Currently, United States immigration law allows for 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas each year. Immigrant visas are permanent visas by definition, with the ultimate goal of legal permanent residence (Green Card). In most cases, your spouse and/or children should be able to accompany or follow-to-join you in the U.S. along your path to obtaining your permanent residence in the U.S.
Pathway to a Green Card
The first step in the employment-based immigration process (in most cases) is to have a potential employer, or an agent, obtain a labor certification approval from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Keep in mind that some work visa applicants do not need a labor certification. Once received and approved by DOL, your potential employer — or, in some cases, you yourself — will then file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You’ll need to file it under the correct employment preference category, which will determine the evidence needed for your application as well as the length of time you’ll need to wait for judgment on your petition.
Next, if you are located inside the U.S. at this time, you can file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) with USCIS. After that you will need to complete a scheduled biometrics services appointment, which will be used to to verify your identity and perform the requisite background and security checks. If your application is approved, USCIS will send you a written approval notice before finally sending your actual Green Card, which is also known as a Permanent Resident Card.
Employment-Based Immigration Qualifications
In order to qualify for employment-based immigration to the U.S., you must apply for a visa in one of these five employment preference categories:
- EB-1 Visa: Priority Workers
- EB-2 Visa: Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
- EB-3 Visa: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
- EB-4 Visa: Certain Special Immigrants
- EB-5 Visa: Immigrant Investors
Visa Approval Timeframe
The length of time for the entire process varies on a case-by-case basis. No two individual cases will take the same length of time to process. Each applicant is handled in the order in which they applied for their work visa within their respective employment preference category until the category reaches its annual limit as per U.S. law. Some employment preferences get significantly more form petitions, so the wait could be several years for more popular visa options, such as “Unskilled Workers” applying for an EB-3 visas, which could take several years to process.
What If I Want a Temporary Work Visa?
For individuals wishing to enter the U.S. for employment that’s lasting only a fixed period of time, a temporary worker visa is the way to go. Temporary worker visas are non-immigrant visas, so they are not considered permanent or indefinite residents. Visit our webpage on the various types of temporary worker visas.
Got a Question on Employment-Based Immigration?
The U.S. immigration system is very complicated and has a lot of moving parts. It helps to have an attorney or immigration expert to help you through the process. Check out our frequently asked questions section for some help in that regard.