The Basics of Employment-Based U.S. Visas

The Basics of Employment-Based U.S. Visas By Laraine SchwartzEach year, nearly 150,000 employment-based immigrant visas are issued to qualified applicants, pursuant to U.S. immigration law. Employment-based immigration is divided into five separate categories, each with its own specific requirements and annual limits.

These categories are:

1st Preference - Priority Workers: Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities (EB-1) 

  • Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants must have national or international recognition in their fields of expertise. They do not have to have specific job offers pending, but must be entering the U.S. to continue work in the fields in which they have expertise.
  • Outstanding professors and researchers with at least 3 years experience in teaching or researching, and are recognized internationally. Applicants in this category must be coming to the U.S. to continue their teaching careers.
  • Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least 1 of the last 3 years by the overseas affiliate or branch of a U.S. employer. The applicant’s employment outside of the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity, and the applicant must be coming to work in a similar managerial capacity here.

2nd Preference - Advanced Degree Holders and Aliens of Exceptional Ability (EB-2)

For this category to apply, an applicant must have a current job offer in the U.S., an approved Labor Certification from the Department of Labor (unless a National Interest Waiver is available), and his or her American employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) on behalf of the applicant.

There are two subgroups within this category:

  1. Professionals holding an advanced degree - or a baccalaureate degree plus at least 5 years of experience within his or her chosen profession.
  2. Persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability means having a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the given field.

3rd Preference - Professionals, Skilled Workers and Other Workers (EB-3)

All Third Preference applicants must also have an approved Labor Certification from the Department of Labor and Form I-140 filed by their prospective employers.

  1. Professionals: Members of the professions whose jobs require the equivalent of at least a baccalaureate degree from an accredited U.S. University.
  2. Skilled workers: Persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not considered temporary or seasonal.
  3. Other workers: Persons capable of filling job positions that require less than 2 years of training or experience and that are not considered temporary or seasonal.

4th Preference - Certain Special Immigrants (EB-4)

These applicants must have approved Petitions for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Juveniles and VAWA (Form I-360).

This is a broad category which encompasses a variety of different types of applicants, including those seeking reacquisition of citizenship, returning residents, religious workers, and U.S. employees abroad. Recently, due to American military actions, Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government have been added to this list.

5th Preference - Immigrant Investors (EB-5)

This category allows conditional residency for persons who invest a minimum of $500,000 to $1,000,000 or more in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Those granted visas for this category are given 2-year conditional resident status.

To see speciifcs on how you or a loved one might best qualify for an employment-based U.S. visa, take a look at all the details of the process at

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC

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