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­There are several ways to obtain what is popularly known as a “green card” and thus become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. One way is through employment. The categories of employment relationships which qualify for a green card are summarized below.


Employment-based preferences are built on a system in which a total number of visas are given to a specific group of aliens each year. Most employment-based aliens must obtain Labor Certification—a complex procedure in which the Department of Labor verifies that no American worker is available and qualified to take the job.

Employment First Preference: Known as Priority Workers, this category consists of three subcategories:1) People of extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business or athletics; 2) outstanding professors and researchers, and 3) multinational executives and managers. A total of 40,000 immigrant visas are allocated each year for this group of employment-based aliens who are exempt from Labor Certification. Those in the first subcategory do not need a job offer prior to applying for their green card. They must enjoy current, sustained, national and international acclaim for their work .

Employment Second Preference: Two subcategories: 1) Professionals with advanced degrees, and 2) people of exceptional ability in science, arts or business. Forty thousand immigrant visas, including visas not used by the Employment First Preference group for the year, are set aside for this category. Most need Labor Certification. However, people in some occupations are considered “pre-certified” and do not need individual Labor Certification. An advanced degree normally refers to a degree beyond the baccalaureate degree, although one may qualify under this category by showing five years of progressively responsible professional work experience. People of “exceptional ability” are normally those who enjoy sustained national acclaim for their work, which does not reach the level of “extraordinary ability” in the First Preference category.

Employment Third Preference: Three subcategories: 1) skilled workers, 2) unskilled workers, and 3) recently graduated professionals and those with a bachelor’s degree. A total of 40,000 immigrant visas—10,000 of which are unskilled workers—plus the unused visas from the First and Second Preference groups are available every year for this group of employment-based applicants. They also need Labor Certification. Skilled workers are normally those who have at least two years of specialized training or experience, unskilled workers have less than two years of training or experience, and recently graduated professionals and those with bachelor’s degrees normally have less than five years of experience.

Employment Fourth Preference: Special and religious workers. This group is granted 10,000 visas yearly. It includes religious workers of an affiliate organization in the United States. Ministers, pastors, rabbis, ayatollahs, nuns and lay people involved in religious work, are also included. No Labor certification is needed for this group.

Employment Fifth Preference: Entrepreneurs. 10,000 immigrant visas are available for the millionaire immigrant or alien entrepreneur category. An alien entrepreneur from any country who invests at least one million dollars in a new business and employs at least ten American citizens or lawful permanent residents is eligible for a green card. No Labor Certification is required.

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