Overview - Employment Based Immigrant Visas

IMMIGRANTS TO THE U.S.: Greencard through Employment.

Immigrating to the United States to live here permanently is an important and complex decision. Foreign citizens must comply with U.S. visa immigration law, and specific procedures to apply for their visa. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas. Once the visa is issued the foreign national has been authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.

If you want to become an immigrant based on the fact that you have a permanent employment opportunity in the United States, or if you are an employer that wants to sponsor someone for lawful permanent residency based on permanent employment in the United States, you must go through a multi-step process.

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  • First, foreign nationals and employers must determine if the foreign national is eligible for lawful permanent residency under one of USCIS' paths to lawful permanent residency.
  • Second, most employment categories require that the U.S. employer complete a labor certification request (Form ETA 9089) for the applicant, and submit it to the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. Labor must either grant or deny the certification request. Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the United States which has been certified as underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are relieved from this requirement.
  • Third, USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for the person wishing to immigrate to the United States. The employer wishing to bring the applicant to the United States to work permanently files this petition. However, if a Department of Labor certification is needed the application can only be filed after the certification is granted. The employer acts as the sponsor (or petitioner) for the applicant (or beneficiary) who wants to live and work on a permanent basis in the United States.
  • Fourth, the State Department must give the applicant an immigrant visa number, even if the applicant is already in the United States. When the applicant receives an immigrant visa number, it means that an immigrant visa has been assigned to the applicant. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.
  • Fifth, if the applicant is already in the United States, he or she must apply to adjust to permanent resident status after a visa number becomes available. If the applicant is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, he or she will be notified and must complete the process at his or her local U.S. consulate office.

If you are an employer and are unsure which employment category applies to the foreign national you wish to sponsor, or if you are a foreign national and want more information on which category matches your particular situation, you may refer to the classifications given below. The Immigration and Nationality Act simplifies it by dividing the employment based immigrant visas into five preference categories based on employment skills. These are:

EB-1 Priority Workers
  • Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
  • Foreign national that are outstanding professors or researchers
  • Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the United States
EB-2 Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Persons with Exceptional Ability
  • Foreign nationals of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business
  • Foreign nationals that are advanced degree professionals
  • Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the U.S. which is underserved
EB-3 Skilled or Professional Workers
  • Foreign national professionals with bachelor's degrees (not qualifying for a higher preference category)
  • Foreign national skilled workers (minimum two years training and experience)
  • Foreign national unskilled workers
EB-4 Special Immigrants
  • Foreign national religious workers
  • Employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad
EB-5 Immigrant Investors
  • Qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status on the basis of their engagement in a new commercial enterprise
Immigration Lawyer Blog - Employment Based Immigration
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