How I Got My U.S. Green Card Without a Family or Employment Petition

Updated on July 18, 2019
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Fairlane moved to California a little less than six years ago. She wants others who immigrate to have an easier time.

Not everyone trying to immigrate to the US has an American relative to petition them, and it’s not that easy to find an employer that will petition you. If you do find an employer, it’s mostly for highly technical skills, often STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Nurses from Canada and Mexico will find it easier to work as a nurse in the U.S. by getting a TN Visa.

As of July 2019, Congress is also working on a bill that might lift the per-country limit of skilled workers. India and China have a long waitlist. For now, the bill has not been signed into law, but if it does pass the Senate, there will be an influx of employment-based petition from India and China. That would affect other countries, such as South Korea, the Philippines, and European countries, who used to enjoy a shorter wait period.

Even with these hurdles, the bigger problem lies in your actual profession. If you are a white-collar worker, it is much harder to get an employer to petition you because, as in any other profession, they are likely to prioritize local graduates.

I got my green card through self-petitioning for an EB1, which is the method I'll be discussing in this article. I'd also like to say I am not a lawyer, and it is advisable to consult with a US-based lawyer on this matter.

Self-Petition or EB1

There are a number of options you can explore if you want to work legally in the U.S. Asylum is one, but that’s another topic.

The other option—and this is the route I took—is self-petition, otherwise known as EB1 (Employment-based Petition 1). The name might be misleading because you actually don’t need an employer to petition. You just need to prove that you have done enough work or have had significant success in your field.

There are multiple types of EB1:

  • EB1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A)

  • EB1 Outstanding Professor / Researcher (EB-1B)

  • EB1 Multinational Executive or Manager (EB-1C)

There is also the EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW), but that’s another topic I won't cover here.

Why You Might Choose EB-1A

Essentially, this option for those with sustained national or international success in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

If you’re a nationally recognized painter or writer or dancer or director, you must have held successful and well-documented exhibits or shows, have been commissioned for mainstream or recognized projects, and must have made a living selling your art or works.

If you’re a teacher, you can still apply under this if you have published books related to your profession, been a member of several organizations related to your practice, published studies, or delivered speeches and seminars. Otherwise, a different option might better fit your situation.

If you’re an engineer or inventor or scientist, or even a nurse or a developer of technologies in any field, you may still qualify. You'll have to prove that your work has been significant on a national level, you've published scholarly articles or studies, you're a member of recognized organizations, or you've won international competitions.

It’s Not a Popular Route to Take

There are fewer applicants for EB1 because it is harder to prove. It is also nerve-wracking because you don’t have anyone else supporting you. Your eligibility will be judged according to your own merits. And since a human being is the one reviewing your application, it is highly subjective.

Melenia Trump, the First Lady of the United States, got her green card through EB1
Melenia Trump, the First Lady of the United States, got her green card through EB1

What You Need to Present as Evidence

You must have at least three of these criteria of evidence:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards. If you won a writing competition in your country, an award for a movie you did as an actor, director, composer, an award for your songs or music, and others, those will all do.
  • Evidence of a significant one-time achievement such as an Olympic Medal, International Pageants, Grammy Award, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Cannes, and others.
  • Evidence of your membership in associations in which the main qualification is your achievement in your field or recognized expertise.
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media relating to your work in the field. (You will need all these to be translated into English if it hasn't been published in English.) Also note that this must be an article written about you, not an article written by you.
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in the field, published in professional or major trade publications or other major media. This should be authored by you, and it should be on a topic related to your field of expertise.
  • Evidence that you have participated in judging the work of others in your field or allied field for which classification is sought, either individually or on a panel. If you have been a judge of nationally recognized competitions. Yes, talent shows are included but it has to be a nationally and scholarly recognized talent competition.
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to your field. If you have done or developed anything that affected your field for the better such as developing a technology or a new process that is now being widely used.
  • Evidence that your work in the field has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases Evidence of your performance in a leading or critical role in organizations or establishments with distinguished reputations.
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts.

The bottom line is that if you can prove you have been recognized in your own field, you have a chance. It worked for me because I have written books, scripts, published articles on national newspapers, wrote speeches for the former president, and wrote articles for websites based in the US, and was also a judge in several competitions while I was still in the Philippines.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Petition (EB1)

Advantages of Self-Petition (EB1)

  • You are not reliant on an employer. If an employer petitions you, both you and the employer will be investigated but that’s another post.
  • You will not be tied to an employer. It is advisable that you say with the employer who petitioned you for years after you get your green card because that will affect your renewal application which you need to do every 5 years if you aren’t a citizen yet.

  • It’s solely based on your own skill.

  • The processing time is usually is faster than other categories.

Disadvantages of Self-Petition (EB1)

  • It’s solely based on your own skill, if the person reviewing it deems you unworthy, then it gets disapproved.

  • Hardest to prove because your achievement should be on a national or international level.

Christina Antonio, a designer and Entrepreneur specializing in leather, got her green card through EB1. She now runs a successful fashion line.
Christina Antonio, a designer and Entrepreneur specializing in leather, got her green card through EB1. She now runs a successful fashion line.

Petition vs. Change of Status

Just because your petition gets approved doesn’t mean you will get a green card. At least not anymore. Since USCIS required everyone to go through the final interview, you are still at risk of not getting your green card even after your petition has been approved. If you scan the news, you will read about many applicants getting sent back home after the interview because the consul finds something in their record that deems them unfit to get a green card including criminal records.


The cost will depend highly on your lawyer. The total filing fee for everything is right around $1600. This includes the temporary work permit if you want to start working in the US while you wait for the green card application to get approved. That’s just the filing fee that goes to the government.

If you are going to get a lawyer, which you really should, it will be anywhere between $6,000 to $12,000.

Processing Time

The processing took me almost 2 years from the time I file to the time I got my green card on hand. This is actually longer than usual because EB1 under Philippines went into retrogression when it was my turn.

Retrogression, in so many words, is the delay in processing because of backlogs.

Final Tips

  • Get a lawyer. Yes, it will cost you but EB1 is far too delicate because you have no one to back up your claims. You need someone who knows the law here.
  • Document everything you do. If you have published articles, make sure you have multiple clippings of those. If you have judged a competition, keep the invitation, take photos, and get those published too.
  • Do well in your field. Make a difference. Do something different. Innovate. And make sure everything is documented.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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