U.S. Permanent Residency/Green Cards Through Employment

The United States has an employment preference system that allows certain immigrants to apply for U.S. permanent residency. Generally, you must have a U.S. employer sponsor you for permanent residency. However, you do not need an employer to sponsor you if you qualify for a national interest waiver or if you qualify under the EB-1 category for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

Current law allows for the issuance of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas per year. Ten thousand of these visas are reserved for immigrant investors, who fall in the EB-5 category. The remaining visas are divided among four categories of employment preferences. Each category is defined by the type of worker who qualifies for immigration to the United States. The number of visas available in each category is limited both by annual limits and per country limits.

The table below summarizes how visas are allocated under the current employment preference system.


Type of Worker

Employment Preference Category

Priority workers—persons of “extraordinary ability,” “outstanding professors and researchers,” and “certain multinational executives and managers.”

1st – EB-1

Persons who are “members of the professions holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability.”

2nd – EB -2

Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers. Skilled workers must be capable of performing skilled labor that requires at least two years of training or experience. Other workers include workers that perform “unskilled labor” but are not temporary or seasonal workers.

3rd – EB- 3

Special immigrant religious workers.

4th – EB-4

Investors – Persons who have between $500,000 and $1 million to invest in a job-creating enterprise in the United States. Each qualifying investor must employ at least 10 U.S. workers.

5th – EB-5