U.S. immigration law allows American employers to bring foreign-born workers to the United States by way of temporary work visas. In many cases, permanent residency is the logical finish line of an individual’s immigration process. Obtaining permanent residency based on employment allows foreign-born workers to continue living and working in the U.S. indefinitely.
Due to language in U.S. immigration law, the government does not issue an unlimited number of permanent resident visas. The visas are limited to a certain number annually. Furthermore, not all foreign-born workers seeking permanent residence are afforded equal opportunity to do so.
Workers are divided into four preference categories based on the work they do and the skills they possess. The categories are designated as EB1, EB2, EB3, and EB4.
EB1 – Priority Workers
The first category comprises what are known as ‘priority workers’. This particular category is eligible for almost 29% of the annual allotment of permanent residency visas. Workers in this category are divided into a number of subcategories:
Workers with extraordinary ability in their respective fields. They are typically involved in business, education, arts, sciences, or athletics.
Professors and researchers are considered outstanding in their fields. These workers must have a minimum of three years’ experience and be internationally recognized for their work.
Executives and managers with at least one year of verifiable employment (within the last three years) with an overseas affiliate of the American employer. Such workers must be coming to the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial position.
All workers in the first preference category must be the direct beneficiaries of their respective I-140 forms.
EB2 – Workers and Shortage Occupations
The second preference category involves workers employed in jobs considered shortage occupations by the DOL’s Labor Market Information Pilot Program. There are two subcategories within this group:
Advanced degree professionals with at least five years of professional experience.
Workers with exceptional abilities – defined as being significantly above the norm in their respective fields – in the arts, sciences, or business.
In order to qualify under the EB2 preference category, a legitimate job offer must be in place and the American employer must have filed a petition on behalf of the worker.
EB3 – Skilled and Degreed Workers
Continuing down the list, the third category of preference goes to skilled workers and professionals with a bachelor’s degree, at minimum. All workers in this category must be employed in jobs considered shortage occupations by the DOL. They must also have an approved Form I-140 filed on behalf by their employers.
EB4 – Special Immigrants
The fourth and final preference category includes a broad range of workers who qualify for permanent residency based on a special category. Examples include physicians, religious workers and former United States government employees.
Trickle-Down Visa Opportunities
As experts in immigration law, we can tell you that there are far more applicants each year than there are available visas. The best immigration attorneys can do is provide advice and assistance in making sure documents are filled out correctly. Ultimately, though, a lottery system decides who gets the visas.
On a positive note, the permanent resident approval system works on a trickle-down principle. If all available first preference visas are not issued in a given year, the unused visas are passed on to second preference workers. Likewise for second preference visas. Any left unused after the annual lottery are passed on to the third preference category.
If all of this sounds complicated, it is because it is. Furthermore, it illustrates why the services of an experienced business immigration attorney are invaluable.
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