Qualifications for Employment-Based Green Cards

You may be eligible for a work permit depending on your education and profession.

Every year, applicants from around the world are granted green cards in employment based categories. In general, you can obtain a green card based on a employment opportunity offered to you in the United States. Your area of expertise and your educational and experiential background will determine which employment based category is right for you. We outline the details of these categories below:

EB-1: Priority Workers

The EB-1 immigrant visa category is reserved for highly capable foreign nationals. “Priority Workers” are divided into three subcategories, including:

A.Workers of Extraordinary Ability
B.Outstanding University Professors or Researchers, and
C.Multinational Managers and Executives.

Obtaining a U.S. green card for a priority worker is typically easier than doing so in any of the other employment-based visa categories. The two main advantages of the EB-1 immigrant visa categories are:

  • 1. An employer and employee can avoid the Labor Certification process, which is typically required of the EB-2 and EB-3 categories. An employer does not need to start the green card process by attempting to recruit a U.S. worker for the job, and then seek labor certification (confirmation that no such workers are available) on the employee’s behalf. This process tends to take many months, require additional costs, and involves staggering complexity.
  • 2. The immigrant visa numbers for the EB-1 category are typically “current” – even for citizens of high-demand countries such as India, China and Mexico. The government “prioritizes” visa numbers for these types of applicants. This means that the foreign national is immediately eligible to file a Form I-485 application to adjust one’s status after the I-140 petition is approved.

The requirements for the EB-1 subcategories vary and are summarized below.

EB-1A Persons of Extraordinary Ability

The EB-1A classification is appropriate for individuals who are recognized as being at the very top of their field and who are coming to the U.S. to continue work in that same field. This visa category provides foreign nationals with one of the fastest channels to obtaining a green card. Individuals fall into this first category if they are persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, art, education, business or athletics. To establish eligibility, an applicant must demonstrate several requirements:

1.The foreign national has sustained national or international acclaim, and that the applicant’s achievements have been recognized in the field of expertise.

      This may be demonstrated by receipt of a major internationally recognized award, similar to a Nobel Prize, Olympic Medal, Oscar, etc. Alternatively, in the absence of such a major honor, applicants can still demonstrate their extraordinary ability by meeting any three of the following 10 criteria:

      • Have you received any lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor?
      • Are you a member of associations that require outstanding achievements of their members as judged by recognized national or international experts?
      • Is there published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you which relates to your work in the field?
      • Have you participated on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization?
      • Have you made original scientific, scholarly or business contributions that are of major significance?
      • Have you authored scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media?
      • Has your work been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases?
      • Have you played a leading or critical role for an organization with a distinguished reputation?
      • Have you or will you command a high salary or other remuneration for your services in comparison to others in your field?
      • Have you enjoyed commercial successes in the performing arts?

It’s imperative that the applicant include supporting documentation to show how the foreign national meets the fundamental criteria of extraordinary ability. If the criteria discussed in this section does not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, comparable evidence may be submitted to establish eligibility.

2.Applicants must prove that they will continue to pursue work in the U.S. in the field in which they have claimed extraordinary abilities.

    To meet this requirement, applicants may submit letters from current or prospective employers confirming the applicant’s work arrangements, documents evidencing prearranged commitments in the U.S. (contracts), or a statement detailing an applicant’s plans for continued work in the U.S.

Unlike virtually all other employment-based green card categories, EB-1A applicants can “self-petition,” meaning an applicant can file this green card petition without U.S. employer sponsorship.

Procedurally, an EB-1A application is filed with Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Processing times vary based on filing location. Premium Processing is also available, whereby the government will issue a response on the petition within 15 calendar days of receiving the application through payment of an additional fee.

Upon approval, USCIS will adjudicate the applicant’s Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status if the applicant is currently in the United States. Alternatively, the National Visa Center will review documentation for Visa Processing for applicants who are outside the United States and need to attend a visa interview at a Consulate or Embassy abroad.

EB-1B Outstanding Professors or Researchers

Outstanding Professors or Researchers are considered priority workers who are internationally recognized as exceptional in a particular scientific or scholarly field. They must also have at least three years of experience in teaching or research. More specifically, foreign nationals applying for the EB-1B designation must prove three general qualifications:

1.The foreign national has been internationally recognized for his or her outstanding achievements in a particular academic field.

EB-1B petitioners must include documentation establishing that the immigrant visa applicant has satisfied at least two of the following six criteria:

    • Evidence of receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement;
    • Evidence of membership in associations that require their members to demonstrate outstanding achievements;
    • Evidence of published material in professional publications written by others about the alien’s work (i.e. more than merely citing the alien’s work);
    • Evidence of participation, either on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied academic field;
    • Evidence of original scientific or scholarly contributions in the field;
    • Evidence of authorship of scholarly books or articles in academic or scholarly journals with international circulations in the field.

2.The foreign national has at least three (3) years of relevant research or teaching experience in a particular academic field.

Note that any experience accrued while the applicant was in pursuit of an advanced degree, such as a Ph.D., can only be counted toward this requirement under three scenarios: (1) the foreign national had already acquired the degree; (2) the teaching duties were such that the foreign national had full responsibility for the class taught; or (3) the research conducted toward the degree was recognized as outstanding within the academic field. All work experience must be documented by detailed letters from former employers.

3.The sponsoring employer is providing a job or future job offer to the foreign national for a permanent research position or a tenured or tenure-track teaching position in the United States.

As with all employment-based, first-preference petitions, EB-1B petitions do not require a labor certification. However, unlike self-petitioned EB-1A immigrant visa applications, EB-1B petitions are employer-sponsored. This means that the foreign national must have a permanent job offer with a U.S. employer where the applicant will continue to demonstrate his or her “outstanding” abilities as a researcher or professor in that capacity.

A job offer to an applicant in the EB-1B category is generally provided by a University or academic or scientific institution, but it can also be offered by a private employer. If the offer is from a private employer, the employer must have at least three full-time researchers on its workforce. Additionally, the employer must supply documentation speaking to its own research accomplishments and standing in the relevant academic or research field.

Procedurally, an employer must file Form I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker on behalf of the EB-1B applicant. Processing times vary based on filing location; the 15-day Premium Processing service is also available for interested applicants.

Upon approval of the Form I-140 petition, USCIS will adjudicate the applicant’s Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status for employees who are currently in the United States. Alternatively, the National Visa Center will review documentation for Visa Processing for applicants who are outside the United States and need to attend a visa interview at a Consulate or Embassy abroad.

EB-1C Multinational Managers and Executives

The EB-1C category was created specifically for Multinational Managers and Executives who meet L-1A nonimmigrant standards and are interested in becoming lawful permanent residents. The principal distinction between the two categories is that the L-1 category is temporary and has a limit on the foreign national’s duration of stay in the U.S., while the EB-1C immigrant visa provides the applicant with the ability to permanently live and work in the U.S.

1.The petitioning employer must be a viable U.S. company, and the foreign national applicant must have been employed by an affiliated entity abroad for at least one year.

If the applicant is outside the United States, in the three years immediately preceding the filing of the green card petition, the applicant must have been employed for at least one year in a managerial or executive capacity by a qualifying entity abroad. If the applicant is already in the United States working for the petitioning entity, the applicant must have been employed by a qualifying entity abroad for at least one full year in a managerial or executive capacity in the three years preceding the applicant’s entry as a nonimmigrant. In relationship to the U.S. petitioner, the foreign company may be the parent, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate.

Although having L-1A status is not a prerequisite for an EB-1C approval, a foreign national may have a stronger case if he or she has been approved L-1A status with the petitioner.

2.The petitioner must show that the applicant’s high-level managerial or executive duties both abroad and in the United States involve critical decision-making, supervising, and other job duties that are essential to the livelihood of the business.

To establish the executive or managerial nature of the applicant’s positions both abroad and in the U.S., it is advisable to provide a breakdown in the percentage of time spent on job duties. Organizational charts are also helpful evidence to include.

Executive capacity means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:

(A) Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;

(B) Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;

(C) Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and

(D) Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

Managerial capacity means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:

        • (A) Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
        • (B) Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
        • (C) If another employee or other employees are directly supervised, has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization), or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
        • (D) Exercises direction over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.

While USCIS considers the number of professional employees the beneficiary supervises, the applicant’s role and function within the organization will also be considered. An employee who does not manage direct or indirect reports, but who oversees an essential component of the company’s day-to-day business operations may be considered a “function manager.” Here, the petitioner must show that the manager operates at a senior level within the company and has high-level responsibilities over an essential function or activity of the business.

Procedurally, an employer must file Form I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker on behalf of the EB-1C applicant with extensive evidence supporting the applicant’s managerial duties and qualifying employment. Processing times vary based on filing location, and Premium Processing is not available for the EB-1C category.

Upon approval, USCIS will adjudicate the applicant’s Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status for employees who are currently in the United States. Alternatively, the National Visa Center will review documentation for Visa Processing for applicants who are outside the United States and need to attend a visa interview at a Consulate or Embassy abroad.