence and documentation.



Embarking on the EB-1A journey is a testament to one’s remarkable achievements and contributions in their field. While the pathway may seem daunting, understanding the criteria and strategically curating your application can pave the way for a successful immigration journey, allowing you to continue making impactful contributions on an international stage. If you’d like to have a consultation with one of our experienced EB-1A immigration lawyers, please call (773)828-9544, email info@mcenteelaw.com, or click the button below to book a consultation online.

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