EB-2 is an immigrant visa preference category for United States employment-based permanent residency, created by the Immigration Act of 1990.[1] The category includes "members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent", and "individuals who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States, and whose services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business are sought by an employer in the United States".[1] Applicants (with the exception of applicants applying for an exemption known as National Interest Waiver) must generally have an approved labor certification, a job offer, and their employer must have filed an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (form I-140) with the USCIS.

Eligibility criteria

The statutory requirements may be found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) at Section 203(b)(2).[2] The regulatory requirements may be found in the Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations (8 CFR) at section 204.5(k).[3] There are three sub-categories of EB-2:[4]

  • "advanced degree" - the job must require an "advanced" degree (Master's degree or superior[5]), and the applicant must possess one or its equivalent (a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years progressive work experience in the field). Not all advanced degree qualify; the job must be a "profession" - an occupation (including, but not limited to architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, and teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academics, or seminaries) that requires at a minimum a US baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent.[1]
  • "exceptional ability", in the sciences, arts, or business, meaning “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business”
  • "national interest waiver" - same as "exceptional ability", but requesting that the labor certification be waived because it is in the interest of the United States. These individuals may also self-petition (they do not need an employer to sponsor them).[1] A special provision allows national interest waivers to be granted to physicians who agree to work full-time in areas with a shortage of healthcare professionals.[6]

Entrepreneurs may also qualify for the EB-2 category under certain conditions.[1]


As of September 2012, the Department of State determined that the FY-2012 numerical limit for the worldwide employment-based preference must be 144,951, and the per-country limit must be 7% of the worldwide cap, regardless of the population of the country. Out of this, the EB-2 category is limited to 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not used by the EB-1 category ("spillover"[7]).[8]


The Bureau of Consular Affairs has more details about the application process.[9]

EB-2 immigration categories normally require the Labor Certification application, once the employer has obtained the Labor Certification, the employer can file an I-140 immigrant petition for an alien with the USCIS. One purpose of I-140 petition that requires a certified Labor Certification is to establish that the employer has the ability to pay the offered wage stated in the Labor Certification application. The employer must be able to prove its ability to pay the proffered wage at the time the priority date is established, and continuing until the beneficiary employee obtains the lawful permanent residence.

The requirement of bachelor degree or equivalent in the EB-2 I-140 petition can be established only by academic education and degree. Here, the language equivalent in the I-140 petition is taken by the USCIS as an equivalent foreign degree, and not combination of education and experience.

Additionally, in the EB-2 based I-140 petition, even if the Labor Certification application stated that the employer would accept a combination of education and experience in lieu of the bachelor degree, for the purpose of establishing the requirement of a bachelor degree followed by five years of progressive requirement, the USCIS may not accept such proof to meet the threshold qualification requirement for the EB-2 I-140 petition.

The National Interest Waiver, or EB2 NIW, is an employment based second preference petition. It is so named because it asks that the otherwise required Labor Certification requirement be waived "in the U.S. National Interest." Thus, a beneficiary of a successful National Interest Waiver petition is exempt from the requirement that his or her employer first obtain a Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. A person may qualify for the waiver of the Labor Certification or job offer requirement if they can show that their work will be in the national interest of the United States. This benefit is popularly called the National Interest Waiver. The burden of proof in National Interest Waiver cases rests solely with the petitioner.

While the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not established specific criteria for approving National Interest Waiver petitions, many examiners rely on a decision in a case decided years ago. In that case, the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) suggested that the following seven factors could be taken into consideration:

  1. improving the U.S. economy;
  2. improving wages and working conditions of U.S. workers;
  3. improving education and training programs for U.S. children and under-qualified workers;
  4. improving health care;
  5. providing more affordable housing for young and/or older, poorer U.S. residents;
  6. improving the environment of the U.S. and making more productive use of natural resources;
  7. a request from an interested U.S. government agency or improving international cultural understanding


As of September 2012, the Department of State application processing fee for employment-based immigrant visas is US$405.[10] The fee for the USCIS Petition for Alien Worker (form I-140) is US$580.[11]