Options to Get an Employment-Based Green Card

An overview of the employment categories available to foreign nationals looking to get permanent residency (a green card) in the U.S.

Some individuals coming to work in the U.S. are eligible to obtain an Employment-Based green card (also known as permanent residency).  Most employment based green cards require a permanent future job offer that the intending Immigrant will perform.   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, EB-4, and EB-5 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 three 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 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.

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

EB 5: Investors

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 "targeted employment area".
    • Otherwise a minimum investment of $1,000,000 is required.
  • Create full-time employment for 10 or more individuals
    • Family members excluded.

For more information on how to obtain a green card through an employer, or to get help coming up with another legal strategy for obtaining permanent residency in the United State, talk to a qualified local immigration lawyer.

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