I often field the question “how can I get work authorization in the United States without a job offer?” For many, the solution is to apply for a family-based immigrant visa through a spouse, parent, or child who is a resident or citizen. But for those who do not fall in this category (or are unwilling to sign up for the latest dating app to change that), there are a few options available for self-petitioning independent of any employer or relative.
Here is a list of the three most common visas available for aspiring applicants to apply standalone, without any family member or employer as a petition.
EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Green Card
The EB-1A is a self-petitioned immigrant visa for individuals with “extraordinary ability” in science, business, athletics, arts, and education who can show that they are at the “very top of their field of endeavor”. For additional information regarding the qualifications required for the EB-1A visa, please visit the USCIS Webpage for “Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1” or contact our office for a consultation.
While it is difficult to quantify what a person of “extraordinary ability” looks like, we have had success with a vast array of applicants from a variety of backgrounds and industries, including the following:
A musician who wrote music for popular YouTube artists
A mixed-martial artist trainer who trained several prominent UFC and Bellator Fighters
An aerospace engineer who worked for major aerospace companies, possessed proprietary patents in the industry, and had published books related to aerospace
A model who had won a major international modeling competition and had worked as a brand ambassador for various corporations
A corporate attorney who worked for some of Europe’s largest law firms and was renowned as a world subject-matter expert
One of the benefits of the EB-1A is the availability of premium processing, where an applicant can pay an additional fee of $2,500 and USCIS will adjudicate the application (e.g., either approval or issuance of a request for evidence) within 15 days. For these reasons, I generally recommend anyone who is eligible for EB-1A to pursue this option over other employment-based visas.
EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW)
The EB-2 NIW is a self-petitioned immigrant visa for foreign nationals who either (1) are professionals holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or (2) have exceptional ability in the fields of sciences, arts, or business. Similar to the EB-1A, the EB-2 NIW provides a much faster process for applying for a green card without a petitioning employer. The EB-2 NIW excuses a foreign national from having to obtain a labor certification (e.g., generally a prerequisite process for filing an employment-based immigrant petition for a green card that is lengthy and expensive) filed by a petitioning employer.
If you have an advanced degree (i.e., baccalaureate or foreign evaluation plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience, master’s degree, doctoral degree, etc.), or have sufficient evidence that you possess “exceptional” ability in science, art, or business (evidenced by providing certain evidence listed at the USCIS Website for Employed-Based Immigration: Second Preference EB-2) you should consider applying for a national interest waiver.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this application is in determining whether an applicant’s “proposed endeavor”, the foreign national’s plan to continue work in the United States, possesses substantial merit and national importance to the United States. While it is difficult to say for certain what a qualifying endeavor looks like, we have had success with a vast array of applicants from a variety of backgrounds and industries, including the following:
A pharmacist who wanted to work with the United States Military
A physician whose endeavor was focused on conducting vaccination research for diseases afflicting livestock
An electric engineer whose endeavor was dedicated to improving transportation safety of railroads
A petrol-chemical engineer who wanted to conduct proprietary research related to environmentally friendly oil extraction methods.
Again, as long as you can demonstrate that you are qualified and that your endeavor is in the national interest of the United States, it is worth determining if an EB-2 NIW is right for you. Please contact our office should for questions regarding your eligibility for a national interest waiver.
E-2 Treaty Investor
The third most common “standalone” visa that our office works with is the E-2 visa. E-2 classification allows foreign nationals from certain treaty countries (qualifying countries are listed at the U.S. Department of State Website) to come to the United States for the purposes of investing and directing a bona fide business in the United States.
To qualify, an applicant must demonstrate that they have invested a “substantial amount” of capital in a U.S. business and demonstrate that they own at least 50-percent ownership in the investment enterprise.
The question I often encounter is, what exactly counts as a “substantial amount of capital”? The law does provide some additional guidance to help answer this question. USCIS policy guidance states that substantial capital may be found where the amount of capital invested is enough to ensure that the investor can successfully operate the enterprise. Generally, the lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionally, the investment must be to be considered substantial.
As a benchmark for the inquisitive, we have experience with numerous E-2 visas through a number of various businesses, including in the following industries:
Real Estate “Fix and Flips”
What Should YOU do?
I list only three of the most common visa types I encounter for applicants who are still looking to immigrate to the United States or otherwise gain work authorization without a sponsoring employer, job offer, or relative. There are other visas, including the E-1 Treaty Trader nonimmigrant visa and the EB-5 Immigrant Investor immigration visa, that I did not discuss in this article that are also available as visa applications independent of a petitioning employer. For more information regarding what visa or application is best for you, please reach out to our office today.