Each fiscal year, more than 140 thousand employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualifying applicants, according to the U.S. Department of State. However, not all professionals will fall under every group. There are various categories with different sets of requirements that must be met. To acquire an employment-based visa, you must fall under one of five employment-based preference categories.

EB-1 – Priority Workers

The first-preference group is comprised of EB-1 visas, made available to 40,000 immigrants each fiscal year. These visas are reserved for immigrants who are the most accomplished in their professional fields of sciences, art, business, education, and sports. The EB-1 visa is divided into three subcategories, including:

  • EB-1A: Includes aliens of extraordinary ability
  • EB-1B: Outstanding researchers and professors
  • EB-1C: Managers and executive transferees

The EB-1C visa is exclusively reserved for managers and executives who are the most capable in their fields and meet L-1A nonimmigrant standards. The biggest difference between the L-1A and the EB-1C is that the latter allows an alien beneficiary permanent residence.

One of the biggest benefits of acquiring an EB-1 visa is that a labor certification is not required before filing a petition. Immigrants under this category also do not need to be sponsored by a U.S. employer.

Certain requirements must be met to acquire an EB-1 visa. For example, to obtain an EB1-C, an international manager or executive must have been employed as a manager or executive for at least one year in the previous three years before going to the United States to work in a similar position.

EB-2 – Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

You may be eligible for an EB-2 visa if you hold an advanced degree or an equivalent, or if you are a foreign national who has exceptional ability. Unlike a first preference applicant, a second preference applicant must have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. Before a visa can be approved, a job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file Form I-140 – Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker – on behalf of the applicant. In the EB-2 category there are two subcategories, including:

  • Professionals who hold an advanced degree: Must be a degree exceeding a baccalaureate degree, or a baccalaureate degree in addition to a minimum of five years’ experience in the profession.
  • Persons with exceptional ability: The applicant must have a degree of expertise that is significantly above those typically encountered in the arts, sciences, or business.

A major advantage of acquiring a green card under category EB-2 is that the process typically goes much faster than with other employment-based visa categories. This is because fewer people meet the strict qualifications. To meet the legal requirements for an EB-2 visa, a person must have earned in advanced academic degree, such as a Master’s, Ph.D., or an M.D.

EB-3 – Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers

An EB-3 visa offers lawful permanent residence in the U.S. to skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled professionals with a permanent offer of employment in the United States. To qualify for an EB-3 green card, an applicant must have a full-time, permanent job offer from a U.S. employer and the job must not have qualified workers currently in the United States. The category is broken down into these subcategories:

  • Skilled Workers: Must be able to demonstrate a minimum of two years of job experience or training.
  • Professionals: Must have a baccalaureate degree or equivalent which is required for the job.
  • Other Workers: Must be seeking unskilled labor that requires less than two years of experience or training.

While eligibility requirements for obtaining an EB-3 are less stringent than with the first or second preference, there are long backlogs that exist for visas in the EB-3 category. To obtain permanent residency, an applicant must have a petitioner or employer sponsor him or her through Labor Certification.

The family of an EB-3 holder can also gain entry to the U.S. The spouse of the visa holder may be admitted in E3-4, or spouse of a Professional or Skilled Worker, or as a EW4 – spouse of an Other Worker. The spouse is also eligible to file for an Employment Authorization Document. Children under age 18 of the EB-3 holder may also be admitted as E35, or child of a Professional Skilled Worker, or as EW5, child of an Other Worker.

EB-4 – Certain Special Immigrants

The forth preference visa provides lawful permanent residence in the United States to special immigrants. Under EB-4, eligible applicants are exempt from having a permanent employment opportunity in the U.S. Special immigrants who fall under this category may include:

  • Physician
  • Religious worker
  • Employee of an international organization
  • Broadcaster
  • Iraqi who has assisted in the U.S.
  • Iraqi/Afghan translator
  • Employee of the Panama Canal zone
  • Member of the Armed Forces
  • Spouse or child of deceased NATO-6 employee
  • Retired NATO-6 employee

EB-4 green card holders can live and work permanently in the U.S. They are also entitled to attend private or public schools in the U.S., travel outside the U.S. with few limitations, and sponsor close relatives for permanent residence in the U.S. Requirements to obtain an EB-4 consist of filing Form I-360 with supporting documents.

EB-5 – Immigrant Invests

The EB-5 visa is the fifth preference category for capital investment by foreign investors in new U.S. commercial enterprises. To be considered for the visa, the investor must meet specific investment and job creation requirements. He or she must also ensure that the business that is receiving the investment qualifies for the EB-5 program. EB-5 visa requirements include:

  • $1 million capital investments or $500,000 in a TEA
  • The investment must create ten full-time U.S. jobs for at least two years
  • The investment must be made in a for-profit commercial entity

Employment based immigrant visas generally take longer than other types of visas, but the length vary from case to case. Many cases that are delayed are due to errors made by the applicant. To ensure that your visa goes through without a hitch, consult with an immigration lawyer.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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