Although there are several paths to obtaining a green card, employment based immigration is often the best option for individuals without immediate family living in the U.S. The goal of this page is to help immigrants; their families and employers get some basic information on employment-based immigration, and decide whether or not they should contact an immigration lawyer.
In many cases, an offer of permanent work in the country and an employer willing to provide sponsorship is enough to start an immigrant on their way to receiving a green card. This page covers the following topics:
- What is an Employment Green Card?
- What Is An Immigrant Visa?
- The Five Types of Employment Based Immigration
- The Application Process For Employment-Based Immigration
- Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?
While this page discusses certain legal concepts, it is not a substitute for speaking directly with a lawyer. Obtaining a green card, as well as researching immigration law, is a daunting task. An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate the bureaucratic maze of immigration law.
What is a Green Card?
The green card is an identifying document that serves as proof of an immigrant’s permission to live and work in the U.S. In simple terms, the holder of a green card has been granted lawful permanent residence.
Conditional green cards are valid for two years, while non-conditional green cards are valid for 10 years. There are several different ways an immigrant seeking to work in the U.S. can obtain a green card, depending on the type of immigrant visa they are issued. For more information on green cards, visit our “what is a green card?” page.
What is an Immigrant Visa?
The term visa can be confusing at times, especially since it is used in both immigration and travel contexts. In the context of a foreign worker applying for a green card, receiving an immigrant visa is a key component of the application process.
Employment based immigration is complicated. Usually, after labor certification and immigration petition for alien worker is filed on the foreign worker’s behalf, he or she must wait for the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to issue an immigrant visa before final approval of the green card is granted.
Each year, a limited number of employment based immigration visas are granted to green card applicants. In years when the number of requests for visas outweighs the amount issued, applicants wait longer for a visa number to be assigned.
When discussing employment based immigration, there are five different types of visas issued—some more frequently than others—depending on the specific applicant. Read on to find out more about each.
Employment-Based Immigration Visas
There are five types of employment based immigration visas available.
This category applies to workers who perform at the top of their professional field. There are three sub categories:
- Persons with extraordinary ability: These applicants have track record of significant achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. While a specific job offer isn’t required in order for the applicant to be considered, the applicant must provide extensive documentation of sustained national or international acclaim.
- Outstanding professors and researchers: At least three years experience of teaching or research experience is required and the applicant must be recognized internationally. The applicant must already have a specific job offer in the U.S. that must be a tenured position or comparable research position at institution of higher education.
- Multinational managers or executives: This category requires a specific offer of employment in the U.S. The applicant must already be employed in a management or executive position for one year by a subsidiary or oversees affiliate of a U.S. employer.
For more information visit our Priority Worker EB1 page.
Preference Type 2 – Professionals holding advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability (EB-2)
This category accounts for 28.6 percent of the employment-based visas issued annually. In order to qualify under the advanced degree requirement, an applicant needs to hold a degree beyond baccalaureate. In the event that the applicant only has a baccalaureate degree, he or she needs to have at least five years of experience in their chosen profession. Persons with exceptional ability in science, art or business must be able to demonstrate a level of ability significantly above that usually encountered in those fields. For more information, visit our Advanced Degree Exceptional Ability EB2 page.
This category accounts for 28.6 percent of employment-based visas issued annually and includes three sub categories:
- Skilled workers: Applicant in this category must be offered a job in the U.S. requiring two years of training or previous work experience. These jobs cannot be temporary or seasonal.
- Professionals: Applicants under this category will be offered jobs requiring at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or foreign equivalent.
- Unskilled workers: These workers are offered jobs requiring less than two years training or experience. These jobs cannot be temporary or seasonal.
For more information, visit our Skilled Workers EB3 page.
Preference Type 4 – Certain special immigrants (EB-4)
This category, which accounts for 7.1 percent of employment-based visas issued annually, applies to a variety individuals who may have worked on behalf of the U.S. government during certain time frames, as well as other individuals with special skills. The range of workers qualifying for this group is vast and includes:
Certain religious workers, broadcasters, former employees of the panama canal company, certain former employees of the U.S. Government in the panama canal (and abroad), Iraqi and Afghan interpreters, certain foreign medical graduates, Iraqi and Afghan nationals who provided valuable service to the U.S. government, retired international organization employees, certain unmarried sons and daughters of international organization employees, persons recruited outside of the U.S. who have served or are enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, certain surviving spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees, certain unmarried sons and daughters of NATO-6 civilians, and others.
Because the qualifications for these individuals to obtain a green card can vary so widely, it is important that you speak to an immigration attorney who can help you to find out if you qualify.
This category accounts for 7.1 percent of employment-based visas issued annually. In order to obtain permanent resident status through investment, a foreign entrepreneur must make a $1 million investment in an American enterprise. He or she must also create or preserve 10 jobs for qualified U.S. workers (the entrepreneur’s family members do not qualify). A smaller investment of $500,000 may be enough to secure an EB-5 visa if the capital benefits certain low employment or rural areas.
It is absolutely essential that you hire an attorney if you want to acquire an EB5 visa. For more information, visit our Investor EB5 visa page.
Applying For Employment Based Immigration
In many cases, a foreign national seeking permanent residence through employment begins with two things: An offer to work for a company in the U.S. and an employer willing to “sponsor” him or her for immigration.
The employer provides sponsorship by first obtaining an Application for Permanent Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Once the DOL approves the certification, the employer must then file an Immigration Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In some cases, (such as immigrant investors), the person seeking permanent residence can file a petition on their own behalf. If you have questions about employment-based immigration and what your specific case requires, a qualified immigration lawyer can help.
If you are not seeking permanent residence in the United States, but only want to come temporarily to work for an employer, and H1-B visa might be more appropriate for you. In this case, visit our H1B Professional Worker Visa page. If you’re a NAFTA country (Canada and Mexico), you should read our NAFTA TN Visa page. It might be better for you over the H1B.
Do I Need An Immigration Lawyer?
While in many cases it is the employer who is responsible for sponsoring the foreign employee, employment based immigration law can be intimidating. A qualified immigration lawyer can help you navigate the bureaucratic maze and avoid time-consuming errors. For more information call this office. Don’t miss out on your chance to come to the United States on an employment based immigration visa.