To become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) through employment, an employer must sponsor you and petition for your immigrant visa in most cases.  The amount of time it takes to receive a green card varies depending on the immigrant’s experience, education, type of job and country of birth.

Employment-based (EB) Preference Categories

Employment-based visas are divided into several preference categories:

EB-1 Priority Workers

  • Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
  • Multinational executives and managers

EB-2 Persons With Exceptional Ability or Professionals With Advanced Degrees

  • Persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business – National Interest Waiver (NIW)
  • Persons who are members of professions holding advanced degrees or the equivalent (bachelor’s degree and fives years of progressive experience)

EB-3 Professionals, Skilled Workers, and Other Workers

  • Professionals with a bachelor’s degree
  • Persons capable of performing skilled labor (requiring at least 2 years of training or experience)
  • Persons capable of performing unskilled labor (requiring less than 2 years training or experience)

EB-4 Special Immigrants

  • Religious Workers
  • Employees of U.S. foreign service posts and retired employees of international organizations
  • Minors who are wards of courts in the United States – Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ)
  • Certain others

EB-5 Business Investors

  • Persons who invest $1 million or $500,000 (if the investment is made in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers

The Department of State Visa Bulletin, published monthly, lists the immigrant visas that are available by preference category.  Your immigrant visa becomes available when the date your immigrant petition was filed (called the “priority date”) is on or before the date listed in the Visa Bulletin for the your preference category.  Once your immigrant visa is available, you will then consular process in your home country or adjust status in the U.S.


EB-1 Preference Category

Persons with extraordinary ability do not require a Permanent Labor Certification (PERM) or an offer of employment.  Such persons may self-petition for an immigrant visa.  To qualify, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.  There are 10 criteria for extraordinary ability and you must meet at least 3 to qualify, or you must have a significant one-time achievement (i.e., Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Olympic Medal, Oscar).  Extensive documentation is required to show that you meet the criteria.

Outstanding Professor or Researcher and Multinational Manager or Executive positions do not require a PERM, but still must have an offer of employment.  These positions require evidence that you meet specific criteria in order to be approved.  The employer submits the petition for an immigrant visa along with evidence that you meet the relevant criteria.

For all these positions, once the petition for immigrant visa is approved, you will then apply to consular process in your home country or adjust status if in the U.S.  Because these positions are in a higher preference category (EB-1), an immigrant visa is usually available much sooner than other categories, allowing you to become an LPR much faster.  As of this writing, priority dates for EB-1 are current, meaning consular processing or adjustment of status may be accomplished once the immigrant visa petition is approved.  The adjustment of status can also be filed at the same time as the immigrant visa petition if you are in the U.S. and the EB-1 preference category is current.

EB-2 and EB-3 Preference Categories

For most employment-based immigrant visas (EB-2 and EB-3) there is a three-step process: 1) First, the employer files an application for Permanent Labor Certification (PERM) with the Department of Labor (DOL) after undergoing a recruitment process to test the labor market for available and  qualified U.S. workers; 2) once the DOL certifies the application, the employer petitions for an immigrant visa for you; and 3) once the immigrant visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, apply to consular process at a U.S. consulate overseas or adjust status if in the U.S.

An exception in the EB-2 category is that those who qualify for the National Interest Waiver (NIW) do not require a PERM.  The NIW is available for those who have exceptional ability in the arts, sciences or business. This can save considerable time, although those who qualify must still wait for an immigrant visa to become available.

The NIW is also available for physicians who agree to work for a period of time in a designated underserved area.  To qualify:

  • You must agree to work full-time in a clinical practice. For most physician NIW cases, the required period of service is 5 years
  • You must work in a primary care (such as a general practitioner, family practice petitioner, general internist, pediatrician, obstetrician/gynecologist, or psychiatrist) or be a specialty physician
  • You must serve either in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Mental Health Professional Area (MHPSA – for psychiatrists only), a Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or a Veterans Affairs facility, or for specialists in a Physician Scarcity Area (PSA)
  • You must obtain a statement from a federal agency or a state department of health that has knowledge of your qualifications as a physician and that states your work is in the public interest (This statement is known as an attestation)

EB-4 Preference Category

Those who qualify as a Special Immigrant may self-petition or have an employer petition for them depending upon the specific occupation.

Religious workers: Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the U.S. for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time compensated position.

EB-5 Preference Category

To qualify as an EB-5 Immigrant Investor, you must invest in a new commercial enterprise, which is a commercial enterprise:

  • Established after Nov. 29, 1990, or
  • Established on or before Nov. 29, 1990, that is:  1) Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results, or 2) Expanded through the investment so that a 40-percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occurs

The minimum investment amount is $1 million dollars or $500,000 if within a high-unemployment area (unemployment rate 150 percent of the national average) or rural area.

The investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor’s admission to the U.S. as a Conditional Permanent Resident.

Within 90 days prior to the two-year anniversary of admission as a Conditional Permanent Resident, you must apply to have the condition removed to be allowed to permanently live and work in the U.S.

Source: USCIS.gov, Travel.state.gov