Applying for the EB-1B Green Card with an Industry Job

If you are an immigrant worker like myself, and have long-term career plans in the US, getting a Green Card (permanent residency) is something you probably have considered. However the traditional EB-2 PERM process that is filed by an employer takes forever — approximately eight to 10 years, if you are born in India or China because of the country quota. This is why many candidates, especially those who have PhDs, and are working on research projects at companies look into EB-1A (Extra-ordinary Ability)/ EB-1B (Outstanding Researcher) Green Card which has no wait time. Once approved for EB-1, you can immediately file for a change of status to get your Green Card. The entire process typically takes few months if you opt for premium processing.

My intention with this post is to share my experience with candidates who are in a similar situation but, may not have the necessary information, or may doubt the possibility of successfully applying for an EB-1A/ EB-1B visa because the big law firm hired by their employer and the HR team have little idea, experience, or interest in pursuing the EB-1 process. You may have been told by your HR and their expensive law firm that you only qualify for an EB-2 PERM, which by the way, is the most frustrating process. I’ll share my journey from from H-1B to getting my EB-1B approved because I believe it’ll demonstrate how it may be done successfully.

I graduated with a PhD in physics from University of Southern California in Los Angeles and started working in a Bay Area cyber security company as a data scientist on an H-1B visa. The job was exciting and so was the work environment. My wife Paromita graduated with Masters in Communications from North Carolina State University, and was at the time working in Los Angeles on H-1B. Given that we had jobs in different cities, we saw each other on weekends — the weekend travels coupled with challenges of maintaining two establishments soon made us realize this couldn’t be a sustainable solution, and one of us had to move. Since Bay Area has more jobs with numerous high growth start-ups, Paromita decided to join me. Companies are generally not excited about hiring candidates who need H-1B visa transfer in non-technical field — this prompted us to look into the Green Card option in EB-1 category.

An applicant’s research profile is critical when applying for the EB-1A/ EB-1B Green Card. At the time I decided to explore the EB-1 Green Card option I had three publications with 44 citations, was associate editor of an international security journal, publication chair and reviewer for an international security conference, along with serving as reviewer for an international machine learning conference. While having these qualifications helped me satisfy the criteria for EB-1B, the 44 citations to my credit wasn’t sufficiently impressive. This was a concern I had, and so did the lawyer who eventually filed for my Green Card. So I had a decent chance of succeeding but, it was not the strongest case. However, the lawyer informed me that my chances of cracking the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) was close to 100%, which unlike EB-2 PERM is not tied to your employer or position, and may be self filed. EB-2 NIW like EB-1 also doesn’t need labor certification but you’d still have to endure the long EB-2 wait time. So I decided to take a calculated and reasonable risk to file EB-1B which requires the employer to sponsor and it has higher success rate (over EB-1A which doesn’t require employer sponsorship and has a much lower success rate).

Now came the tough part, convincing my employer. My then employer asked me to discuss the situation with their lawyer which was a big law firm used by many top tech companies. Unfortunately, most of these big law firms are usually not only inexperienced with EB-1 but also, it’s not in their financial interest to do so since they can bill their clients for more money when filing for EB-2 PERM. As expected, they decided that I don’t qualify for EB1 by providing some of the following comments —

1. “You have become member of the eCrime 2015 committee, but we would require proof that admission to membership is indeed competitive or subject to review of achievements (I checked online but could not find these details from eCrime’s website).”

Are they serious? No conference writes that membership in program committee is competitive.

2. “You list 2 publications for which you’ve reviewed: Security & Communications Network for IEEE (I could not find this publication on IEEE website though) for the past 2 months only, and eCrime 2015 since October, but CIS does require proof of actual reviews conducted for professional/scientific journals (invitations only are insufficient).”

When you recommend a publication for major revision, you will not find it on the website. I was clearly dealing with someone with little experience in this area, and I had actual proof of submission but they didn’t ask for it.

3. “As they did a few months ago, CIS is still reviewing OR petitions under the heightened scrutiny of Kazarian, which involves (1) Standard 3-year research work (may not be met here since you have only 2 publications during your PhD),”

Are you kidding me? I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry at that comment — by their reasoning, a PhD student should have one publication per year of research work!

So they recommended I file for EB-2 PERM, and not even consider the EB-2 NIW which actually has more lenient requirements. They also said the standards of EB-2 NIW are similar to that of EB-1, which is inaccurate.

Luckily I was recommended by a friend to Mark Harrington, an immigration lawyer specializing in EB-1A, EB-1B and EB-2 NIW cases for researchers. Mark told me after reviewing my profile that my chances of EB-1B was decent and EB2-NIW was very good. I also had my profile evaluated by another law firm that specializes in EB-1 and EB-2 NIW and they told me the same thing, and even offered money back guarantee on EB-2 NIW. Unfortunately my employer did not agree in working with either of the lawyers that I suggested even if I agreed to pay all the bills involved (For EB-1B there is no requirement that the company has to pay unlike EB-2 PERM). After some deliberation I decided to look for another job where my employer would be willing to work with me on this, even though it meant giving up 55% of my pre-IPO stock options. I believe in not making decisions based on money unless there is a serious need for it, such decisions don’t seem to work out eventually.

I didn’t want to switch my job based on my interest in an EB-1 filing, I wanted to find a job which I could truly enjoy, could stay long term, make valuable contributions to, and learn new things. While interviewing for a new job most potential employers agreed my reason for changing job based on EB-1 Green Card was a very valid one (and yes employers usually cover the expense even if it is not a requirement), only one employer refused to cover the expense. At the end of my job search I had three offers, and accepted the one which in time has proved to be a very good choice. Here I work with intelligent people and learn new things, and enjoy the growing pains of a start-up. My EB-1B was accepted — Mark did a great job in working with me during each step of the process. My employer understood and appreciated my situation and were extremely cooperative on this.

My Message to Those Considering Applying for EB-1:
If your profile is falling short, you can try to develop it further by getting on peer-review committees, editorial boards, conference boards, and try for invited speaker opportunities. These opportunities don’t have to be at top-tier conferences or journals, as long as they are respected and International, they would help your case. Unlike citations that take a long time to grow, you can easily develop what I mentioned within a year (I did the same, so can you).

Human Resources:
Please develop skills, gain expertise to evaluate the law firms you hire, keeping your talented employees should be your priority over keeping your law firm happy. Consider reimbursing employees if they want to choose their lawyers, these employees are highly qualified, don’t lose them to other companies simply because you haven’t considered the option of being flexible.

Law Firms:
I am sure you make enough money by filing standard permanent residency cases, the process for which you have mastered. Kindly don’t offer half-truths, ill-informed advice that may impact a candidate’s confidence. In my opinion you should stop offering EB-1, and leave it to specialized lawyers since you don’t seem to be interested in those cases anyway.

I hope this post helps out another person considering the EB-1 process. Feel free to connect with me if you have questions or need help.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my own, and don’t reflect the views of my employer.

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