Employment-Based Immigration

Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year for individuals who seek to immigrate through employment in the United States. If you have the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience and are otherwise eligible, you may be able to live permanently in the United States. The five employment-based immigrant visa preferences categories are listed below.


Employment First Preference (EB-1)

You may be eligible for an employment-based, first-preference visa if you have an extraordinary ability, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational executive or manager.

  1. Extraordinary Ability:  You must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required.  You must meet 3 of 10 criteria listed below, or provide evidence of a one-time achievement (i.e., Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic Medal);
  2. Outstanding Professors and Researchers:  You must demonstrate international recognition for your outstanding achievements in a particular academic field. You must have at least 3 years experience in teaching or research in that academic area. You must be entering the United States in order to pursue tenure or tenure track teaching or comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education.  You must include documentation of at least two criteria listed below and an offer of employment from the prospective U.S. employer.
  3. Multinational Manager or Executive:  You must have been employed outside the United States in the 3 years preceding the petition for at least 1 year by a U.S. firm or corporation and you must be seeking to enter the United States to continue service to that firm or organization. Your employment must have been outside the United States in a managerial or executive capacity and with the same employer, an affiliate, or a subsidiary of the employer.

      Criteria for Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts

Employment Second Preference (EB-2)

You may be eligible for an employment-based, second preference visa if you are a member of a profession that holds an advanced degree or its equivalent, or a foreign national who has exceptional ability.  All Second Preference applicants must have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor, or Schedule A designation. A job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant. An individual may apply for exemption from the job offer and labor certification if the exemption would be in the national interest.

  1. Advanced Degree:  The job you apply for must require an advanced degree and you must possess such a degree or its equivalent (a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years progressive work experience in the field).  As evidence, you must show documentation, such as an official academic record showing that you have a U.S. advanced degree or a foreign equivalent degree, or an official academic record showing that you have a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree and letters from current or former employers showing that you have at least 5 years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in the specialty.
  2. Exceptional Ability:  You must be able to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.  Exceptional ability “means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”  You must meet at least three of the criteria below to qualify in this category.
  3. National Interest Waiver:  Aliens seeking a national interest waiver are requesting that the Labor Certification be waived because it is in the interest of the United States.  Though the jobs that qualify for a national interest waiver are not defined by statute, national interest waivers are usually granted to those who have exceptional ability (see above) and whose employment in the United States would greatly benefit the national.  You must meet at least three of the criteria below and demonstrate that it is in the national interest that you work permanently in the United States.


  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to  your area of exceptional ability
  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation
  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation
  • Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association(s)
  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

Employment Third Preference (EB-3)

You may be eligible for this immigrant visa preference category if you are a skilled worker, professional, or other worker.  You must be performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.  A labor certification is required as well as a permanent full-time job offer or Schedule A designation.  Currently, only nurses and physical therapists qualify for Schedule A designation. There are three subgroups within this category:

  1. Skilled Worker:  You must be able to demonstrate at least 2 years of job experience or training.
  2. Professionals:  You must be able to demonstrate that you possess a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign degree equivalent, and that a baccalaureate degree is the normal requirement for entry into the occupation.
  3. Unskilled Workers (Other Workers):  You must be capable, at the time the petition is filed on your behalf, of performing unskilled labor (requiring less than 2 years training or experience), that is not of a temporary or seasonal nature, for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.

Employment Fourth Preference (EB-4)

You may be eligible for an employment-based, fourth preference visa if you are a special immigrant. The following special immigrants are eligible for the fourth preference visa:

  1. Religious Workers
  2. Broadcasters
  3. Iraqi/Afghan Translators
  4. Iraqis Who Have Assisted the United States
  5. International Organization Employees
  6. Physicians
  7. Armed Forces Members
  8. Panama Canal Zone Employees
  9. Retired NATO-6 employees, and Spouses and Children of Deceased NATO-6 employees

Employment Fifth Preference (EB-5)

The Immigrant Investor Program was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors To qualify, an alien must invest between $500,000 and $1,000,000 (depending on the employment rate in the geographical area) in a commercial enterprise in the United States 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 within two years.

I-140 Immigrant Petition & Labor Certification

All intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa application on employment in the United States must obtain an approved immigrant visa petition from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Some immigrant visa preferences require you to already have a job offer from a U.S. employer. This employer will be considered your sponsor. For some visa categories, before the U.S. employer can submit an immigration petition to US Citizenship and Immigration service, the employer must obtain an approved labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL labor certification verifies that there are insufficient available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage, and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

Visa Ineligibility / Waiver

The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the health, welfare, and security of the U.S., prohibit the issuance of a visa to certain applicants. Examples of applicants who must be refused visas are those who: have a communicable disease, or have a dangerous physical or mental disorder; have committed serious criminal acts; are terrorists, subversives, members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war criminals; have used illegal means to enter the U.S.; or are ineligible for citizenship. Some former exchange visitors must live abroad for two years. Physicians who intend to practice medicine must pass a qualifying exam before receiving immigrant visas. If found to be ineligible, the consular officer will advise the applicant of any waivers.

Other Important Information

Documents for Visa Application

All applicants must submit certain personal documents such as passports, birth certificates, police certificates, and other civil documents, as well as evidence that they will not become public charges in the United States. The consular officer will inform visa applicants of the documents needed as their applications are processed. Before the issuance of an immigrant visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination. The examination will be conducted by a doctor designated by the consular officer. The applicant must pay for the examination.

Numerical Limitations

Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available numbers, the category will be considered oversubscribed, and immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant’s priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant’s priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. For the latest priority dates, see the US Department of State’s visa bulletin website here.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, Information for Permanent Workers

United States Department of State, Employment Based Immigrant Visas


More information about Employment-based Second Preference Visa Category
Information for Employers and Employees
Permanent Workers
Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers