What Is a Genius Visa?

The “genius visa” (EB-1A) is a subcategory of employment-based visas. It also bears the distinction of being the most prestigious green card, as it grants permanent residency. This visa is given to foreign nationals at the top of their field who can demonstrate an extraordinary ability in science, business, education, art, or athletics. Past recipients of the genius visa include researchers, scientists, doctors, musicians, artists, actors, and Olympians.

Applicants must show compelling evidence that their work will benefit the United States and that they plan to continue their work if granted permanent residency.

What Are Employment-Based Visas?

Employment-based visas provide permanent residency to foreign workers, which allows them to apply for citizenship in a shorter period of time than other visas. Once qualified for the employment-based visa, the worker’s spouse and children may become eligible to live and work in the United States as well.

The United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) issues a total of 140,000 employment-based visas to foreign workers each year. In addition to the genius visa, there are four additional EB-1 subcategories for academics, researchers, and executives.

What Are the Criteria to Prove Extraordinary Ability?

The main crux of the genius visa is the applicant must have achieved national and international recognition for their work and have received a prestigious international award, such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer, or Olympic Medal. However, if applicants do not have such an award, they may still qualify for the EB-1A visa based on additional documentation to show a level of expertise considered the top of their field that has received national and international recognition by other leaders in that field.

Applicants must also supply additional documentation to support the qualification as a foreign national with extraordinary ability. For eligibility, the USCIS website lists the following criteria:

  • Evidence of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards.
  • Evidence of your membership in the field which demands outstanding achievement.
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other media sources.
  • Proof that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel.
  • Proof of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions to your related field.
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications.
  • Proof that your work has been displayed at exhibitions or showcases.
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in prominent organizations.
  • Proof that you require a high salary or other significantly high pay in relation to others in the field.
  • Proof of your successes in the performing arts.

At least three of the stated criteria must be proven in order to be considered for the EB-1A visa.

Some applicants may apply for an alternate O-1 visa. Like its employment-based counterpart, EB-1A, the O-1 visa is a non-immigrant green card with the same qualifications of extraordinary ability in science, education, business, art, or athletics, but also includes those with extraordinary achievement in the movie and television industry. This category also requires national or international recognition for their work.

The USCIS lists the following O-1A criteria:

  • Recipient of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards.
  • Membership in associations in the related field.
  • Published material in major trade publications, newspapers, or other major forms of media.
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of significance to the related field.
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in journals or other major media.
  • A high salary for services as evidenced by contracts.
  • Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others.
  • Employment in a critical capacity for highly-recognized organizations.

Are There Advantages to the Genius Visa?

The genius visa does carry certain advantages. In contrast to the other categories, the EB-1A process can take as little as a few months, and residency status will be granted as soon as the petition is approved. This type of visa also differs from the other employment-based visa requirements in that applicants do not have to show proof of a job offer in the United States. If applicants can demonstrate their work has achieved a major national and international award, they are allowed to self-petition, and they do not have to obtain a labor certification.

Once established as a foreign worker of extraordinary ability, the genius visa permits a faster path to American citizenship in two years rather than the five-year requirement of the other types of employment-based visas.

However, there is one disadvantage, qualifying for the extraordinary ability visa is incredibly difficult, given the level of criteria it requires.

Do I Qualify for the Genius Visa?

If you believe you could be considered to be a foreign worker of extraordinary ability, you should retain the services of an experienced lawyer. For those who do not have an internationally recognized award, petitions requiring the other criteria are a bit more challenging, have regulations, and need a lot of documentation. A lawyer will have a great understanding of the immigration process and forms required.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Those Seeking Employment-Based Immigration Visas

Employment-based visas are prestigious, but our experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help you determine if filing for an employment-based visa is the right path for you. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.