Employment based immigration, with a few exceptions such as special immigrants, persons of extraordinary ability, national interest waivers and investors, requires that an employer or prospective employer submit a petition on behalf of a foreign national. Typically, employment based petitions are filed with the INS Service Center having jurisdiction over the intended place of employment. This is done by filing an I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with INS. Congress has designated groups to which it gives preference in immigration to the United States, based on preference categories.
Filing an employment based petition under one of the preference categories is the first step in a multi-step process necessary toward the goal of attaining permanent resident status -- which confers on foreign nationals the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. Employment based petitions must be approved by INS in order for the foreign national to then apply for permanent resident status. The latter application can be made at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States or by filing an application with INS to adjust status in the United States.
Employment based immigration is based on a preference system which has several different components, as follows:
- First Preference (EB-1 Category): Priority workers including persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers and multinational executives and managers.
- Second Preference (EB-2 Category): Members of professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability.
- Third Preference (EB-3 Category): Skilled workers, professionals and other workers.
- Fourth Preference (EB-4 Category): Special immigrants, such as religious workers, Panama Canal Treaty employees and others.
- Fifth Preference (EB-5 Category): Investor provision for those who invest in the United States and hire American workers as employees.