EB1A - Evaluating Your High Salary or Other Significantly High Remuneration
Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
The purpose of this post is to provide tools that help you evaluate whether you could make an argument that you satisfy the 9th of the 10 EB-1A criteria, that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field.
The “high salary or other significantly high remuneration” criterion is commonly claimed and fairly straight forward. The weight of a high salary may not be as important to your EB-1 petition as a strong argument regarding your critical role or original contributions, but it can offer strong supporting evidence of what others think about your contributions. In a lot of cases people are compensated relative to the impact they have on the world. USCIS is willing to consider this evidence as proof that you are extraordinary. Despite the impact not being as high for this bullet in a lot of cases compared to other criteria, is that the evidence is similar from petition to petition and is often readily available. Thus, it can be an easy way to strengthen your petition if you are paid well. USCIS is also used to the evidence presented for this category since most people receive similar forms of payment for services they perform regardless of where they live in the world.
When evaluating if you meet the criteria for this bullet you want to start by comparing yourself to professionals operating at your same level of expertise in the same or a similar field. If you find that you are often being compensated at a level higher than that of your peers, then you likely can make an argument that you meet this criterion.
That said, it will be important for you to prove that your salary is higher than your peers or that you have significantly higher remuneration than others in your field. You can take a geographical approach to the evidence and show that you are paid more than others in your area of employment or you can compare your salary to professionals across the United States (or both). Either way, you will be most likely basing your evidence on statistics available from the county in which you currently work (or if in a foreign country, in the area you are working from).
In evaluating your high salary or other significantly high remuneration, USCIS officer’s may ask questions such as the following:
Is there documentation showing you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration?
Is your salary or other high remuneration significant compared to others in your field?
What is your salary?
What is your other remuneration?
Why do you have a high salary?
Is your salary high compared to similar professionals in your area of employment?
Is your salary high compared to other professionals in the United States?
There are 2 types of evidence you need to carefully prepare to satisfy the high salary or other remuneration EB-1A criteria. First, evidence of your actual salary. Second, evidence of your salary being high compared to others in your field. Once the USCIS officer establishes your pay, they will then compare it to a variety of independent salary statistical reports available online. Showing them a clear picture and story of where your salary fits in your field as compared to your peers will stop them from questioning your ability to satisfy this criteria and allow them to move forward with their processing of your petition without a second thought.
Evidence of your high salary:
Annual income statement
Annual tax return
Monthly pay stubs
Accountant’s letter of support
Letter from employer or supervisor containing information regarding your high salary and why you are paid at that level
Form W-2s, Form 1099s
Foreign equivalent to any of the above
Contracts stating your salary or payment
Letters from employer regarding a bonus or stock
Record of ownership for stock
Evidence of a received bonus
Evidence your salary is higher than others in your field:
Media discussing high compensation of individuals in your field
Professional organization lists of high salary earners in field
Comparisons from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): http://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm
Information from the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification Online Wage Library: http://www.flcdatacenter.com (evidence that your salary is a level 4 wage at least, based on this source, is the strongest)
Data from the Department of Labor’s Career One Stop website: http://www.careeronestop.org/SalariesBenefits/Sal_default.aspx
List created by credible professional organization(s) top earners in your field
Government surveys, reports, or statistics such as:
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Department of Labor’s One Stop website
The Department of Labor Prevailing Wage Determination
Geographical or position-appropriate compensation surveys
Comparisons to others in your field across the United States
Employer letter stating compensation is high compared to other professionals with similar education and experience at your organization and is based on your expertise in your field
In some cases, only a few items would be needed for a good application. In other cases, you will find you need to provide more information to create a clear picture of your accomplishments. Each EB-1A applicant is unique and deserves a unique approach to their individual application. For now, it is useful for you to consider what evidence you should be gathering for your significantly high remuneration evidence.
A few additional high salary or other significantly high remuneration tips:
It can be vital that you are consistent and thoughtful with your high remuneration evidence. For example, if throughout the course of a year you perform in different roles for a company and are paid significantly different wages for those roles, USCIS may have a hard time agreeing that you are paid a high salary compared to peers if you made a large sum of money in April and are now being paid a pauper’s wage in June. This is a good reminder that how you present yourself to the USCIS officer is going to highly impact your case. It is important to show that you are currently commanding a high salary. Be picky and persuasive in choosing which evidence to provide in your petition and how you present it.
Client payment doesn’t equal salary or payment to a company. A USCIS officer may take into account that a company may have other overhead costs. If arguing that a client payment represents high remuneration, be prepared to share evidence showing how much of the money you personally took home after expenses were accounted for. You have to be able to tell a clear case if presenting this type of evidence.
I usually tell people that a salary above the 90th percentile (meaning you are in the top 10%) for similarly employed individuals in your field is likely high enough to argue you have a high salary in comparison to others in the field.
It is hard to know how much weight USCIS puts on different EB-1 criteria, but it is likely that the high salary category is less important than some of the other categories. This is likely the case since people can just pay others a lot without much justification. It is still a useful category, you just want to think about how all of the criteria you meet for this benefit work together to establish your eligibility for the EB-1.
Bonus and stock evidence is only useful if you can show you actually received them. In general, stock value is easier to show at a public company.
When comparing salary to others in your field, the comparison is normally based on your “base” salary and not your salary along with other forms of compensation.
The following likely don’t count as evidence of a high salary or other remuneration, benefits such as insurance, reimbursements, allotments, incentives, 401(k) contributions, travel, etc. Bonuses likely only work when included in the total wages section of an individual tax return.
Remember, in making an EB-1 argument you have to show you meet the criteria and then USCIS will also decide if what you accomplished is extraordinary enough for the EB-1 benefit during their final merits determination. If an officer believes you satisfied 3 or more of the 10 criteria, the application must then be judged to decide whether you are extraordinary. Because of the second level of review (final merits determination) determining if you are extraordinary using Kazarian standards, there is a higher percentage of RFEs, NOIDs, and denials in this category. The reality is, USCIS has an extremely high standard for EB-1 visas. Good luck preparing your EB-1 cases!
Our firm won’t charge you just for reaching out! If you would like your qualifications evaluated (to see if you qualify or to get ideas on what you can do to improve your EB-1 or NIW resume) please contact our firm at firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the following questions:
What is your area of expertise (in 2-5 words)?
What nationally or internationally recognized awards in your field of endeavor have you received?
What memberships in associations in your field do you possess that require outstanding achievements from members?
Have you or your work been featured as published material in trade publications or other major media? If so, who published your work?
Have you judged the work of others (i.e. peer review of journal articles, judge at competition, dissertation committee member, peer review for government funding program)? If so, how many times?
Has your work been used by someone to make money (commercialized)? If so, explain:
Have you obtained any patents or similar achievements because of your research? If so, explain:
Link to Google Scholar (if not available, ResearchGate could work):
Have you been employed in critical capacity? If so, where and in what capacity?
For more information see prior posts about EB-1 criteria: