company staff at work

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly minimum of 140,000 employment based immigrant visas which are divided into 5 preference categories. They may require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, and the filing of a petition with the INS.

The First Preference Category (E1) or Priority Workers consists of Persons of:

  • Extraordinary Ability: in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The individual should continue the work in the same field and the entry should substantially benefit the U.S. prospectively.
  • Outstanding Professors and Researchers: requires that the individual be internationally recognized in an academic area and possess at least three years of academic research or teaching experience; have a tenure or tenure track position at a university or an institute of higher education or a comparable research position in an institution that employs at least 3 persons full time in research and which institution has achieved documented accomplishments in the field.
  • Multinational Executive or Manager requires that the individual be employed abroad in that capacity during at least one of the three years preceding the application for admission to the U.S. as a priority worker. S/he must enter the U.S. to be employed as an executive or manager for the same firm, corporation, or legal entity or a subsidiary or affiliate of the entity that employed him/her abroad.

The Employment Second Preference (E2) consists of professionals holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional ability in the Arts, Sciences, or Business. All Second Preference applicants must have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. A job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant. Aliens may apply for exemption from the job offer and labor certification if the exemption would be in the national interest, in which case the alien may file the petition.

The Employment Third Preference (E3) consists of Skilled Workers, Professionals Holding Baccalaureate Degrees, and Other Workers. All such workers require a labor certification. There are 3 subgroups within this category:

  • Skilled Workers are persons capable of performing a job requiring at least two years of training or experience
  • Professionals with a baccalaureate degree are members of a profession with at least a university bachelor’s degree; and
  • Other Workers are those persons capable of filling positions requiring less than two years of training or experience.

The Employment Fourth Preference (E4) consists of Special Immigrants. There are six subgroups within this category:

  • Religious Workers;
  • Certain overseas employees of the U.S. Government;
  • Former employees of the Panama Canal Company;
  • Retired employees of international organizations;
  • Certain dependents of international organization employees; and
  • Certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Employment Fifth Preference (E5) consists of employment creation investors. To qualify, an alien must invest between the U.S. $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending on the employment rate in the geographical area, in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. which creates at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and his or her family.


The information contained in these web pages is provided for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client relationship.


Temporary Work Visa


Employment may be the best way to get permanent residence if you don’t have close relatives in the U.S. To get a green card based on employment, the individual needs an employer in the U.S. The employer must be able to show that he or she can pay the usual salary for the job and the job must be full-time. A Labor Certification from the U.S. Labor Department must be obtained. Examples of successful positions have included: household cooks, computer engineers, automobile mechanics, skilled carpenters, other professional jobs, including import-export positions.

H-1B Temporary Worker: Individuals who obtain a permanent or temporary position with a U.S. employer requiring a professional level of education and experience. An H1-B visa can be issued for up to three years and then extended for a total of six years.

To qualify for this visa, unless you are a fashion model, you need at least a bachelor’s degree or substantial on-the-job experience that is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. To qualify for an H-1B visa, you must first have a job offer from a U.S. employer for duties to be performed in the U.S. The employer must file an attestation with the federal Department of Labor, which among other things, certifies that the employer will be paying at least the average or “prevailing” wage for that type of job in the particular geographic area.

TN Professionals Under NAFTA: Under NAFTA, Mexican and Canadian citizens in designated professions may be admitted for one-year intervals to work in their profession. TN professionals can receive extensions of stay in one-year increments, with no outside limit on the total period of stay. In addition, Canadian and Mexican professionals who have already completed six years in the H-1 or L nonimmigrant category can immediately qualify for the TN category without fulfilling the requirement of one year abroad imposed by the INS regulations for H-1 and L aliens. The only limitation on the duration of stay of TN nonimmigrants is that the purpose of the stay must continue to be temporary.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee: This visa allows a person who has been a manager, executive, or a person with specialized knowledge, to transfer to a U.S. affiliate or subsidiary of the overseas company. The L-1 visa can be issued for up to three years and can be extended up to seven years. You qualify for an L-1 visa if you have been employed outside the U.S. as a manager, executive, or person with specialized knowledge for at least one of the past three years, and you are transferred to the U.S. to be employed in a similar position. The U.S. company to which you are transferring must be a branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or joint venture partner of your non-U.S. employer. To get an L-1 visa, it is not necessary that either your non-U.S. or prospective U.S. employer be operating in a particular business structure. Any legal form of doing business is acceptable, including, but not restricted to, corporations, limited companies, partnerships, joint ventures, and sole proprietorships.

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