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Employment-based visas

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Commonly known as the “Green Card” Process, this is a two or three-step process:

  1. Labor Certification
  2. I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker
  3. I-485 Adjustment of Status (AOS)

There are five preference categories for Employment-Based Permanent Visas:

1. First Employment-Based Preference for “priority workers”: (No labor certification required)

  • International Managers and executives transferred to work for a U.S. company;
  • Outstanding professors and researchers with universities or private employers that have established research departments; and
  • Persons of “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, and athletics (no offer of employment required).

2. Second Employment-Based Preference (Labor Certification required unless waived)

Persons of “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business and persons with advanced degrees or their equivalent (that is, a baccalaureate degree plus five years progressive work experience in the field). If work performed is in the National Interest and unique in nature, Labor Certification not required.

3. Third Employment-Based Preference (Labor Certification required)

  • Professionals with bachelor’s degrees not qualifying in the second preference;
  • Skilled workers (filling positions requiring at least two years of training and experience); and
  • Unskilled workers.

4. Fourth Employment-Based Preference Religious workers:

Person must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization for two years immediately preceding application; Seek to enter to carry on his/her vocation or religious occupation; Must have carried on such vocation or occupation for at least two years.

5. Fifth Employment-Based Preference Employment Creation / Investors:

Requires investment of $1,000,000 or, in certain circumstances, $500,000 in a new commercial enterprise employing ten or more U.S. workers full time. Note: Numerous stringent requirements are attached to this visa.


In order to come to the United States lawfully as a nonimmigrant to work temporarily in the United States your prospective employer must generally file a nonimmigrant petition on your behalf with USCIS. The main nonimmigrant temporary worker classifications are listed below.

E Visas

The E category includes treaty traders, treaty investors, and certain nonimmigrant employees of such people (and their spouses and children) who come to the U.S. under a treaty of commerce and navigation between the U.S. and their country of nationality. This category also includes Australian specialty occupation workers.

H-1B Visas

The H-1B is a nonimmigrant or temporary visa that is good for three years initially and can be renewed for an additional three years and even more in certain cases. The H-1B is an employer-sponsored visa. This visa is for professional positions requiring a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a Specific Specialty

J Visas

Includes foreign students, scholars, experts, medical interns and residents, and business and industrial trainees coming to U.S. to participate in an approved Exchange Visitor Program. Programs must be approved and designated by U.S. Information Agency.

O-1 Visas

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.

L-1 Visas

L-1A and L-1B visas are available for temporary intracompany transferees who work in managerial positions or have specialized knowledge.

P Visas
  • P-1 Entertainers and Athletes: Athletes who compete individually or as part of a team at an internationally recognized level. Those who are with or are an integral part of a performance, an entertainment group that has received international recognition as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time.
  • P-2 Artists and Entertainers: Coming through reciprocal exchange program.
  • P-3 Artists and Entertainers: Including groups, who will perform under a program that is culturally unique.
Q Visas

Persons participating in international cultural exchange programs are eligible for this visa.

R Visas

An R-1 nonimmigrant is an alien who is coming to the United States temporarily to work at least part time (an average of at least 20 hours per week) as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation and be employed by a:

  • Non-profit religious organization in the United States;
  • Religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
  • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition.

TN Visas

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.

Family-based visas

The following people are eligible to immigrate to the United States, based on a relationship to a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident:

1. Immediate Relatives (no waiting list for these relatives):
  • Spouses of U. S. Citizens
  • Children under 21 of U.S. Citizens and
  • Parents of an adult U.S. Citizen
2. Preference System Relatives—waiting period depends on availability of immigrant visas; see the Visa Bulletin.
  • 1st Preference: Adult, unmarried children of U. S. Citizens
  • 2nd Preference: Spouses and children of Permanent Residents; Adult, unmarried children of Permanent Residents
  • 3rd Preference: Married children of U. S. Citizens
  • 4th Preference: Brothers and sisters of U. S. Citizens
3. Spouses and Children of Refugees or Asylees—No waiting list

Any person who entered as a refugee, or was granted asylum status after entry, can petition for their spouse and children under 21 to join them in the U.S. The relationship must exist at the time refugee or asylum status was granted. The petition must be filed within 2 years of that approval. Family members enter as asylee relatives and can apply for permanent residency after one year.

4. Battered Spouse and Children of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents

Must show abuse, a good faith marriage, and be a person of good moral character. Also known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Waiting time depends on the status of the abuser.

5. Fiancé of a U.S. Citizen

Must have met within the past two years (unless certain exceptions apply) and must marry within 90 days of entry to the U.S.


Naturalization is the legal process through which a person who was not born a U.S. citizen becomes fully enfranchised. Naturalized citizens enjoy all the rights and share all the responsibilities of citizenship.

USCIS weighs a number of factors when considering an application for citizenship, including length of residence, fluency in English, knowledge of American history and culture, and support for the United States Constitution.

Basic requirements:

Persons applying for naturalization must have been permanent residents for 5 years or, if their status is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and they are still married and residing with their citizen spouse, they may apply after 3 years.

Persons must have physically resided in the U.S. for half of the 5 years (or 3 years) required.

Applicants who have criminal convictions on their records face particularly intense scrutiny and are therefore advised to seek the counsel of an attorney experienced in this area of the law.