Employment based Green Card

Employment-Based Immigration and Green Card in the United States

Employment-based immigration occurs when someone wants to immigrate to the U.S. for a job. First, companies must apply for a labor certification to prove they couldn't hire an American for the job. Then, the company applies to sponsor the immigrant for a green card.

There are different employment categories, such as high-skilled jobs for scientists or artists or lower-skilled jobs in agriculture or healthcare. Once approved for sponsorship, the immigrant can apply for permanent residency or a green card.

A green card allows someone to live and work permanently in the U.S. You need a green card or permanent residency to live and work legally in the U.S. for the long term. There's a yearly limit on how many employment-based green cards are given.

Sometimes, there are long waits as more people apply than can get green cards each year. Once a green card is obtained, a person is a lawful permanent U.S. resident and can apply for citizenship after usually living in the U.S. with a green card for five years. Green cards provide more stability than temporary visas and allow a person to travel freely in and out of the country.

The different Employment-Based (EB) preference categories

There are different employment-based preference categories for green cards. Processing times vary between categories, and visas are limited each year, so some have long backlogs while others may move quicker depending on supply and demand within the immigration system. Understanding the preferences helps determine if a person qualifies for permanent residency through employment.

EB-1 Green Card for individuals with extraordinary ability

The EB-1 green card category is for highly talented individuals who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in specific fields. That allows them to immigrate to the U.S. without having a job offer first. To qualify, the individual must show sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for their work or talent.

Common fields are science, business, athletics, arts, and education. To apply for an EB-1 green card, extensive evidence must be presented to prove extraordinary ability. That includes significant awards, high honors from distinguished organizations, published material about the individual's work in professional or major media, and judging or receiving prizes at prestigious competitions.

A single achievement is usually not enough—the record must show sustained acclaim over time at the top of their field compared to others. The process for an EB-1 green card is generally faster than that for other employment-based categories since no job offer is required.

However, the extraordinary ability standard is high, so documentation must convincingly show distinction beyond ordinary ability or achievement. If approved, an EB-1 green card removes numerical caps so the individual is not stuck in multi-year visa backlogs like other categories and can permanently live and continue their work in the United States.

EB-2 Green Card for professionals with advanced degrees

The EB-2 green card category is for people with an advanced degree, usually a master's degree or higher, from a U.S. university or a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. master's degree. A job offer in the field of the advanced degree is required.

Typical occupations include engineers, doctors, researchers, and academics. In addition to the job offer, the employer must get certified from the Department of Labor that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the job before sponsoring a foreign national.

Due to yearly visa limits, EB-2 green card applications usually take several years. Backlogs can be 5-10 years, depending on the applicant's country of birth. Individuals in this category must wait patiently while their application is pending. An advanced degree helps qualify for an EB-2, but no guarantees on processing speed exist due to heavy demand and annual limits.

EB-3 Green Card for skilled, professional, and other workers

The EB-3 category covers a wide variety of skilled occupations that typically require at least two years of training or work experience, ranging from healthcare and STEM fields to building trades, mechanics, and more.

A job offer and labor certification are still needed to qualify, showing the position offers normal wages and conditions.

Processing times are usually shorter for EB-3 than EB-2, taking 2-5 years, but long waits remain common relative to other immigration categories. Oversubscribing of annual limits means backlogs accumulate for lower-skilled applicants even if education and experience align with an eligible job.

Patience and remaining with the sponsoring employer through the process are necessary.

EB-4 Green Card for Special Immigrant Workers

The EB-4 Green Card is a particular type of Green Card for workers with unique skills or qualifications. It is designed for people who have special abilities or work in specific fields that benefit the United States.

This Green Card category is available for various individuals, including religious workers, broadcasters, translators, and certain healthcare professionals.

If you have exceptional skills or work in one of these fields, you may be eligible to apply for the EB-4 Green Card. The card is a way for the United States to attract talented individuals who can contribute to the country's growth and development.

The EB-4 Green Card is like a special visa for workers with something unique to offer. It's for people with incredible skills or work in particular jobs that are important for the United States. For example, if you're a religious worker, a broadcaster, a translator, or a healthcare professional with special skills, you can apply for this Green Card.

It's a way for the United States to say, "Hey, we want you to come and work here because we know you're good at what you do and can help our country grow."

EB-5 Green Card for immigrant investors

The EB-5 Green Card is a type of Green Card for people who want to invest their money in the United States and create jobs. It's designed for immigrant investors willing to invest money in new commercial enterprises.

To be eligible for the EB-5 Green Card, you must invest a minimum amount of money and create a specific number of jobs for U.S. workers. This program aims to attract foreign investment and stimulate economic growth in the United States.

If you're an investor who wants to contribute to the U.S. economy and become a permanent resident, the EB-5 Green Card might be the right choice for you.

The EB-5 Green Card is a special type of Green Card for people who want to invest their money in the United States and help create jobs. It's for investors ready to spend some money and make new businesses.

To get this Green Card, you have to invest a specific amount of money and make sure that a certain number of people get jobs because of your investment. This program is meant to bring in money from other countries and make the U.S. economy more robust.

If you're an investor who wants to help the U.S. and become a permanent resident, the EB-5 Green Card is something you should consider.

Get certified through the PERM process

The PERM process allows employers in the United States to hire foreign workers when they cannot find qualified U.S. workers for a particular job. PERM stands for Program Electronic Review Management, a system used by the Department of Labor.

The process involves several steps, including conducting recruitment efforts to test the job market and ensuring that the foreign worker's employment will not negatively affect U.S. workers.

Before hiring a foreign worker, the employer needs to demonstrate that it has made a good faith effort to find qualified U.S. workers. If the employer successfully completes the PERM process and receives certification, it can proceed with sponsoring the foreign worker for a work visa or Green Card.

If a company in the United States wants to hire someone from another country because it can't find the right person here, it must go through the PERM process.

PERM is a system the Department of Labor uses to ensure fairness. It involves different steps, like finding American workers for the job first and ensuring that hiring a foreign worker won't hurt American workers. The company has to show that it really tried to find an American worker before hiring someone from another country.

If they do everything right and get certified through the PERM process, then they can help the foreign worker get a work visa or Green Card to come and work in the U.S.

Priority dates and visa availability

Understanding priority dates and visa availability is vital for the employment green card process. After a person is sponsored for a green card, USCIS looks at the priority date to see if a visa is available. The priority date is the date the petition was filed.

A visa is available if the date is before the current date being processed. If not, the applicant waits as the dates move forward. Only a certain number of visas become available in each employment category each month, and visa waits can be several years.

Apply for an employment-based green card

To apply for a green card, the employer must first get labor certification approval, if required. Then, they can file an immigration petition to sponsor the worker. Once approved, the priority date is set.

The final step is for the worker to apply for adjustment of status or a green card. They will receive approval only if a visa is available under the priority date.

It is crucial to stay qualified and keep the same job until getting permanent resident status. Depending on visa backlogs, the process takes at least one year, sometimes several more.

Adjustment of status vs consular processing

Two common paths to obtaining a green card are adjustment of status and consular processing. Adjustment of status is for individuals who are already in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, such as a work or student visa. It allows you to apply for a green card without leaving the country.

To apply for adjustment of status, you submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and go through a series of interviews and background checks.

If approved, you can receive your green card while staying in the United States. On the other hand, consular processing is for individuals outside the United States or who are ineligible for adjustment of status. With consular processing, you complete the green card application at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.

Once approved, you can travel to the United States with your immigrant visa and receive your green card after entering the country. Depending on your specific circumstances and immigration status, you can choose between adjustment of status and consular processing.

Roles of employer sponsorship and labor certification

Employer sponsorship and labor certification are essential in the green card application process. In most employment-based green card cases, an employer sponsors the employee for permanent residency. That means the employer will offer the employee a job and support their green card application.

The employer must undergo labor certification, which involves demonstrating that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position being offered to the foreign employee.

This process aims to protect the job market for U.S. workers. Once the labor certification is approved, the employer can sponsor the employee for a green card.

The employer's sponsorship is crucial for the success of the green card application. It typically involves providing documentation, financial support, and fulfilling certain obligations to ensure the employee's eligibility for permanent residency.

Green card eligibility and pathways for family members

The principal applicant's spouse and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to obtain green cards through family sponsorship. Parents, married children, and siblings can petition for family members, but waiting times are much longer. Once the principal applicant becomes a permanent resident, they can begin the process to obtain green cards for eligible relatives.

Even after receiving a family-based green card, there are income requirements and affidavits of support forms the sponsor must sign, agreeing to financially support family members so they don't rely on public benefits. Family members apply separately and go through their immigration interviews.

The process takes 1-3 years, depending on the family relationship and current visa backlogs. Individuals must prove the relationship is genuine and not entered solely for immigration purposes. Obtaining work authorization during the waiting period adds additional fees and processing steps for family members.

Costs and fees associated with employment-based immigration

Employer fees total over $5,000, including $700-$1,500 in government forms costs. Lawyer expenses vary greatly depending on complexity but average $5,000-$12,000.

The employer must show the ability to pay all costs without financial hardship to the company. For employees, typical expenses are $1,500-$3,000, including applications, medical exams, fingerprints & photos.

Spouses and children pay lower fees of $1,000 each, but additional costs are incurred if they use the adjustment of status route instead of consular processing. It's crucial to budget appropriately for immigration as costs are ongoing.

The success of the process depends on sponsors having the financial means to support workers through approval and prevent status lapses. Paying fees is mandatory, but lawyers are not required for less complex cases.

From temporary work visa to permanent residency

Some employment-based immigration involves obtaining a temporary work visa before becoming a permanent resident. Common temporary categories include H-1B, L-1, and TN status. These allow temporary U.S. work authorization but must maintain the requirements of the visa category.

While on a temporary visa, the employer may sponsor the worker for a green card through labor certification and an immigrant petition. That starts the permanent residency process, which typically takes 1-2 years. The foreign national must remain eligible and in lawful status during this time.

Once approved for a green card, permanent residents can transition from their temporary status, which is valid only for a specific employer or role. At this point, green card holders have authorization to live and work indefinitely in any job or role in the U.S.

Remaining in the country is no longer contingent on temporary sponsorship criteria. Permanent residents are eligible for a 10-year green card and can begin the naturalization process to U.S. citizenship after five years of lawful residency, with brief trips abroad allowed.

Transitioning from temporary to permanent status provides much greater stability and rights.

How to Apply for an Employment-Based Green Card?

The first step is determining eligibility by checking which preference category qualifications are met based on factors like the job, education level, and experience.

The main categories are EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3, while others have special eligibility rules. A qualified employer willing to sponsor permanent residency requires a legitimate job offer. The employer must prove to the government's satisfaction that no Americans can fill the role.

After conducting national recruitment efforts, the employer then performs the labor certification process with the Department of Labor. That ensures the job offer complies with fair wages and standards for working conditions.

With an approved labor certification, the employer can file the necessary immigration forms, such as I-140 and I-485, to formally sponsor the individual, along with fees, medical exam results, and background checks.

Once petitions are submitted, processing usually takes 12-24 months if a visa is available according to the priority date. The sponsored job must be maintained throughout this period until approval is received.

An interview may be conducted at a USCIS field office or abroad at a consulate before being granted lawful permanent resident status and receiving documentation.

WARNING: The foregoing is an article discussing legal issues. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you get competent legal advice specific to your case.

Resources / Helpful Links:

  • Green Card for Employment-Based Immigrants (USCIS)
  • Employment-Based Immigrant Visas (US Department of State)
  • Permanent Workers (USCIS)
  • Immigrant visa to work in the U.S. (Usa.gov)
  • I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (USCIS)
  • Permanent Labor Certification (U.S. DOL)
  • Permanent Labor Certification Details (U.S. DOL - Employment & Training Administration)
  • Inmigración basada en el empleo en los Estados Unidos (K & G Law, LLP)
  • H-1B visa (K & G Law, LLP)
  • Questions about the EB visas?

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