A green card, or permanent residence, can be obtained through an employer. As the title suggests, you will need an offer for permanent employment unless you are eligible to file a self-petition (First Preference EB-1).
Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year for aliens (and their spouses and children) who petition to immigrate to the U.S. through job skills. These available visas are then allocated to five preference categories.
The Second (EB-2), Third (EB-3), and some of the First (EB-1) preference categories require you to have a permanent employment offer from a U.S. employer. This employer will become the foreign worker’s sponsor. Before the sponsor can submit an immigration petition for the foreign worker, the employer must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor. The labor certification verifies that:
- There is not an available, qualified, and willing U.S. (citizen or permanent resident) worker to fill the position at the prevailing wage;
- The employment of a foreign worker will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
EB-1: First Preference Category – Priority Workers: This preference is reserved for persons with extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or sports. Outstanding professors, researchers, and multinational executives/managers may also fit into this preference category.
EB-2: Second Preference Category – Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability: This preference is reserved for persons who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or for persons with exceptional ability in arts, science, or business.
The applicant must have a permanent employment offer and the employer must obtain a labor certification.
If the applicant can prove that granting the immigrant visa would be in the nation’s interest, he/she may qualify for a national interest waiver and be exempt from the employment offer/labor certification requirement.
EB-3: Third Preference Category – Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers: Approximately 28.6% of employment-based immigrant visa plus any used visas available for EB-1 and EB-2 are granted each year to applicants of this preference category. The employment offered under this category cannot be temporary or seasonal. There are three subgroups within this category: (1) Skilled workers; (2) Professionals; (3) Unskilled Workers.
EB-4: Fourth Preference Category – Certain Special Immigrants: Approximately 7.1% of employment-based immigrant visas are given to individuals that fall within this category. A fourth preference applicant is an individual with an approved petition for Amerasians, Widow(er)s of US citizen, battered or abused spouse or child of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, or special immigrants of certain subgroups.
EB-5: Fifth Preference Category – Immigrant Investors: 7.1%, or approximately 10,000 visas are available for investors of this preference category. Out of the 10,000, no less than 3,000 visas are reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high unemployment area, and another 3,000 are set aside for investors in regional centers. Spouse and unmarried children under 21 may apply for an immigrant visa with the immigrant investor.
Contact Kristy Qiu, a knowledgeable U.S. Immigration Attorney to find out the approximate wait time and availability of visas for each preference category.