According to the U.S. law there are several ways for foreign workers to come to the U.S.A. on a temporary or permanent basis. A permanent basis means permanent resident status or a “green card”. This status allows its holders to live and work permanently in the U.S.A. and apply for U.S. citizenship after five years.

About 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are available to qualified applicants each year. Besides numerical limits employment immigration has per-country limits. Immigrants from each country should not exceed 7% of the worldwide level of the U.S. immigration admissions.

The 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are split between the following five preferences:

  1. Employment 1st Preference (Е1) – Priority Workers

There are three subcategories in this preference:

  • Persons with extraordinary ability
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
  • Multinational managers or executives
  1. Employment 2nd Preference (Е2) – Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

There are two subcategories in this preference:

  • Professionals holding an advanced degree
  • Persons with exceptional ability
  1. Employment 3rd Preference (Е3) – Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers

There are three subcategories in this preference:

  • Skilled workers
  • Professionals
  • Unskilled workers
  1. Employment 4th Preference (Е4) – Certain Special Immigrants

There are many subcategories in this preference. They are listed on a separate page dedicated to the Employment 4th Preference.

  1. Employment 5th Preference (Е5) – Immigrant Investors

In most cases you need your prospective employer to sponsor you in order to be able to apply for an immigrant visa. First, your employer should get a labor certification approval for you from the U.S. Department of Labor. Then the employer can file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for your employment-based preference (see above). Persons with extraordinary abilities (in the first subcategory of the 1st Preference) can file their own petitions without their prospective employer’s sponsorship.

Employment immigrants’ spouses and unmarried children under 21 years can also apply for immigrant visas.