Employment-Sponsored Green Card

Employment-based immigration generally requires either a showing that the foreign worker is at the top of their field, or that no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the job position. Employers (or foreign workers in some cases) can petition for the green card in one (or more) of the following preference categories:


  • First preference - priority workers
  • Second preference - workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability
  • Third preference - professionals, skilled workers, and other workers
  • Fourth preference - religious workers
  • Fifth preference - investors


Obtaining a green card under the first preference category is usually a two step process. Under the second and third preference category, it usually takes three steps. The fourth and fifth preference categories are not included in this discussion.

The first step under the second and third preference category is to obtain a Labor Certification approval from the Department of Labor. For approval, the employer must establish that no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the job being offered. The employer accomplishes this by advertising for the position, and by failing to find an available qualified U.S. worker. 

Employers petitioning for workers in the first preference category, priority workers, do not need to obtain a Labor Certification approval. These employers can begin the process with the second step, submitting the petition to the USCIS. Priority workers include: (1) persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (this category of priority worker can self-petition - they do not need a job offer); (2) outstanding professors and researchers; and (3) multi-national executives and managers.

Once the employer obtains a Labor Certification approval, the second step is to submit a petition to the USCIS. (As mentioned above, workers under the first-preference category can begin the process with this step.) The employer must establish that the employee meets the job requirements as set forth in the Labor Certification application, the employee qualifies in a particular preference category, and that the petitioning employer is making a bona fide permanent job offer and can pay the foreign worker.

Once the USCIS approves the petition, the third and final step is to submit a green card application either at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad, or in the U.S. if the employee is already in the U.S. in another valid non-immigrant status.