by Elizabeth R. Blandon

Persons without bachelor’s degrees may feel they are unwanted as legal permanent residents (LPR) in the U.S. The backlog of employees seeking LPR through employment has caused LPR availability only for the following categories:

  • priority workers,
  • persons with advanced degrees, meaning at least a bachelor’s degree plus five years of work experience,
    or with exceptional ability,
  • special immigrants and
  • investors of substantial sums of money.

As a result, persons without bachelor’s degrees are limited in obtaining residency, unless they can demonstrate exceptional ability. Of critical importance, however, exceptional means ability that is “greater than usual,” not outstanding. The argument has been made successfully that where a person manages the division of a company with an impressive clientele, or with hefty gross revenues, the position requires someone with exceptional ability.

The employee must have any three of the following:

  • Degree relating to area of exceptional ability. The degree must be in the area of expertise, and none other.
  • Letter from current or former employer showing at least 10 years experience.
  • License to practice profession, if a license is required.
  • Person commanded a salary or remuneration demonstrating exceptional ability. If the wage is substantially above the prevailing wage for the career, the salary is sufficient. Prevailing wages are available at
  • Membership in a professional association. This can be a foreign association.
  • Recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, government entities, or professional or business organization. This could include expert opinion letters.

Of course the more ways the employee can demonstrate exceptional ability, the higher the likelihood of success to obtain LPR. These cases are incredibly fact specific. Thus, the information presented does not constitute legal advice for any single person. Other benefits and exceptions may apply to you