How to Choose a Green Card for Your Job

Career Resources

application-1915347_640If you are looking to legally enter and obtain residence in the United States, one of the most popular ways to do so is by applying for an employment-based green card. Green cards are issued based on employment categories and there are strict requirements, but as long as you know what to expect and which green card to apply for, you have a strong chance of obtaining one.

The Five Preference Categories of Employment

Before you apply for a green card, you need to understand which of the five preference categories you fit into. Visas are allocated based on the category, and once a category is filled it is marked oversubscribed. Green cards are then issued in chronological order until the categories are full.

  • First Preference: Known as EB-1. Job seekers with extraordinary abilities. Usually researchers, international executives or researchers
  • Second Preference: Known as EB-2. Job seekers with an advanced degree or with exceptional abilities
  • Third Preference: Known as EB-3. Job seekers with a bachelor’s degree
  • Fourth Preference: Known as EB-4. Job seekers known as special immigrants. Usually religious workers, U.S. foreign-service post employees or international organization retired employees
  • Fifth Preference: Known as EB-5. Investors whose venture creates at least 10 new jobs and invests $500,000 to $1 million

Keep in mind that the above are general guidelines and it may be helpful to contact an employment lawyer to help you determine which category you fit into. Furthermore, there are other categories such as H-1B, P-1, L-1 and O-1 you may qualify for and want to consider.

Do You Need a Job Offer Before Applying?

You do need a job offer for a permanent employment position in the United States, unless you are eligible to self-petition for a green card. Once you have a job offer, you can apply for a green card and your potential new employer may be able to help with the process by sponsoring you.

What’s the Difference Between EB-2 and EB-3?

The EB-2 and EB-3 green cards are two of the most popular, and they are similar to each other, as well. In order to apply for the right one, you need to understand the differences between the two.

The EB-2 requires five years of work experience plus a degree beyond the bachelor’s degree. Potential employees may also get an EB-2 by showing exceptional abilities in certain areas such as business, science or the arts.

The EB-3 green card is for skilled workers who have at least two years of experience or a bachelor’s degree. An example of a skilled worker is a plumber or an electrician. You can’t get an EB-3 for temporary or seasonal work, it must be for permanent employment in the United States.

Why Would You Choose EB-2 Instead of EB-3?

If you qualify for both categories, you may want to choose to file under EB-2 instead of EB-3. The EB-2 category is more selective, so the approval process is shorter than the EB-3 visa. The EB-3 also usually has a long wait list of other workers, which makes getting an EB-3 a long and difficult process.

What Is Labor Certification?

Labor certification is needed from the employer for EB-2 and EB-3 green cards. EB-1 doesn’t require labor certification, which can make the application process a little faster.

Labor certification is a process in which the employer has to show foreign workers aren’t taking jobs from U.S. citizens. Basically, they need to show there are no other qualified citizens or even permanent residents that could fill the job opening.

The employer must hold a recruitment period to attempt to fill the position with American workers. Once it becomes clear there are no U.S. workers qualified, your application for a green card can be filed with the Department of Labor. The process from beginning to end can take anywhere from five to 18 months.

How Many Green Cards Are Issued Annually?

140,000 employment-based green cards are issued each year, with a certain amount being allotted per country. Right now, a country can have up to 9,800 employment-based green cards each year. This number is the same for every country and represents 7 percent of the total number of employment-based green cards issued.

The 9,800 employment-based green cards are then allotted to workers based on the five categories discussed above, with the following percentages:

  • EB-1: 28.6%
  • EB-2: 28.6%
  • EB-3: 28.6%
  • EB-4: 7.1%
  • EB-5: 7.1%

Keep in mind that obtaining an employment-based green card can take several years because there is usually a long wait list for each category. Once you’ve filed the appropriate forms, you are given a priority date and an immigrant visa number that determines the order in which the employment-based green cards are issued.

Obtaining an employment-based green card can be frustrating, but it’s worth it in the end. You may want to work with an experienced employment lawyer so you know exactly what you need to do to position yourself in the best way to reduce your wait time.