Employment-Based Immigration

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Foreign nationals who wish to stay in the U.S. permanently can be sponsored through an employer or on the merit of their own background. Each category for employment-based visas is subject to an annual quota.

Extraordinary Ability

This category is designed to provide lawful permanent residence to an individual who has achieved an international level of distinction in his or her field. Nobel Prize winners, professional athletes, highly regarded performing and fine artists, and internationally renowned scientists, researchers and authors fall into this group, though there is no restriction on any particular field. To be successful, an applicant must establish international recognition in his or her field by providing such evidence as international awards, a high level of compensation and supporting letters from others who are renowned for their own accomplishments in the same field.

Outstanding Professors and Researchers

Individuals who have shown a high level of recognition and acclaim for their efforts as researchers or university professors may obtain lawful permanent residence. The government generally requires publication in peer-reviewed journals (particularly ones that are selective), presentations at international conferences, grants and other awards and recognitions. The scholars are asked to provide supporting letters from colleagues in the same field attesting to the outstanding nature of the applicant’s teaching and research accomplishments.

Multinational Managers and Executives

A company with offices inside and outside of the U.S. may sponsor an employee, including someone who owns an interest, who has been serving in a managerial or executive capacity outside of the U.S. to work for the company’s U.S. office. The company must show that the office sending the employee to the U.S. and the office in the U.S. are related. Additionally, the company must show that the potential employee has been in a managerial or executive capacity for at least 12 months within the past three years and that he or she is coming to the U.S. to serve in a managerial or executive position.

Religious Workers

Ordained ministers and religious lay workers who serve their religious organizations in a professional or traditional religious capacity may be sponsored by their organization for lawful permanent residence. To qualify, the organization must show that the sponsored individual has been employed with the organization full time for 24 consecutive months in a religious-worker capacity, such as an ordained minister, pastor, monk, nun, priest, imam or other traditional religious vocational, professional or ministerial position. The employment must somehow be compensated, preferably through a salary or stipend, although in-kind compensation also may be considered.

Sponsorship Through Labor Certification

Employers can sponsor employees or potential employees for lawful permanent residence through a process called labor certification. The process typically involves testing the local labor market for qualified U.S. workers who may be looking for such a position. If no qualified applicants are found, the employer submits the application to the Labor Department then files a petition with the Department of Homeland Security to establish the ability to pay the wage offered in the labor certification. Once approved, the sponsored individual and his or her family are cleared to file applications for lawful permanent residence.
Last update: Sept. 25, 2008