Do you have a desire to live permanently in the U.S. based on your employment skills, abilities, training, experience, or field of expertise?

If your answer is “Yes,” then this is important information for you to obtain an EB visa! The employment-based permanent resident visa category is most commonly used by people who permanently settle in the U.S. By filing through various employment classifications, through a U.S. employer, or self-sponsorship, a foreign national may be able to obtain their permanent residency in the U.S.

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas (EB visas) divided into the five preference categories in the chart below. This chapter will discuss the three major employment-based permanent resident preference categories (i.e., EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas).

By the way, it is not unusual for foreign nationals to enter the U.S. on an H-1B visa, an L Visa, or an F-1 visa, and later consider one of the employment-based categories below to immigrate to the U.S. In other words, many foreign nationals enter the U.S. as professional workers, students, or managers of corporations. After working in the U.S. for some time or conducting research as a Ph.D. student, they consider immigrating to the U.S. under the following categories.

Employment-Based Immigrant VisaPercentage of Yearly Limit
Employment First Preference (EB-1)28.6 percent
Employment Second Preference (EB-2)28.6 percent, plus any unused

Employment First Preference visas

Employment Third Preference (EB-3)28.6 percent, plus any unused Employment First & Second Preference visas
Employment Fourth Preference (EB-4)7.1 percent
Employment Fifth Preference (EB-5)7.1 percent


This category of “priority workers” receive 28.6 percent of the employment-based visa limit. An EB-1 visa is unique, as it does not require any labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, and in some cases, applicants can self-sponsor themselves. However, the applicants must be the beneficiaries of an approved Immigrant Petition, commonly referred to as the I-140 petition. Under the EB-1 persons of extraordinary ability, the foreign national can submit the I-140 on his or her own without having a U.S. sponsor. In other cases, an employer in the U.S. must submit the I-140 form on behalf of a foreign worker, so he or she may then become eligible for permanent residence status in the U.S. The subgroups of the EB-1 visa are as follows:

  1. Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation displaying national or international acclaim and recognition in the field of expertise. Such applicants do not have to have a particular job offer, so long as they enter the U.S. to continue work in the field in which they possess extraordinary ability. Such applicants can file their petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), rather than through an employer;
  2. Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years of experience in teaching or research are recognized internationally. No labor certification is required for this classification, but the prospective employer must provide a job offer and file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and,
  3. Certain executives and managers have been employed at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, the parent company, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer. The applicant must be coming to work in a managerial or executive capacity. No labor certification is required for this classification, but the prospective employer must provide a job offer and file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


“Extraordinary ability” for an EB-1 visa means that your ability must be at the highest level in your field and recognized by national or international acclaim. For example, if you are a famous dancer or singer, or if you are a martial arts expert who has won several gold medals in international tournaments, or if you have been a judge in your field in national or international competitions, these would qualify you as having “extraordinary ability.”


This category also makes up 28.6 percent of the employment-based visa limit, plus any unused Employment-Based First Preference visas. The EB-2 visa is primarily for those foreign nationals with advanced degrees—such as a doctor’s degree or a master’s degree—or a baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree plus five years progressive work experience in that field, or for those with “exceptional ability.” The EB-2 visa requires a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Also, it requires that a U.S. employer petition for the EB-2 visa applicant, except if they fall under the “national interest exemption” (and are granted a National Interest Waiver), which will be explained in detail later in the chapter. The subgroups of an EB-2 visa are as follows:

  1. Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession; and,
  2. Persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business.


“Exceptional ability” means that your level of capability is significantly more than is ordinarily seen in the sciences, arts, or business.


The Employment Third Preference category makes up 28.6 percent of the employment-based visa limit, plus any unused first and Second Preference visas. This category is for those holding baccalaureate/bachelor’s degrees, skilled persons, and other workers. EB-3 visas require an approved I-140 petition from a U.S. employer, as well as a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The three subgroups of an EB-3 visa are as follows:

  1. “Skilled workers” are persons capable of performing a job requiring at least two years of training or experience;
  2. “Professionals with a baccalaureate degree” are members of a profession with at least a university bachelor’s degree; and,
  3. “Other workers” are defined as those capable of filling positions requiring less than two years of training or experience.


Most employment-based visas require an approved Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This document allows your employer to file an employment-based immigration petition on your behalf. Your employer has to prove to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that despite diligent recruiting efforts, the employer could not find a ready, willing, and able candidate for the foreign national’s position in the U.S. market. This process can be very demanding and lengthy. The employer has to advertise for the position, conduct interviews, if required, screen applicants, and complete other official procedures related to recruiting. Finally, the employer will file an application with the Department of Labor attesting that they did not find a qualified, experienced worker for the position, despite their recruiting efforts. The application conveys to the Department of Labor that, since the employer could not find a suitable U.S. employee, the employer wishes to sponsor the foreign worker for permanent residence.


The National Interest Waiver (NIW) most significant advantage is that the foreign national does not need a sponsor under this category. As mentioned above, in the EB-2 visa category, a Labor Certification and a job offer are usually required for an immigrant petition. However, a foreign national/alien with exceptional ability may seek a National Interest Waiver, or NIW, which waives those requirements. The National Interest Waiver waives the Labor Certification and job offer requirements because the alien’s employment in the U.S. would be in the best interest of the United States. Unfortunately, there is no exact definition or statute that states the positions which qualify for a National Interest Waiver. However, specific criteria have to be met. These criteria are described below.


For an EB-2 visa applicant to qualify for a National Interest Waiver, the applicant must show that:

  1. The alien’s employment must be in an area of substantial intrinsic merit. If the visa beneficiary is being paid to do a particular kind of research, or if the work has at least some sort of artistic or other value, then the work of the alien will more than likely be considered to be of “substantial intrinsic merit”;
  2. The proposed benefit must be national in scope. The alien’s contribution must provide benefits that impact a national scale and not just a limited region;
  3. The national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the alien. To meet this final and most crucial part of the test, the petitioner must prove that the visa beneficiary will serve the national interest to a “substantially greater degree” than an available U.S. worker with the same minimum qualifications. The labor certification process protects the jobs and employment opportunities of U.S. workers having the exact objective minimum requirements as an alien seeking employment. Therefore, an alien seeking an exemption from this process must present a national benefit so great as to outweigh the national interest protected by the labor certification process.

An EB-2 visa applicant must meet all three parts of the test to qualify for the National Interest Waiver and become eligible to waive the Labor Certification requirement. As well, the applicant must meet standard EB-2 criteria mentioned above: an advanced degree. A U.S. academic or professional degree (or a foreign equivalent degree above a baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree) will be sufficient. In the absence of an advanced degree, a baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent, plus at least five years of progressive experience in the specialty, is considered the equivalent of a master’s degree. As an alternative, the applicant can claim exceptional ability, i.e., a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the alien’s field of expertise.

As mentioned earlier, another benefit of applying under the National Interest Waiver is that the foreign national/alien can apply without having a sponsor. In other words, a person can self-sponsor himself for permanent residency in the U.S. The National Interest Waiver Category is ideal for research scientists, professors who have several publications and are internationally renowned, famous personalities, artists, or sports personalities who can contribute to the national interest of the U.S.


Yes. Your spouse and children may accompany you on an employment-based (EB) visa. Your spouse may work in the U.S. but must first obtain the required employment authorization.


Employment-based visas are an excellent choice for foreign nationals who permanently reside in the United States. Each employment-based visa category contains its own set of requirements for the employment-based visa applicant and/or their potential employer. To qualify for any of the various employment-based (EB) visas, it is essential that you thoroughly review, along with your prospective U.S. employer, all conditions and requirements established by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The good news is that if you are highly renowned in your field of endeavor, you can qualify for a green card without having a U.S. sponsor, under the National Interest Waiver category, or under the “extraordinary ability” category.