How to Self-Petition for a Green Card?

You do not always need a U.S. sponsor to file a green card on your behalf. Rather, you may be able to sponsor yourself, a green card, a process known as self-petitioning.

This article discusses four possible pathways to a U.S. permanent residence through self-petitioning.

Green Card Self Petition Key Takeaways

  • Green Card Through Self Petition as an Individual With Extraordinary Ability (EB-1), which allows individuals on top of their field to self-petition for a green card without needing a sponsor.
  • Self-Petition for a National Interest Waiver (NIW) (EB-2), which allows individuals to obtain a green card through self-petition without the requirement of a job offer from a U.S. employer.
  • Self Petitioning For an Investor Green Card (EB-5), which allows individuals to obtain a green card through investing and job creation.
  • Petitioning as a Multinational Executive or Manager (EB-1C) allows multinational executives and managers to self-petition for a green card.

Green Card Through Self Petition as an Individual With Extraordinary Ability (EB-1)

An ‘extraordinary ability’ petition, also known as an EA petition, is an immigrant visa filed by individuals with exceptional ability in certain fields, such as arts, business, sciences, sports, or education. 

This petition allows individuals on top of their field to self-petition for a green card without needing a sponsor. It is usually filed under the EB-1 visa category. In most cases, this allows applicants to skip the labor certification process or sponsorship requirement. However, the beneficiary may still be sponsored by an employer.

Eligibility Criteria

You may apply for a U.S. green card through this pathway, but you must meet at least three of the following 10 eligibility requirements:

  • Provide receipt of national or international prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Prove your membership in professional associations that require exemplary achievement from their members.
  • Provide proof of publications about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Demonstrate that you were the judge of the work of others individually or on a panel.
  • Show proof of scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business contributions of major significance.
  • Provide evidence of scholarly publications in professional or major trade publications or other major media that demonstrate your authorship.
  • Provide proof of exhibitions or showcases where your work has been displayed.
  • Demonstrate that you perform a leading or critical role in an organization of distinction.
  • In comparison with others in the field, demonstrate that you command a high salary or other significant remuneration.
  • Show proof of your commercial success in the performing arts.

Here are additional things to keep in mind before applying for a green card based on your eligibility as an individual with extraordinary abilities:

  • The submitted evidence must show that your extraordinary ability has been sustained. This means that the extraordinary ability has been consistent and uninterrupted.
  • In addition, your extraordinary ability must also be in the best interest of the United States.

EB-1 Visa Application Process 

To get a green card as an individual with extraordinary ability, you must fill out Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, provide the correct supporting documentation, and then send the application to the right filing address

Self-Petition for a National Interest Waiver (NIW) (EB-2) 

If you qualify for a waiver of national interest, you may obtain a green card through self-petition without the requirement of a job offer from a U.S. employer by filling out Form I-140. 

Your I-140 visa petition must:

  • prove that there is substantial merit and national significance to your proposed endeavor;
  • demonstrate that the proposed endeavor is well-suited to your abilities; and 
  • show that it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and the labor certification process.

For instance, you must demonstrate the following in your I-140 visa petition when filing as a physician:

  • You have a job offer in a medically-understaffed location or for the Veterans Administration lasting a minimum of 5 years, 
  • You have obtained a statement from a federal agency or state department of health with knowledge of your qualifications as a physician; and
  • You must be licensed to practice medicine in the state where you intend to work. 

National Interest Waiver Visa Application Process

To apply for a National Interest Waiver visa and become a lawful permanent resident, ensure that your priority date is current. Then, you will need to fill out Form I-140 and send it to the correct mailing address

Also, you can file your Form I-140 and Form I-485, Application For Adjustment of Status, concurrently. If the USCIS approves it, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document and Advance Parole travel permit. 

Self Petitioning For an Investor Green Card (EB-5) 

For the investor green card option to work, you must meet some strict eligibility requirements, including certain financial conditions, as discussed below.

Eligibility Criteria

As a foreign national, you must meet the following requirements to qualify for a permanent residency card as an investor in the U.S:

  • demonstrate that you have invested or are in the process of investing at least $1,050,000 in a new business enterprise set to benefit the United States economy; or
  • demonstrate that you have invested or are in the process of investing at least $800,000 in a specific employment sphere or infrastructure project in a new commercial enterprise set to benefit the US economy; and
  • show that the commercial enterprise will create at least 10 full-time job opportunities for qualifying employees.

EB-5 Visa Application Process

The application process for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa will depend on your location at the time of filing. For instance, if you are currently living in the United States, you must:

  • Properly file Form I-485.
  • Provide evidence of your lawful admission or inspection and parole into the United States.
  • Provide evidence of your physical presence in the U.S. at the time of filing your petition.
  • Meet the eligibility requirements for Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur available on the USCIS website.
  • Have an immigrant visa available to you when you file your Form I-485 and when the USCIS makes a decision on your application (Check out the Visa Availability and Priority Dates for more information on visa availability).
  • Ensure that none of the barriers to adjustment of status apply to you.
  • Be admissible to the U.S. or qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility.
  • You merit the favorable exercise of discretion by the USCIS.

You may file your Form I-485 along with your Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor. This only applies if an immigrant visa is readily available to you. Alternatively, you may file Form I-485 while your Form I-526 is pending or after approval. 

When filing for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa, you must provide certain documents and evidence to support your petition. Some examples of key documents required during the application process, other than the ones discussed above, include:

  • A copy of your Form I-797 for your Form I-526 petition.
  • Two passport-style photographs.
  • A copy of your government-issued picture identification, birth certificate, passport page, certified police and court records of criminal charges, and Form I-94.
  • Proof of continuous residence in the U.S.
  • Provide proof that you passed a green card medical exam

Please note that this list is not conclusive. You may need additional documentation and evidence based on the unique circumstances of your case. 

You will also need to pay the correct filing fees unless you qualify for a waiver. 

Petitioning as a Multinational Executive or Manager

The EB-1C visa category is specifically reserved for multinational executives and managers interested in launching a business in the U.S.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply as a multinational executive or manager under this employment-based category, the employing company must meet the following requirements:

  • have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a subsidiary, affiliate, or parent;
  • exist for at least a year in the United States; and
  • conduct business in the U.S. and in one other country.

In addition, the applicant must:

  • have been employed outside of the United States with the related foreign company for a year in the preceding three years; and
  • been employed as a manager or executive. 

EB-1C Visa Application Process

You will need to file Form I-140. If approved, you may file Form I-485 to adjust your status to a permanent resident. The processing time for this self-sponsored green card usually depends on your residency at the time of filing.

Generally, petitions filed outside the United States through consular processing take longer than those filed from within the country.

The self-petition process can be complex depending on the unique circumstances of your case. For this reason, it’s always advisable to consult an experienced immigration attorney or immigration law agency for further legal guidance and advice.