Immigrant visas allow you to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. An immigrant visa (sometimes called a “green card”) is based on either a business/employment petition or a family petition. A permanent resident becomes eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship once certain requirements are met.
Employment, 1st Preference: Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers, and Multinational Executives and Managers
Foreign nationals who qualify for one of these immigrant visa categories can obtain permanent residency without having to go through the labor certification process. A foreign national in the extraordinary category may self-petition, since a job offer is not required. A foreign national who qualifies for O-1 non-immigrant classification is generally considered “extraordinary” for purposes of permanent residency in this category. A foreign national who qualifies for L-1A non-immigrant classification generally qualifies for permanent residency in the multinational executive and manager category.
Employment, 2nd Preference: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts, or Business
This visa category normally requires a job offer and labor certification. Labor certification requires the employer to go through a process to be sure that the foreign national will not be taking away a job from a qualified U.S. worker. The job offer and labor certification process is waived if it is shown that it is in the U.S.’s national interest to do so.
Employment, 3rd Preference: Professionals and Skilled Workers
A job offer and labor certification is required for all third preference immigrants.
Employment, 4th Preference: Special Immigrant Religious Workers
This category is for ministers, and religious professionals and workers. A foreign national in R-1 non-immigrant religious status can generally become a permanent resident in the fourth preference immigrant category, if he or she has been a minister or working as a religious professional or worker for at least two years prior to filing for residency. A job offer is required, but labor certification is not required.
Employment, 5th Preference: Investor/Employment Creation Visas
Foreign nationals who invest $1 million (US$) in a commercial enterprise in the United States, or $500,000 (US$) in certain targeted employment areas, are eligible for permanent residency in this category. The commercial enterprise must create full-time jobs for at least 10 individuals. No labor certification is required.
Labor Certification is a determination by the U.S. Department of Labor that there are not sufficient available and qualified U.S. workers for the position and that employing the foreign national will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers who are similarly employed. Labor certification is the responsibility of the employer. All third preference immigrants must go through labor certification. Second preference immigrants must also go through labor certification, unless it can be shown that it is in the national interest to waive this requirement. First preference immigrants do not require labor certification.
U.S. citizens may petition for their spouses, children, parents, and siblings to immigrate to the United States and become permanent residents. Permanent residents may petition for their spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters to become permanent residents.
Spouses, parents, and children (unmarried, under 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens.
Family, 1st Preference
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of U.S. citizens.
Family, 2nd Preference
Spouses and children (unmarried, under 21 years of age) of permanent residents.
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of permanent residents.
Family, 3rd Preference
Married sons and daughters (21 or older) of U.S. citizens.