Employment-Based Immigrant Visas
An employment-based immigrant visa allows a foreigner to reside and work in the U.S.A. permanently. This type of immigrant visa is restricted to highly skilled professionals, foreign employees of U.S. companies, and investors keen on investing in local businesses. Although the US Citizenship and Immigration Services distribute approximately 140,000 visas each year across the five categories listed below, visa availability may fluctuate based on the established quotas for each category and the applicant’s country of origin. Therefore, it is crucial to seek guidance from an immigration expert to comprehend these nuances fully.
The employment-based immigration route is a frequently utilized method to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.A. Initially, a conditional green card, valid for two years, is typically issued to holders of employment-based visas. After residing in the country for two years, the resident can then apply for a regular green card, which is valid for ten years and allows permanent residency in the U.S.A.
The Five Categories of Employment-Based Immigration
Employment-based immigrant visas are classified based on employment skills. Under federal law, to qualify for an employment-based visa, a foreign national must be sponsored by a current or prospective employer and belong to one of the following categories:
- EB-1 (Priority Workers): This category includes foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, outstanding foreign professors or researchers, and foreign managers and executives undergoing international transfer to the U.S.
- EB-2 (Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability): This category includes foreign nationals with exceptional abilities in sciences, arts, or business, those with advanced professional degrees, and foreign qualified physicians intending to practice medicine in underserved areas.
- EB-3 (Skilled and Professional Workers): This category includes foreign professionals with bachelor’s degrees that do not qualify for higher preference categories, foreign skilled workers with a minimum of 2-year training and experience, and foreign national unskilled workers.
- EB-4 (Special Immigrants): This category includes foreign national religious workers, and employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad.
- EB-5 (Immigrant Investors): This category includes qualified individuals seeking permanent resident status based on their involvement in a new commercial enterprise.
The Application Process in Five Steps
Permanent residency in the U.S.A. comes with rights and privileges, but obtaining it typically involves the following procedure:
First, your U.S. employer must ascertain your eligibility for lawful permanent residency according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) standards.
Second, for most employment categories, your U.S. employer must submit a completed Form ETA 9089 or labor certification request to the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, which will then be approved or denied. An exception to this is if you are qualified alien physician intending to practice medicine in an area underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then labor certification is not necessary.
Third, once the USCIS approves the labor certification, your U.S. employer must file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, at the USCIS service center on your behalf. Your U.S. employer acts as your sponsor or petitioner, and you are the applicant or beneficiary.
Fourth, the Department of State will assign you an immigrant visa number once your petition is approved. Even if you are already in the U.S.A., receiving an immigrant visa number means an immigrant visa has been allocated to you. You can check the status of your visa number on the State Department’s visa bulletin.
Fifth and final step, if you, the applicant or beneficiary, are already in the U.S.A., you must apply to change your status to permanent resident once your visa number becomes available. If you are outside the U.S.A., you will be notified and must complete the process at your local U.S. Consulate office.