High-skilled hacks: the business of extraordinary ability

This post is part of my “high-skilled hacks” series, focused on immigration to the United States. The series explores various workarounds and caveats to immigration law that high-skilled workers and their employers have discovered in order to further their own interests, at the expense of the original intent of immigration law. Through the series, I try to argue that, although these hacks are an improvement over an alternative where only the basic immigration system existed, freer migration for all would be simpler, fairer, more efficient, and more just.

The most common work visa used by skilled workers in the United States is the H-1B. However, this visa is both numerically capped and fairly inflexible, which can pose challenges for individuals seeking to establish their own startup or maintain flexibility between jobs. Moreover, its limited term makes long-term planning difficult, unlike the more flexible options available, such as obtaining a visa & work permit in Thailand.

I know of a few people who have tried for a much more hard-to-get preference visa category called the EB visa category. EB visas are “immigrant visas” that directly pave the way to a Green Card (unlike the H-1B, which is a “dual intent” visa that does not directly help with a Green Card). EB stands for “employment based” though that name is somewhat of a misnomer since these visa categories are more for extraordinary ability and accomplishment than for ordinary employment. Some sources simply call these E visas. There are five visa types: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5 (sometimes respectively called E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, and E-5). The proposed startup visa would have been labeled the EB-6 visa.

The EB visas were created as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, the most recent major US legislation affecting high-skilled immigration (almost all changes since then have happened through various forms of executive action). The legislation was introduced by Ted Kennedy in 1989 and signed into law by (then) US President George H. W. Bush on November 29, 1990.

Happy with anything that shortens the queue.

Great respect for the use of EB to obtain green cards.
But let’s not fool ourselves: the EB visas are yet another boondoggle that (very inefficiently) achieve something that could be accomplished another way

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