U.S. law provides employers with several limited ways to bring foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. A permanent employment visa (commonly referred to as a “green card”) allows a foreign national to work and live lawfully and permanently in the United States. Lawful permanent residents are subject to fewer restrictions than temporary workers (nonimmigrants), and generally may apply for U.S. citizenship after five years. In most cases, the individual’s employer must file a petition with USCIS. An immigrant visa number must be available before a person can apply for a ‘green card’.
What Kind of Work Visas Are There?
A U.S. employer may sponsor a prospective or current foreign national employee who is inside or outside the United States and who may qualify under one or more of the employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories. These EB visa categories are organized by occupational priorities as mandated by Congress.
The first four of these EB visa categories are available to otherwise eligible foreign nationals sponsored by U.S. employers:
Priority Workers EB-1 –: There are noncitizen foreign nationals who have
- Extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; and workers granted a national interest waiver. These workers are not required to have a job offer and may self-petition (the worker does not need an employer to sponsor them). Individuals of extraordinary ability are considered to be the best of the best in their field and it is an eligibility category that applies to very few individuals. Examples of who may be considered an immigrant include Nobel Prize winners, notable athletes, and others who have achieved great successes in their field.
- Outstanding professors and researchers;
- Multinational executives and managers.
Professionals With Advanced Degrees or Persons With Exceptional Ability – EB-2: This category is for noncitizen foreign nationals who, have:
- Exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, whose services will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the United States; or
- Aliens who are members of professions holding advanced degrees or the equivalent.
Professional or Skilled Workers EB-3 – This category is for:
- Professionals with a baccalaureate degree;
- Aliens capable of performing skilled labor (requiring at least 2 years of training or experience) for which qualified workers are not available in the United States;
- Aliens capable of performing unskilled labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States. Jobs that fall in this category generally require less than 2 years’ experience. There are only 10,000 visas available worldwide in this category.
Special Immigrants — EB-4 –
- Afghan/Iraqi Translator
- International Organization Employee
- Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
- NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
- Panama Canal Employee
- Physician National Interest Waiver
- Religious Worker
Green Card through Investment
Entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and who plan to create or preserve ten permanent full time jobs for qualified United States workers, are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence).
Up to 10,000 visas may be authorized each fiscal year for eligible entrepreneurs.
You must invest $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual.
For more information, see Section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and 8 CFR 204.6.
Eligibility Criteria: You may be eligible to receive permanent residence based on investment if:
- You have an approved Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
- You are admissible to the United States
- An immigrant visa is immediately available