Employment Preference System & Visa Number Availablity
Each year 140,000 employment-based visas (or green cards) are allotted to foreigners seeking legal permanent residence based on employment in the U.S. These visas are distributed across five preference categories based on credentials. The spouses and children under 21 of these foreigners are counted against the total number of visas. The visas are evenly distributed among all countries with a quota set for each. Backlogs for individual from high-demand countries result even when the overall cap is not reached. Once the quota is met, then only those who applied before a set cut-off date may get visas.
The priority date is the date either the labor certification or the immigrant visa petition visa petition (where no labor certification is required) is filed. It is this date that determines the foreigner’s place in line for a visa number and this date is compared to the cut-off date for the foreigner’s employment-based immigrant visa preference category. If the quota has been reached for the foreigner’s preference category, then a visa number will be available only when the priority date is later than the cut-off date.
Employment-based Preference System
First Preference (EB-1) – Priority Workers
- Persons of extraordinary ability
- Outstanding researchers and professors
- Multinational executives and managers
Second Preference (EB-2)
- Members of the profession holding advanced degrees (including National Interest Waivers)
- Aliens of exceptional ability
Third Preference (EB-3)
- Skilled workers (position requires two years of experience and the alien possesses such experience)
- Professionals (requiring a bachelor’s degree)
- Other workers
Fourth Preference (EB-4) – Special Immigrants
Fifth Preference (EB-5) – Employment Creation (Investors)
Retention of Priority Date
An alien who is the beneficiary of an employment-based first, second or third preference approved immigrant visa petition is entitled to the earliest priority date where subsequent first, second or third preference immigrant visa petitions are submitted, unless the prior petition is revoked due to fraud.
Each year 140,000 employment-based visas (or green cards) are allotted to foreigners seeking legal permanent residence based on employment in the U.S.