One of the major pathways to U.S. immigration is through an employment-based immigrant visa. Around 140,000 immigrant visas are made available each year to foreign workers (and their spouses and children) who wish to become permanent residents and, eventually, U.S. citizens.
The employment-based immigration system is divided into preference categories. Although most categories require sponsorship from a U.S. employer, some allow foreign workers to file their own petitions. In addition, most but not all categories require labor certification, which must prove two things: (1) that there are insufficient available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers to fill the proposed position; and (2) that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Finally, some higher preference categories offers visas that are immediately available upon approval, whereas lower preference categories experience significant wait times for visa numbers to become available.
The first three preference categories are the ones that are most frequently used. The first preference category, EB-1, is for persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; and multinational executives and managers. The second preference category, EB-2, is reserved for persons who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or for persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Under the third preference category, EB-3, immigrants may apply under the professionals, skilled workers, or other workers categories.
The fourth preference category, EB-4, serves as a “catchall” category for “special immigrants”: certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, alien minors who are wards of courts in the United States, and other classes of aliens.
Finally, the fifth preference category, EB-5, is for business investors 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.
Each of these preference categories (and subcategories) will be discussed in detail in forthcoming Donati Law blogs.