EMPLOYMENT FIRST PREFERENCE (E1) - Priority Workers
A First Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Foreign Worker, Form I-140, filed with USCIS. Labor certification is not required for any of the Priority Worker subgroups. Priority Workers receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.
There are three sub-groups within this category:
- Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their fields of expertise. Such applicants do not have to have specific job offers, so long as they are entering the U.S. to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary ability. Such applicants can file their own Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
- Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally. Applicants in this category must be coming to the U.S. to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
- Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the 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 managerial or executive capacity. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
EMPLOYMENT SECOND PREFERENCE (E2) - Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
A Second Preference applicant must generally have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. A job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, on behalf of the applicant. Applicants may apply for an exemption, known as a National Interest Waiver, from the job offer and labor certification if the exemption would be in the national interest. In this case, the applicant may self-petition by filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, along with evidence of the national interest. Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference category.
There are two subgroups within this category:
- Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession
- 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 sciences, arts, or business.
EMPLOYMENT THIRD PREFERENCE (E3) - Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
A Third Preference applicant must have an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, filed by the prospective employer. All such workers generally require labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference and Second Preference categories.
There are three subgroups within this category:
- Skilled workers are persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
- Professionals are members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.
- Unskilled workers (Other workers) are persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
EMPLOYMENT FOURTH PREFERENCE (E4) - Certain Special Immigrants
A Fourth Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360, with the exception of Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad (see number 3 below). Labor certification is not required for any of the Certain Special Immigrants subgroups. Special Immigrants receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.
There are many subgroups within this category:
- Broadcasters in the U.S. employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors or a grantee of such organization
- Ministers of Religion
- Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad - Must use Form DS-1884, Petition To Classify Special Immigrant Under INA 203(b)(4) As An Employee Or Former Employee of the U.S. Government Abroad
- Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government
- Certain Former Employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone
- Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979
- Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators who have worked directly with the United States armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator/interpreter for a period of at least 12 months and meet requirements. This classification has an annual numeric limitation of 50 visas. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters - Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
- Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for not less than one year after March 20th, 2003 or in Afghanistan for not less than one year after October 7th, 2001, and have experienced an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. The provision in U.S. law for Iraqi nationals created 5,000 special immigrant visas each fiscal year (FY) for 5 years, from FY2008 through FY2012. The provision in U.S. law for Afghan nationals created 1,500 special immigrant visas each fiscal year for 5 years from FY2009 through FY2013. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government and Afghans - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government for more information.
- Certain Foreign Medical Graduates (Adjustments Only)
- Certain Retired International Organization Employees
- Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of International Organization Employees
- Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased International Organization Employees
- Juvenile Court Dependents (no family member derivatives; Adjustments Only)
- Persons Recruited Outside of the United States Who Have Served or are Enlisted to Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces
- Certain retired NATO-6 civilians
- Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of NATO-6 civilians
- Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees
- Persons who are beneficiaries of petitions or labor certification applications filed prior to September 11th, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act on September 11th, 2001
- Certain Religious Workers
EMPLOYMENT FIFTH PREFERENCE (E5) - Immigrant Investors
A Fifth Preference applicant must file an Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, Form I-526, with USCIS. Labor certification is not required for Immigrant Investors. To qualify as an Immigrant Investor, a foreign citizen must invest between U.S. $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending on the unemployment rate in the geographical area, in a commercial enterprise in the United States which creates at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and his or her family. Immigrant Investors receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.
NEXT STEPS – FEES AND VISA APPLICATION
After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will send the Choice of Address and Agent form to the applicant, if an attorney or agent will be used. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not send you this form.) NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing.
Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?
Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations.
All categories of employment-based immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached.
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