HomeResourcesThe Ultimate Guide to the EB-2 Visa
June 26th 2023

The Ultimate Guide to the EB-2 Visa

The employment-based EB-2 visa enables professionals with an advanced degree of exceptional ability to live and work in the U.S. permanently.

Patrick Findaro
Co-founder at Visa Franchise

What is an EB-2 Visa? 

The EB-2 (second preference) visa is for professionals with an advanced degree or exceptional ability who want to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The U.S. also has additional employment-based immigrant visas, such as EB-1, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5 , but those visas have other eligibility requirements, such as  employment, exceptional ability, and/or investment criteria.

The EB-2 provides both a visa to travel in and out of the U.S., and a green card granting authorization to work and live in the U.S. permanently. Approved applicants will be granted a physical visa and a green card in their passport. Many applicants will also require employer sponsorship, adding additional time to the application process.

Who should apply for an EB-2 Visa?

Non-immigrant visa holders (such as those on F-1, H1-B, or O-1 visas) often apply for the EB-2 visa as a path to permanent residency. Other professionals apply for the EB-2 visa without first residing in the U.S. on another visa, since processing times for the visa can be up to 18 months. Those born in China and India can expect significantly longer waits due to backlogs in visas available to those nationalities.

What is the EB-2 visa quota?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allocates 140,000 employment-based Green Cards every fiscal year. As part of this quota, there is a limit to how many successful applications are allowed from each country.

Current law states green cards issued to any country must not exceed 7% of the total quota. For example, if the total number of visas issued is 140,000, the maximum number of successful applications from any single country cannot exceed 9,800.

These criteria can pose a challenge for people from densely populated countries such as India and China. If green cards are unallocated, then USCIS is allowed to apply unused green cards to those born in countries beyond the 7% cap.

How to apply for an EB-2 Visa

There are two ways to apply for an EB-2 visa: 1) through employer sponsorship, or 2) through self-sponsorship with a National Interest Waiver (NIW).

If a foreign national has an offer of employment from a U.S.-based company, they may be eligible to apply for the EB-2 visa through their new employer. The most common applicants for this approach are working professionals who hold an advanced degree. This includes but is not limited to software developers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

Individuals can also self-sponsor their EB-2 visa through a National Interest Waiver (NIW), if the applicant is able to demonstrate their proposed work is in the United State’s interest. This is a common path for consultants and entrepreneurs of exceptional ability who will not be employed directly by a U.S. company. 

There were 84,000 applications for the EB-2 visa in the 2022 government fiscal year; 62,000 applications were for professionals sponsored by their employer, and 22,000 applications were for self-sponsored professionals.

Let’s dive into the two approaches.

1) EB-2 employer-sponsored

The criteria are less stringent for employer-sponsored applicants, but the process is lengthier by about a year. The U.S.-based sponsoring company must undergo a permanent labor certification (known by the shorthand of PERM) with the Department of Labor before the applicant submits their petition for the EB-2 visa.

As part of the PERM application, the employer must conduct a recruitment campaign to prove that there is not any locally-available qualified talent. In most cases, the employer will print two ads in two Sunday editions of a local newspaper and place a job order with the State Workforce Agency (SWA). The wage offered to the professional must be greater than or equal to the “prevailing wage” of the given field. The company also needs to demonstrate the ability to pay the offered wage as well as alert current employees about the position.

Following these pre-filing steps, the employer submits the permanent labor certification. The PERM process is generally smoother when a well-qualified immigration attorney is engaged.

2) EB-2 NIW

Individuals may also request a waiver of the PERM requirement by demonstrating that their work is in the national interest. 

Because the national interest waiver waives the job offer, the applicant does not need to demonstrate an employer’s ability to pay a wage.

USCIS considers the following factors when approving the national interest waiver:

1. The proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance.

2. The applicant is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

3. It would be beneficial to the United States to waive the job offer and thus the permanent labor certification requirements.

The definition of “national interest” in this context can vary significantly, from medicine and tech entrepreneurship to art and urban planning, but it is important to work with an immigration attorney to ensure that you come prepared with a consistent and compelling narrative on how you fulfill these requirements -- with documents to back it up.

General requirements for EB-2 visa

In order to qualify for an EB-2 visa, you must provide proof of an advanced degree or exceptional ability.

To qualify as an advanced degree professional, you must show the following:

1) The field you plan to work in must require an advanced degree (e.g. engineering, biology, and information technology).


You must possess an advanced degree (this would include a master’s or PhD degree).


You must have a bachelor's degree and an additional minimum of 5 years of work experience in the field you plan to work in.

To qualify as an exceptional ability professional, you must satisfy at least 3 of the following:

  • 10 years of full-time experience in your field

  • Degree in your field

  • License to practice in your profession

  • Membership in professional associations

  • Salary/remuneration that demonstrates exceptional ability

  • Recognition of your achievements and significant contributions to your field by peers, governmental entities, or professional business organizations

Requirements for NIW applicants

For those NIW applicants who are applying as an entrepreneur or consultant, it is recommended that you incorporate a U.S. business, open a bank account and fund your U.S. entity. Your new U.S. endeavor should have a business plan demonstrating why it is in the national interest, and likely demonstrating job creation, taxes to be paid, and work related to critical industries.

For instance, an IT executive who has already opened and funded their IT consulting company in the U.S presents a proposed endeavor that is already in the process. This is more credible than presenting a business plan and other supporting documents without a created company.

Step-by-Step EB-2 Application Process

Here is our step-by-step guide to applying for the EB-2 Visa:

1) Find an EB-2 sponsor

Unless you are an entrepreneur/consultant pursuing a National Interest Waiver, the first step towards applying for your EB-2 visa is to find a company to sponsor your visa.

If you are lucky enough to receive an offer from a U.S.-based company after graduating from an American college or university, you have overcome one of the first hurdles. But if you’re living abroad and would like to work and live in the U.S., there are several websites with visa sponsor information such as Usponsor.me. These websites help identify companies willing to sponsor visas in your industry, specialty, or desired location.

Because of the process involved,  many companies are not willing to sponsor employment-based green cards right away. Companies will often ‘test’ out their employees via non-immigrant visas (e.g. H1-B and L-1) or OPT/CPT status (for U.S. international students on F-1 visas) before agreeing to sponsor the green card. Communicate your intentions early in the application process to ensure the company is willing to sponsor your EB-2 visa, including any special circumstances or criteria.

2) File Form I-140

All EB-2 applicants are required to file Form I-140. An immigration attorney can help prepare an array of documents that will be submitted together with your petition to the USCIS.

This includes, but is not limited to, Form I-140, your petition letter, letters of recommendation, and PERM (for employer-sponsored applications) or any documentation showing that a labor certification would positively affect the U.S. national interest (for self-sponsored).

It generally takes 6-9 weeks to prepare your petition for filing with USCIS. 

3) Receive petition result: approved, denied or RFE

Depending on your case, your petition will likely be approved in 2 to 8 months. If you decide to file for premium processing ($2,500 fee), the USCIS will provide a decision within 45 days. You will receive an approval, denial, or request for further evidence (RFE). In case of an RFE, you will be given a timeframe within which the requested information must be provided.

4) After I-140 approval, wait to apply for your green card

You must wait to apply for your green card until the State Department determines there are Green Cards available for your case. You can check the monthly visa bulletin to determine if your priority date matches up with the final action date given in the EB-2 category for your birth country. The priority date is marked as the day the USCIS receives your I-140 petition. In November 2022, the EB-2 category was current for all applicants not born in India or China. However, as of June 2023, there is a backlog of less than a year.

As of June 2023, the approximate wait is 4 years for applicants from China and more than 15 years for applicants from India.

5) Adjust your status or apply at a U.S. consulate

Once your date is current, you can either go through consular processing or, if you are already in the U.S. under a valid nonimmigrant status, adjust your status.

Consular processing involves making an appointment with a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country and participating in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer.

For those not born in India or China, the complete EB-2 visa process can range from 15-30 months, largely due to the PERM requirement for select applicants.

The total costs including government and professional fees can vary from roughly $2,500 to $20,000+. The wide range is largely due to how many dependents are part of the petition and if you worked with an immigration attorney and other providers (e.g. business plan writer).

Engaging an immigration attorney and/or other professionals to support your petition may increase your chances of approval, but this comes at a cost. Our partner, Visa Franchise, provides visa application support for the EB-2 and other employment-based visas.

The takeaway

The EB-2 visa offers exceptional professionals from around the world the chance to work and live in the U.S. permanently. The visa benefits American companies that can hire talented individuals with skills that are scarce among the domestic workforce, and empowers foreign entrepreneurs to create new ventures that can advance the U.S. national interest. 

While the process of applying for and obtaining a green card may seem daunting, this guide is intended to help simplify the process of starting your new life in the U.S. Once you’ve gone through these steps and secured your EB-2 visa, you will have a lot of other life logistics to figure out. 

One of those challenges is setting up your financial life in your new country, and establishing and building credit is important in the U.S. After you have moved to the U.S., you may be able to use Nova Credit to use your foreign credit history from certain countries to apply for great credit cards, phone plans, and more products using your hard-earned credit history from back home—rather than starting from scratch as you build a U.S. credit history. 

Currently, Nova Credit serves individuals coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Use your foreign credit history to start your U.S credit history

New to the U.S.? Check if you can use your country's credit history in the U.S. to apply for credit cards and start your U.S credit history using Nova Credit.

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The different types of U.S. work visas

The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the H-1B visa

The ultimate guide to the J-1 visa 

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

How to check your USCIS case status

How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

How to get a social security card

How to get an apartment with no credit history

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