Employment-Based Immigration: A Complete Overview

Last Updated on March 2, 2023

Employment-based immigration continues to garner attention in the news. Employment-based visas are everywhere – from proposed policy changes to rumors of EB-5 visas being promised to Chinese investors for a price. Approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under provisions of U.S. immigration law every fiscal year. Here’s a high-level overview of the five preference categories.

Employment-Based Immigration: EB-1 Priority Workers

This preference is reserved for persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; outstanding researchers or university professors; and executives or managers of multinational corporations. This category is less costly and takes less time to complete than other classifications. Although this is the fastest way to get an employment-based green card, it is extremely document-heavy and the USCIS reviews this petition with a high level of scrutiny.

Employment-Based Immigration: EB-2 Advanced Workers

There are three types of EB-2 green cards:

  • Professionals who hold advanced degrees
  • Foreign nationals with exceptional knowledge in the sciences, arts or business
  • Professionals whose work benefits the national interest of the U.S.

This category has several stages that need to be successfully completed prior to green card sponsorship. This proves to be a lengthier and more rigorous process than the EB-1 green card.

Employment-Based Immigration: EB-3 Skilled/Other Workers

This preference is reserved for professionals with a bachelor’s degree (or foreign equivalent); skilled workers, including foreign nationals with at least two years of training or work experience who may or may not hold a degree; and other or unskilled workers filling a job that requires less than two years of training or experience. This category is the most common with a higher number of foreign nationals that qualify under this preference category and has a lengthy average approval waiting period of six to nine years.

Employment-Based Immigration: EB-4 Special Immigrants

This preference is reserved for “special immigrants” which includes certain religious workers, employees of the U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, armed forces members, broadcasters and more. To petition for an employment-based fourth preference immigrant, an employer must file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. However, there are certain situations where the employee may self-petition.

Employment-Based Immigration: EB-5 Special Investor

This preference is reserved for entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.

To learn more about each of these employment-based visa categories, watch our 2017 Green Card Trends webinar on demand today.

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