Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

How To Apply for Immigrant Based on Employment

Thousands of foreign nationals every year go through the journey of becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States. This transition from a nonimmigrant to a permanent resident is more than just an adjustment of status. For most, it signifies an important milestone representing stability and the opportunity to live, work, or study in the United States. It offers the chance of family reunification, long-term employment, and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.

Navigating this path involves understanding the complex rules of U.S. immigration laws. The rules may depend on each visa category. For instance, those filing a green card application in the U.S. need an adjustment of status. Meanwhile, foreign workers processing their visas in their home country must undergo consular processing. This article aims to give a comprehensive overview of how to apply for employment-based green cards.

The Benefits of a Green Card for Foreign Employees

Securing a lawful permanent residency (LPR) or green card is an important milestone for most foreign employees in the United States. It is a significant shift in their personal and professional lives, as green card holders can live and work permanently in the country. This opens the opportunity and various benefits, which include the following:

  1. Job security and career mobility. Compared with a particular employment-based immigrant visa, a green card does not limit you to work with a specific employer. This allows greater flexibility for work opportunities and professional growth. It also enables you to explore diverse roles in various industries without visa constraints and limitations.
  2. Broader range of employment benefits. Green card holders can use a wider range of employment benefits. This includes retirement plans and other benefits often reserved only for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  3. Family reunification. A green card holder may also sponsor their immediate family members, such as spouses and children, to join them in the United States.
  4. Opportunity to apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. After meeting residency requirements and other criteria, a permanent resident may apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. This change grants them all the rights and responsibilities of a U.S. Citizen. Employment-based immigrant visa holders can't use this immigration benefit.

Which Visa Categories Can Get a Green Card?

Not all visa categories offer a path to permanent residency. If you want a green card through an employment visa, learning which ones offer a path to permanent residency is essential. The U.S. immigration laws categorize these visas through employment-based preferences.

USCIS has five categories of immigration status based on employment. Below is a list depending on its preference category:

First preference (EB-1) — priority workers

  • People with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
  • Certain multinational managers and executives

Second preference (EB-2) — People who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers)

Third preference (EB-3) — S

Fourth preference EB-4: Special immigrants —Religious workers; current and former employees of the U.S. government living overseas

Fifth preference EB-5: Immigrant investors — Those seeking green cards in connection with a new commercial enterprise (annual limit of 10,000)

Steps To Become a Lawful Permanent Resident in the U.S. Through Employment

Under U.S. immigration laws, an immigrant is a foreign national authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) involves multiple steps. Each requires coordination and attention from the U.S. employer and the foreign worker. The following are the basic steps that you have to observe to get permanent resident status through employment:

  1. File an immigrant petition. The process starts with the U.S. employer filing an immigrant petition on your behalf. This is a crucial step for most employment-based immigration. The employer submits the petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It requires prior approval before the visa application process can proceed. The petition discusses the foreign worker's eligibility and the U.S. employer's hiring intent.
  2. Labor certification. Employers file a large number of employment-based immigrant petitions for permanent labor certification. The U.S. Department of Labor approves this certification. The approval happens after the U.S. employer shows insufficient qualified, able, and willing U.S. workers to fill the position. The certification also asks the employer to attest that hiring the foreign worker will not hurt the working conditions and wage rates of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  3. Immigrant Visa Number Issuance. After approval of the immigration petition, the U.S. Department of State (State Department) then issues an immigrant visa number. This number signifies your place in the immigrant visa line. Note that the number of visas depends on the yearly numerical limit. Your priority date also varies depending on the employment visa category and country of origin.
  4. Adjustment of status to permanent resident. If you are already in the U.S. when the USCIS issues you an immigrant visa number, the next step is to file for a green card. This process is adjustment of status from nonimmigrant visa to permanent resident. It requires filing the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). It is a process that is separate from the application for employment-based visas.
  5. Notification from the U.S. consulate. If you were outside the United States when the visa application started, the U.S. embassy or U.S. Consular office would notify you once your visa number is available. They will then complete processing your immigrant visa. The process includes providing necessary documents and attending visa interviews.

Each step is essential to becoming a permanent resident in the United States. But, the process and required documentation may vary depending on each visa category. There are also frequent changes and amendments in U.S. immigration laws, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act. With this in mind, seek legal advice from an immigration lawyer.

For more details on each immigration preference, including examples of documentary evidence and information about the application process, click on the appropriate links below:

Checking the Status of Your Petition

You can check your case status through the USCIS website. The Case Status Online is a page with an online tool to help visa applicants track the status of their immigration petition, application, or request. When accessing the site, keep your receipt number near you. The receipt number is the 13-character identifier the USCIS gives each applicant.

Appealing an Adverse Decision

You may appeal if your Petition for Alien Worker gets denied. To do so, you must file a Notice of Appeal and the required fee with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center within 33 days of getting notice of the denial.

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Law Attorney

The path to permanent residency in the United States through employment can be complicated. The process requires understanding each visa category's rules and nuances. There are also several documents that you must submit to ensure the success of your application. Because of its complexities and corresponding legal consequences, seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can help you understand the immigrant visa process applicable to your case.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select
Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options