EB-2 green card with a 3-year bachelor's degree? It can be done.

By Kaitlyn Garcia, J.D. | Immigration Attorney | Houston, Texas

The employment-based EB-2 green card path poses some tricky issues for professionals holding 3-year bachelor’s degrees. In general the eligibility criteria for EB-2 require that the job applied for require an advanced degree and that the individual possess such a degree or its equivalent (a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years progressive work experience in the field).

A whole host of issues may arise here because non-like the H-1B visa bachelor's requirement, where a combination of education, training and/or experience can be used to meet the 4-year U.S. bachelor’s level, an EB-2 application cannot use a combination of education, training, and experience to meet the required 4-years. This single-source rule means that the EB-2 applicant must have one single degree (not a combination of degrees) that is equivalent to a 4-year U.S. bachelor’s degree.

A combination of degrees may, on exception, be used to meet the EB-2 bachelor’s requirement.

There are exceptions where an individual can use another subsequent degree to meet the 4-year EB-2 bachelor’s level. For example, a postgraduate diploma approved by AICTE (India) following a 3-year bachelor’s degree may represent education comparable to a U.S. bachelor's degree. A bachelor of engineering with 3 years of transcripts following a bachelor of science may be equivalent. Also a 3 year bachelors followed by a 2-year masters may qualify if, taken together, have been rated equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.

Note that these degree equivalency ratings are largely case-by-case and should be carefully reviewed  when planning your EB-2 application. It is also important to be mindful that equivalency standards do change from time to time. Equivalency standards are driven by DOL and USCIS standards and guided by the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE) created by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). 

What if I cannot meet the education requirements for EB-2? Is there another way to EB-2?

There is another route to an EB-2. Not all is lost if, at the end of the day, your education does not meet EB-2 standards. An EB-2 applicant may successfully obtain an EB-2 green card if they are able to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business. “Exceptional ability” is shown by meeting at least three of six listed criteria. Here is the list of these criteria:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability;
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation;
  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation;
  •  Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability;
  • Membership in a professional association(s); 
  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations.

What this alternative “exceptional ability” EB-2 route means is that if you do not have a degree at all or do not meet the degree requirements, you may still have a pathway to obtain an EB-2. Of course, these criteria need to be carefully demonstrated in your application. This is a good reminder that sometimes green card requirements are not always straightforward but with careful review of your green card pathway, you may have alternative options that may help you reach green card success.