Every fiscal year (October 1st – September 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. Certain spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join employment-based immigrants.
The First Steps toward an Immigrant Visa: Labor Certification and Filing a Petition
To be considered for an immigrant visa under some of the employment-based categories below, the applicant's prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. Once received (if required), the employer then files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based preference category.
"A US Employment Based Immigration Attorney can help prevent small mistakes such as failing to submit the appropriate forms, fees or documentation can seriously delay and even jeopardize the whole employment based immigration visa process."
Employment Based Visa Categories
There are three sub-groups within this category:
Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
- Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their fields of expertise. Such applicants do not have to have specific job offers, so long as they are entering the U.S. to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary ability. Such applicants can file their own Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
- Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally. Applicants in this category must be coming to the U.S. to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
- Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer. The applicant’s employment outside of the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity, and the applicant must be coming to work in a managerial or executive capacity. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
There are two subgroups within this category:
- Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession.
- Persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability means having a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.
Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
There are three subgroups within this category:
- Skilled workers are persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
- Professionals are members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.
- Unskilled workers (Other workers) are persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants
There are many subgroups within this category:
- Broadcasters in the U.S. employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors or a grantee of such organization
- Ministers of Religion
- Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad
- Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government
- Certain Former Employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone
- Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979
- Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators who have worked directly with the United States armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator/interpreter for a period of at least 12 months and meet requirements. This classification has an annual numeric limitation of 50 visas.
- Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for not less than one year on or after March 20th, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, or in Afghanistan for not less than one year after October 7th, 2001, and have experienced an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. See Special Immigrant Visas for
- Certain Foreign Medical Graduates (Adjustments Only)
- Certain Retired International Organization Employees
- Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of International Organization Employees
- Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased International Organization Employees
- Special Immigrant Juveniles (no family member derivatives; Adjustments Only)
- Persons Recruited Outside of the United States Who Have Served or are Enlisted to Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces
- Certain retired NATO-6 civilians
- Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of NATO-6 civilians
- Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees
- Persons who are beneficiaries of petitions or labor certification applications filed prior to September 11th, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act on September 11th, 2001
- Certain Religious Workers
"Employment based immigration can be complicated, and often requires coordination of various government agencies. An experienced US employment based immigration attorney can simplify the employment based immigration visa process"
Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors
Immigrant Investor visa categories are for capital investment by foreign investors in new commercial enterprises in the United States which provide job creation.
Next Steps – Fees and Visa Application
After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261.) The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more.
All categories of employment-based immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached.
Fees are charged for the following services:
- Filing of Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, or Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360 (this fee is charged by USCIS)
- Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260
- Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)
- Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
In general, the following documents are required:
- Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country.
- Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
- Two (2) 2x2 photographs.
- Civil Documents for the applicant. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies) such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.
- Financial Support – At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States.
- Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below).
"US Employment Based Immigration Attorneys are active in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant worker petitions with the USCIS".
Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.
Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.
"A US Employment Based Immigration Attorney can assist in complying with the United States immigration laws that regulate entry to the United States and employment of foreign nationals. Contact a US Employment Based Immigration Attorney for a free consultation to help in obtaining an employment based immigration visa."