What are the preference categories for immigrant work visas?

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If you would like to live and work in the United States permanently, there are a lot of options. Here, we will talk about the preference-based system for employment-based (EB) visas. These are far from the only visas available that offer the chance to work in the U.S. on an immigrant basis, but they are a crucial starting point.

The U.S. issues about 140,000 job-based immigrant visas each year to workers and their families. If you are eligible – which typically requires the right combination of skills and work experience – you could move permanently to the U.S. and, one day, seek lawful permanent residency and even citizenship.

Be aware that some of the EB visas require you to have an existing job offer from a U.S. employer, who is considered your sponsor. In some cases, before your employer can submit immigration paperwork on your behalf, they will have to obtain an approved labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.

This certifies that there are not enough qualified and willing U.S. workers available to fill the position and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similar U.S. workers.

Permanent worker (EB) visa preference categories

EB visas are issued in a preference-based system, with the first preference (EB-1) being the most preferred type of worker and EB-5 the fifth most preferred type. Here are the general qualifications:

EB-1: Workers of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics, along with outstanding professors and researchers and multinational executives or managers

EB-2: Members of the professions who hold advanced degrees, or people with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences or business

EB-3: Professionals, skilled workers and other workers of particular types. Qualifying for an EB-3 visa requires demonstrating your education and work experience.

EB-4: This is a category called “special immigrants,” which includes some religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, non-citizen minors who are wards of U.S. courts, and certain other non-citizens.

EB-5: Investors in new commercial enterprises that will employ at least 10 full-time U.S. workers. The level of investment required is $900,000 for investments in targeted employment areas or $1.8 million outside such areas.

EB visas require documentation of your qualifications

When you apply for an EB visa, you will need to provide substantial documentation that you meet the eligibility criteria. For example, if you are seeking an EB-1 visa based on extraordinary ability, you will need to demonstrate you meet three of the following 10 criteria:

  1. Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  2. Membership in associations in your field that demand outstanding achievement
  3. Published material about you in a major trade or professional publication or major media
  4. Requests to judge the work of others, individually or on a panel
  5. Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  6. Authorship of scholarly articles in major trade or professional publications or major media
  7. Displays of your work at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  8. Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  9. Commanding a high salary or significant remuneration in relation to others in the field
  10. Commercial success in the performing arts

Exceptional ability, which is needed for some EB-2 visas, requires similar proof. As you decide what visa you want to apply for, your immigration lawyer can help you determine which criteria sets you meet.

If you’re interested in an EB immigrant visa, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people get the right visas to live and work in the United States.