Employment Based Green Cards
Some individuals coming to work in the U.S. are eligible to obtain an Employment-Based Green Card (also known as a permanent residency card). Most employment based green cards require a permanent future job offer that the intending immigrant will perform. If the job is for a temporary offer of employment then the foreign worker should obtain a non-immigrant visa. Each year up to 140,000 applicants are awarded a green card in employment-based categories with additional per-country limits. Employment Based Green Cards are divided into 5 different categories. Categories EB-1 visa, EB-4, and EB-5 visa are typically current (an eligible petition is adjudicated immediately) while the EB-2 category is usually current (except for those aliens from India or China). EB-3 consists of Professional, Skilled and Unskilled applicants and almost always has significant backlogs. Current processing times can be found in the most recent visa bulletin at the Department of State website.
EB 1: Priority Workers
EB-1 is the most sought-after category because there is typically no backlog of cases and the long labor certification process is not required. 28.6% of the total employment based visas are reserved for this category plus any spots not used up by categories 4 or 5. Only the top people in their field qualify for this category, and applications are strictly scrutinized. Individuals that qualify for this category are:
- Aliens of extraordinary ability
- Foreign nationals who have extraordinary achievements in the Arts, Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics. It must be demonstrated through sustained national or international acclaim and the individual’s achievements have been recognized in the field.
- One must seek to enter the U.S. to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability, but no employer sponsor is required.
- Outstanding professors and researchers who have at least 3 years’ experience in teaching or research in their field and received international recognition for their work
- A U.S. university or private research facility must sponsor the Green Card application for foreign national professors and researchers with outstanding abilities.
- Executives or managers of multinational companies managing an organization or a major function or division of an organization
- The multinational company must sponsor the Green Card application for their executives and managers.
- The U.S. company must have been in existence for at least one year.
- The foreign national must be coming to perform executive or managerial duties.
- Immediate family members of EB-1 Green Card applicants
EB 2: Professionals with advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability
28.6% of the 140,000 available employment based green cards are reserved for this category plus any visas not used up by EB-1 applicants. Petitions in this category must be accompanied by an approved labor certification or the foreign national may self-petition if the permanent position is in the national interest. Here is more information on national interest waivers. Individuals that may qualify under the EB-2 category are:
- Persons of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business doing work in the national interest
- Professionals with an advanced degree
- A degree beyond a bachelor’s, typically a Master’s, Ph.D, or other doctorate degree.
- A bachelor’s degree plus 5 years of progressive experience in the profession. Experience from the current employer does not count unless that experience is for a different job than that for which the petition is being filed.
- Physicians practicing in an underserved area of the U.S.
EB 3: Skilled, Professional, and Other Workers
28.6 % of the total visas are allocated to this category. Labor certification is required for all petitioners in this category unless they qualify under Schedule A as a shortage occupation. This category is subdivided into 3 subcategories:
- Skilled workers
- Positions requiring a minimum of 2 years of experience.
- The petitioner must have a baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent, and the degree must be the normal requirement for that position.
- Other workers
- This category is open for workers not qualifying under any of the other categories.
- Only 10,000 visas are available for this subcategory each year.
- Long backlogs exist.
EB 4: Special Immigrants
This category receives 7.1% of the total employment visas: Individuals potentially qualified for EB 4 status include:
- Religious workers
- Employees and former employees of the U.S. government abroad
- Individuals serving as translators with the U.S. Armed Forces
10,000 visas are available each year to individuals investing in a new commercial enterprise. Purchasing an existing business may qualify. EB-5 petitioners must:
- Invest a minimum of $500,000 if the investment is made in a rural (any town with a population of less than 20,000 or “targeted employment area” (TEA)
- Otherwise a minimum investment of $1,000,000 is required.
- Create full-time employment for 10 or more individuals.
- Family members excluded.
The investor may either invest directly into his or her own new or troubled business or he/she may invest through a regional center project. Regional centers have larger projects where many investors seeking to obtain a green card invest in a project. The regional center ensures that the appropriate number of jobs are created for each $500,000 invested and oversees all other aspects of the project. This approach has become very popular as many investors prefer not to be involved in running the business and worrying about the job creation. Most regional center projects are in rural or TEA areas to reduce the required investment amount to $500,000. Here is more detailed information on the EB-5 investor green card.