Extraordinary Ability Visas for Doctors and Healthcare Professionals

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides immigrant and nonimmigrant visa options for individuals with “extraordinary ability.” Once approved, EB-1, EB-2 and NIW petitions grant visa holders permanent resident status in the United States – often referred to as a “green card.” These visa categories can be sponsored by an employer or self-sponsored. The O-1 Visa is an employer-sponsored nonimmigrant visa. If you are a healthcare employer and would like to learn more about the requirements for extraordinary ability visas, we offer complimentary consultations.

Extraordinary Ability Green Card (EB-1)

We provide support for employers and individuals who are navigating the EB-1 green card process. The EB-1A category (Employment-Based First Preference), also known as Extraordinary Ability, is a permanent residence status that is granted to those who are highly accomplished in their field. An applicant can demonstrate their extraordinary ability in one of two ways: showing receipt of an internationally recognized award (e.g. a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, MacArthur Foundation fellowship, etc.), or by showing evidence in at least three of the several other delineated categories for demonstrating qualifications. Once in the United States, an EB-1 recipient must continue working in their field of expertise.

The EB-1A petition places high value on the scholarly accomplishments of an individual, so physicians who would like to for an EB-1A petition should begin preparing evidence long before the filing a petition.

Physicians who will serve as faculty for a teaching hospital can make excellent candidates for the EB-1B category for professors and researchers. The individual must have at least 3 years experience in teaching or research in the academic area and must be entering the United States to pursue tenure or tenure track teaching or comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. In addition, an applicant must demonstrate at least two of the six delineated categories for demonstrating the appropriate qualifications as an EB-1B.

Obtaining the right legal counsel is critical for the stringent requirements of the EB-1 petition. FordMurray offers complimentary evaluations and consultations of EB-1 cases, and we can help physicians strengthen their petitions or find viable alternatives.

EB-2 and NIW

Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2) and National Interest Waivers (NIW) are similar to EB-1 petitions but have less stringent petition requirements. The primary difference between the EB-2 and NIW petition is that EB-2 petitions must generally be accompanied by an approved individual labor certification from the Department of Labor. An NIW petition waives the labor certification because the employee’s skills are in the “national interest” of the United States.

The primary qualifications of EB-2 and NIW petitions are possession of an advanced degree, and evidence of “extraordinary ability” in three of the following criteria:

  • Official academic record showing possession of a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the petitioner’s occupation
  • A license to practice the profession or certification for the profession or occupation
  • Evidence that the petitioner has commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association(s)
  • Recognition for the petitioners achievements and significant contributions to their industry or field by peers, government entities, professional or business organizations
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

Petitioners in the National Interest Waiver category must also prove the following:

  • Whether the applicant’s proposed work in the U.S. has “substantial merit” and “national importance”;
  • Whether the applicant is “well positioned” to advance their proposed work, and
  • On balance, waiving the job offer and labor certification requirements would be beneficial to the U.S.

O Visa

To obtain an O-1 visa, an individual must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education, or athletics.

The O-1 visa can be a good option for healthcare institutions who would like to hire a well-established physician. This visa requires a significant amount of documentation – to be approved, the physician will need to demonstrate (through awards, publications, or other evidence) extraordinary accomplishment in the medical field. In addition, the position the physician will be hired for must require someone of well-above average skills and experience. The physician’s abilities must be corroborated by a consultation letters, which are essentially detailed letters of recommendation from other respected experts in your specific field.

While it can take some time to gather together all of the documentation and evidence you need to apply for an O-1 Visa, the approval period is actually quite fast. Once everything is submitted, O-1 visas are typically approved or denied within a few weeks, which is faster than the H-1B visa or most other options.  Additionally, physicians who qualify for the O-1 visa are exempted from the USMLE examination requirement (note, however, that State licensing requirement may still require USMLE passage).

Extraordinary ability visas for foreign physician represent a significant share of our immigration practice at FordMurray and should be part of every hospital and healthcare facility’s immigration strategy. Contact us for a complimentary consultation to speak to an experienced healthcare immigration attorney about how your healthcare organization can hire foreign physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals.