Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

EB-1 Green Cards 2020 – Are You Ready?

“We have been studying the latest trends in EB-1 green card adjudication over the last few months so going into 2020, we’re in great shape to show our clients how we can help them be successful in their applications.”

By Chris M. Ingram, LL.M., ESQ

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The History of EB-1 Adjudications

I’ve been wanting to write an article about EB-1 Self-Sponsored green cards for quite some time as there have been a lot of developments in 2019. So, let’s get started.

Then I first started my U.S. Immigration law firm in 2003, It was not until around 2015 that I’d never heard of EB-1 Retrogression, it was just not a thing. For those of you who do not know what retrogression is, I’ll explain it like this in a nutshell. Each year, USCIS can issue 40,000 EB-1s, if more than 40,000 candidates are approved, then the ones over the 40,000 cap are backlogged and this is called retrogression.

Until about three-four years ago, when we began to experience retrogression for the first time. Even then, the retrogression period was very mild, like a 3-6 months wait. Today, for Indians and Chinese nationals, retrogression can last up to 5 years, unless the applicant has an approved EB-2, as they can port that original filing date to their newly approved EB-1 and in doing so, can jump to the front of the EB-1 queue they have already been waiting more than five years already.

USCIS’ Answer to EB-1 Retrogression in 2020

“USCIS has definitely decided to raise the bar, so securing your EB-1 approval is definitely harder, but certainly achievable. Once you know where the goalposts have been moved to, it becomes straightforward to start scoring goals again.”

The 40,000 per year green card cap on EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 green cards cannot be changed without Congress and the President agreeing to raise the cap. The chances of Congress and the President agreeing on anything, is about 0%. So, the 40,000 per year cap, is going to be here for a while, so we have to deal with that. 

So, what USICS has decided to do is make it much harder to get an EB-1 approved. It’s like trying play American Football with the goal-size reduced to the size of a Hockey goal. It’s going to be hard to score a field goal. As a result, getting an EB-1 Self-Petitioned green card approved will be much harder in 2020, that’s just the truth. However, what is also true is that our success rate in winning EB-1 cases over the last 16 years has not waivered below 90% in all that time.

The EB-1 is for Determined Clients Only

“To get to the top of your field, you have to work long hours and work very hard indeed, but the effort has been worth it since you are now at the very top of your profession. Well, securing an EB-1 Self-Petitioned Green Card, is no different. You put the additional effort in and we win.”

If you are absolutely determined to win, you can, it’s not a mystery. If the pass rate on an exam was 70% and it went up to 80%, you can still pass the exam, you just have to be prepared to study harder to get above the 80% mark. If you are not, then I guess you will not pass. Winning EB-1 cases is just the same. Each year USCIS raises the pass mark to weed out the weaker cases. In fact, USCIS is definitely doing this in 2019-2020 in an effort to stop EB-1 retrogressing any further, and before it becomes an embarrassing political issue.

The level of Requests for Further Evidence (RFEs) and Denials has risen by over 300% as USCIS officers are being re-trained to be far more thorough in their adjudications. Winning an EB-1 case in 2020 is going to be a real achievement.

Building a Better EB-1 Case

“The secret to building a better case is to develop four categories instead of three. five or six can be too many, but four seems to be the Goldilocks sweet spot.”

When I first started writing EB-1 cases in 2003 my cover letter was about 15 – 20 pages. Today, its 150 to 200 pages, plus supporting evidence. In other words, as USCIS has raised the bar, we’ve just had to rise with it, so we can keep scoring wins, and we have. Our only focus is to win cases for our clients. Winning cases is our unequivocal mission. We will use our very best endeavors to respond vigorously to every RFE and Denial until we win. No other outcome is acceptable, which is why our success rate has not changed in 16 years, since we do whatever is required to win.

The challenge is, are you? Are you willing to give it everything you have got, set aside the time, and make every effort to secure your EB-1 Self-Sponsored green card?

We cannot do it for you, it’s a partnership.  

The Common EB-1 STEM Categories

“In our analysis, many of our STEM cases tend to follow a certain pattern and in doing so, we’re able to quickly spots approval trends and approval roadblocks. So, we have the experience to steer your case to success.”

A very large proportion, of our EB-1 cases are STEM professionals, not all, but certainly the vast majority. STEM professionals, no offense, are not sexy. You don’t get to see them walking down the red carpet, hanging out with celebrities and interviewed in the glossy magazines. So, a typically EB-1 STEM candidate’s three categories will be: –

  • Leading and Critical Role
  • High Salary
  • Judging (peer-reviewing)

These are categories that nearly every EB-1 STEM candidate can satisfy, without any thought at all and we take on these cases and win them.

However, what I’m now looking for, because USCIS is evidently looking for, is more than just the standard 3-category EB-1 cases. In addition, to having the staple three categories, what other categories can you bring to the table?

Before I go on, let me make one thing clear, USCIS is not looking for 6+ category EB-1 cases, because they simply do not have the time to read all the evidence, and most of these cases will lack sufficient depth of presentation of each category that they end up lacking in particular so much that all six categories get denied.

So, what I saying, for 2020, we’ll be pushing our clients to develop a 4-category case as standard.

  • Leading and Critical Role
  • High Salary
  • Judging (peer-reviewing)
  • + one

The + one could be Invited Memberships (two Fellowships), Scholarly Articles (two Peer-reviewed) or Innovation. If you cannot meet the High Salary category, then you’ll need to find two other categories to get to 4.  

The Road Ahead

“Our clients are like family, we will work with them through thick and thin. We’re in this together and together we’ll win.”

So, to be clear, we can still win a 3-category EB-1 case, but it will be a harder road. however, getting to a 4-category case, gives you a spare category. So, if the officer does not like one category, your case can still be approved if he likes the other three categories. You could still get two categories approved and two RFE’d thus in responding to the RFE on the two categories that were not approved, you stand a very high chance of one of the two being approved, and that’s all you would need to win your EB-1. So, it makes sense.

USCIS knows that there is percentage of 3-category EB-1 cases that they can get rid of, by discouraging them with awful RFEs., sometimes, they will RFE every category, not on merit, but to cull the volume. However, it’s harder to with a 4-category case, these are by definition a stronger case.

So, my goal is to support my clients as much as possible in working towards developing 4-category cases for 2020 so we can see our 90%+ success rate maintained for another year. Are you with me?

Another phenomenon we saw in 2019, was that we have started to get a lot of new EB-1 cases from clients who have not succeeded elsewhere and are coming to us, mainly by word of mouth. I have to say, in all humility, we are successful because not only do we work very hard indeed to win, we also work the client hard too. So, just switching to us, does not mean, an easier ride or the last firm was not competent, we are facing the exact same headwinds, we just do not backdown.

This article was no design to discourage anyone from going for their EB-1 green card, quite the opposite.  It’s just that I want to encourage all of our future clients to go for it, but be prepared to work your socks off to get it and together, we’ll win. Good Luck, I look forward to hearing from you.


Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor,
[Cross Streets 4th and Wilshire]
Santa Monica,
California 90401
Tel: 310 496 4292

Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.

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Specializing in the E2 Visa, EB1 Green Card, L-1A Visa and O1 Visa and K1 Visa Marriage-Based Immigration. Attorney Chris M. Ingram is dedicated to providing the very best in US Immigration legal representation. Enjoy our website.

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