Green Card

If you want to get a U.S. green card based on your job in the United States, or if you are an employer that wants to sponsor someone for a green card, you must go through a multi-step process. This process generally involves complicated filings with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

First, the worker and the employer must determine if the worker is eligible for lawful permanent residency under one of USCIS' paths to lawful permanent residency.
Second, most employment categories require that the U.S. employer complete a labor certification request (Form ETA 750) for the applicant, and submit it to the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (DOL). DOL must either grant or deny the certification request. This process requires the employer to prove that it cannot find a qualified and willing U.S. worker for the position. This process is commonly referred to as Labor Certification.

Third, after receiving certification from the Department of Labor, USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for the person wishing to immigrate to the United States. The employer wishing to bring the applicant to the United States to work permanently files this petition. However, if a Department of Labor certification is needed the application can only be filed after the certification is granted. The employer acts as the sponsor (or petitioner) for the applicant (or beneficiary) who wants to live and work on a permanent basis in the United States.

Fourth, the State Department must give the applicant an immigrant visa number, even if the applicant is already in the United States. When the applicant receives an immigrant visa number, it means that an immigrant visa has been assigned to the applicant. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin. If a visa number is not available, the case will be delayed until a visa number becomes available. Depending on the job category, it can take years for a visa number to become available.

Fifth, if the applicant is already in the United States, in some circumstances he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (Form I-485) after a visa number becomes available. If the applicant is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, he or she will be notified and must complete the process at his or her local U.S. consulate office.


There are four categories for granting permanent residence to foreign nationals based upon employment:

EB-1 Priority workers

  • Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
  • Foreign national that are outstanding professors or researchers
  • Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the United States

EB-2 Professionals with advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability

  • Foreign nationals of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business
  • Foreign nationals that are advanced degree professionals
  • Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the U.S. which is underserved. Read more about this particular program.

EB-3 Skilled or professional workers

  • Foreign national professionals with bachelor's degrees (not qualifying for a higher preference category)
  • Foreign national skilled workers (minimum two years training and experience)
  • Foreign national unskilled workers

EB-4 Special Immigrants

  • Foreign national religious workers
  • Employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad

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