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Employment Based Visas Explained

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
March 23, 2020

In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of employment-based immigration, the different types of employment-based visas and green cards, and the requirements for each category.

Each year approximately 140,000 employment-based visas are made available to immigrant workers by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An employment-based visa or green card program is a legal way for immigrant workers to obtain permanent residence in the US and eventually become US citizens. After five years of living and working in the US foreign nationals are able to apply for US citizenship, along with their spouses and children.

There are five different employment-based visa programs available to immigrant workers, each with different requirements and processing times. Depending on the category a labor certificate may not be required. Eligibility for most of the categories is determined by the applicant’s experience, education, and field of work. 

Employment-Based Visa 1 (EB-1 Visa)

The EB-1 visa is reserved for “priority workers” and is split into three categories:

  • EB-1A Works With Extraordinary Ability - Reserved for those with ample and demonstrable experience in sports, business, art, science, or education. Applicants must be able to prove significant and sustained national renown in his or her field of work. Substantial documentation or video evidence is required for this visa. An existing job offer in the US is not necessary for the application, only that the applicant indicates that they intend to continue in the field of work in which they have extraordinary ability. Most of the applicants are going to be well-known individuals, such as professional sports athletes, artists, high-level scientists, educators, or high-level executives.
  • EB-1B Outstanding Researchers and Professors - Reserved for applicants who have national acclaim and have been teaching or in research in their field for at least three years. EB-1B applicants must be coming to the US to pursue tenure and typically must have a job offer and an employer who is filing with USCIS on their behalf. A labor certification is not required.
  • EB-1C Managers or Executives From Multinational Companies - Applicants must have worked at least one of the preceding three years with the parent company or a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, etc of the parent company. The applicant must be coming to the US to work in a similar capacity. No labor cert is required, but the employer must have given a job offer and filed for the petition on the applicant’s behalf.

Employment-Based Visa 2 (EB-2 Visa)

The EB-2 visa is reserved for those with advanced degrees or workers of exceptional ability and whose immigration is of national interest to the US. All EB-2 applicants must have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor (DOL), establish they qualify for one of the shortage occupations, or be a Schedule A designated position. A job offer is usually required, but the applicant may petition for exemption (Form I-140) from the job offer if he or she can prove national interest in their exemption. EB-2 visa applicants must fall into one of three categories:

  • The applicants hold an advance degree and at least five years of experience;
  • An applicant with exceptional ability who holds a degree of expertise beyond what is considered ordinary

Employment Third Preference Visas (EB-3) 

The EB-3 visa is reserved for non-skilled workers, skilled workers, and professionals. They require an approved I-140 petition by the future employer, a Schedule A designation, or they must prove they qualify for a shortage occupation. A labor certification is necessary. Applicants for this visa typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Professionals filling a position requiring at least a 4-year degree ;
  • Skilled workers filling a position that requires at least two years of experience;
  • Non-skilled workers filling seasonal or contracting jobs that require less than two years of experience

Employment Fourth Preference Visa (EB-4)

EB-4 visas are reserved for special immigrants with a majority utilized for religious workers. All applicants must have an approved I-360, Petition for Special Immigration, employees of the US government overseas. Beyond religious workers, these visas are often allocated for broadcasters, Afghan or Iraqi translators, physicians, military members, and Iraqis who have provided valuable service to the United States for a least one year and who can provide evidence that they experience an ongoing threat as a consequence of that service.

Employment Fifth Preference Visa (EB-5)

EB-5 visas are reserved for foreign investors. Applicants must make between $900,000 and $1.8 million capital investment in a company that generates at least ten jobs within the United States. These jobs cannot be filled by direct family members. The total amount of capital investment depends on the geographic location of the business.

Navigating the employment-based visa process can be tricky without the help of an employer or a qualified attorney. In most cases, the potential employer will handle the initial petitioning and filing for a labor certification. However, part of the process is having the correct documents ready and going through a visa applicant interview. Mistakes during any part of the process can lead to delays in the process or denial of the visa. Having a qualified attorney to review any pertinent documents and to guide you through the process can save considerable amounts of time, money and frustration.

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