Employment Green Card


Generally either a close family relative or an employer must sponsor someone for immigration. The first method relies on a close tie to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If a foreign national does not have such a relative, he/she might qualify under one of the employment‑based categories. Currently the Immigration & Nationality Act sets an annual limit of 226,000 immigrant “preference” numbers for family‑based categories, and 143,949 immigrant “preference” numbers for employment‑based categories. The per-country limit for preference immigrants is now 25,896.

Employment‑Based Categories

1st Preference:
Extraordinary Ability
Outstanding Professors & Researchers Managers & Executives

2nd Preference:
Advanced Degree Professionals
Exceptional Ability

3rd Preference:
Professionals (Bachelors degree)
Skilled Workers (two years training)

4th Preference:

Other Workers (unskilled)
Special Immigrants (religious workers)

5th Preference:
Immigrant Investors


Employment-based First Preference

First PreferenceThe First Preference is for “priority workers” and includes individuals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, and certain executives and managers of multinational corporations. Because Congress regards them as priority workers, they are exempt from Department of Labor requirements for labor certification.1. Extraordinary ability

The first subgroup of the priority worker category is reserved for applicants with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The CIS considers “extraordinary ability” to be a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of a few who have risen to the top of his/her field. The petitioner must demonstrate extraordinary ability through extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim, and that the foreign national’s achievements have been recognized by others in the field of expertise. The regulations provide a list of criteria for guidance, which are summarized below: § Major prizes or awards.§ Memberships in organizations which require outstanding achievement.§ Cites to or articles about the individual’s work.§ Participation as a judge of the work of others.§ Evidence of original scientific, scholastic, artistic, athletic or business‑related contributions.§ Authorship of scholarly articles.§ Artistic exhibitions or showcases.§ Performance in a leading or cultural role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation.§ High salary in relation to others in the field.§ Commercial success in the performing arts.§ Other comparable evidence.

2. Outstanding Professors or Researchers

The second subgroup of the priority worker category is reserved for certain professors or researchers who are internationally recognized as being outstanding in specific academic areas. The applicant must have at least three years teaching or research experience. Under certain conditions the CIS will count teaching or research experience gained while working toward an advanced degree. The individual must either be (a) in a tenure‑track position teaching or conducting research at a university, or (b) in a research position with a private employer who employs at least three full‑time researchers and who has achieved documented accomplishments in the academic field. As with extraordinary ability, the petitioner must demonstrate outstanding ability through extensive documentation showing international recognition in the field. The regulations provide a list of criteria for guidance, which are similar to extraordinary ability: § Major prizes or awards.§ Membership in organizations which require outstanding achievement.§ Cites to or articles about the individual’s work.§ Participation as a judge of the work of others.§ Evidence of original scientific research.§ Authorship of scholarly articles or books

3. Multinational Executives and Managers

The third subcategory of priority workers is reserved for certain executives and managers of multinational companies. To be eligible the manager or executive must have been employed at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the U.S. employer. They must have filled a position in a managerial or executive capacity for at least one year, and be coming to the U.S. to fill a position in a similar capacity. The petitioner must document that the proper relationship exists between the two entities. In some cases a joint‑venture may be acceptable to the CIS. In situations where there is less than 50% ownership, there might be equal control and veto power. The CIS definition of “managerial capacity” includes both managers of an organization and managers of a function; however, first line supervisors are not considered managers unless the employees they supervise are also professionals.

EmploymentBased-Second Preference

Second PreferenceThe Second Preference category includes members of the professions holding advanced degrees, and those who have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business. The CIS regulations define a profession as an occupation that requires at least a Bachelor’s degree to enter into the field. An employee seeking to enter in this category must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor unless the CIS determines that a waiver of the labor certification requirement would be in the “national interest.” A labor certification certifies that the employment of the foreign worker in a particular position will not adversely affect the U.S. labor market.1. Advanced Degree

This subcategory requires the professional to have at least a Master’s degree or equivalent. An advanced degree means any degree higher than a Baccalaureate degree. The CIS will also consider an applicant who has a Baccalaureate degree plus five years of progressive experience in the profession to be equivalent to a Master’s degree. Note that to require five years of experience in a job offer for purposes of labor certification may conflict with minimum job standards set by the Department of Labor. For this reason it may not always be possible to include an individual’s full experience to meet the advanced degree category.

2. Exceptional Ability

This subcategory is reserved for those who have “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or business, and who will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States. The CIS is looking for a level of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the field. It is lower than the “extraordinary ability” standard, and has different guidelines:

Degree relating to area of exceptional ability.

Ten years of experience.

Professional license.
High salary in relation to others in the field.
Membership in professional associations.
Recognition for achievements and significant contributions.
Other comparable evidence.



Third PreferenceThe Third Preference category includes professionals who hold a Baccalaureate degree (or foreign degree equivalency); skilled workers capable of performing a job requiring at least two years of training or experience; and “other workers,” who are defined as those who work in positions requiring less than two years of training or experience. Visas are equally available to professionals and skilled workers under this category. Congress has limited the quota for “other workers” to only 10,000 visas per year. All employees seeking to enter in the Third Preference category must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor.


Fourth PreferenceThe Fourth Preference category is for Special Immigrants, which primarily includes ministers and religious workers. To be eligible, the applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination that has had a bona fide non‑profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least the two years immediately preceding the application. The applicant must be entering the United States to work (1) as a minister of religion, (2) for the organization in a religious capacity, or (3) for the organization or a related tax‑exempt entity in another professional capacity. The applicant must have been carrying on such work as a minister, professional or other worker for at least two years preceding the application. The applicant must have at least a Baccalaureate degree to qualify as a religious professional. A combination of experience and education may not be substituted for a Baccalaureate degree.


Fifth PreferenceThe Fifth Preference category is for foreign investors. It allows conditional residency for a person who invests $ 1 million (or under certain circumstances $500,000) in a new commercial enterprise that employs ten full‑time U.S. workers. The investor must directly manage the business or at least be involved through policy formation. A “new commercial enterprise” includes creating a new business, purchasing a business and reorganizing it, or expanding an existing business by forty percent. The investment might be in cash or cash equivalents, equipment, inventory, or other tangible property. Indebtedness secured by the assets of the entrepreneur might also be considered part of the investment.