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GreenCard Lotterie DV-2023:

Employment-based Green Card

Getting an employment-based Green Card is quite a challenge for most non-Americans as it comes with high bureaucratic effort, enormous costs, and long waiting times. Do you want to try it though? Learn about the requirements and processes for employment-based Green Cards.

Getting an employment-based Green Card

About 140,000 employment-based Green Cards are issued each year. They are divided into different categories based on the specific qualification of the employee:

EB-1 A) Extraordinary Ability
B) Outstanding Professors and Researchers, Managers and Executives
EB-2 Advanced Degree, Exceptional Ability
EB-3 Skilled Workers, Professionals, Other Workers
EB-4 Special Immigrants and Religious Workers
EB-5 Investors

For each category, the issuing authority U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has different quotas.

As a result, there are different waiting times for each category. These vary from one to six years, depending on the circumstances. In order to avoid these usually unacceptable waiting times, the employer can apply for a quite expensive "Premium Processing".

But apart from the long waiting times, the most feared process by US employers is obtaining the necessary Labor Certification. For almost all work-related Green Cards, USCIS requires the submission of this document.

What is a Labor Certification?

If you want to get an employment-based Green Card, you will most likely have to have a job offer first. Your future US employer (also called your "sponsor“) then needs to obtain an approved Certification (also called ETA Form 9089) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) before they can file your immigrant petition with USCIS.

The Labor Certification confirms that:

  • There is no US American available, qualified, and willing to fill the offered position at the prevailing wage.
  • Hiring you will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers.

Getting an approved Labor Certification is a difficult and expensive process, and it’s usually done by agencies or attorneys. This is what makes hiring foreigners rather unattractive to many US employers. In other words, if an American company offers to sponsor you, they really, really want you there.

Because of this, for most people who want to work in the US, the Green Card Lottery route is much easier than an employment-based Green Card.

For more information on the Labor Certification, visit the DOL’s Foreign Labor Certification page. Now, let’s hear about the different categories of employment-based Green Cards:

Applying for employment-based Green Cards

Depending on your category and qualifications, the Green Card application process for work-based immigration differs. In all cases, a petition needs to be filed with USCIS, which is either done by yourself or your future US employer.

Your current whereabouts also play a role in the process. A distinction is made between the consular process and the so-called "Adjustment of Status":

Applying for a Green Card outside of the USA:

As long as you are still in a foreign country, you will go through the so-called consular processing. This means:

  • You or your US employer file the immigrant petition (depending on your case).
  • You pay the fees (after notification from National Visa Center NVS), deliver additional evidence (if applicable), and wait for a decision from USCIS.
  • You go to an interview appointment at your US embassy or consulate and go through a medical examination.
  • Your visa is granted.
  • You receive your Green Card.

Applying for a Green Card inside the USA:

In most EB Green Card categories, you must have an approved immigration petition before you can apply to register permanent residence or adjust your status. The process looks as follows:

  • You or your US employer file the immigrant petition (depending on your case).
  • You file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  • You go to your Application Support Center appointment, and (if applicable) have an interview and/or deliver additional evidence.
  • You receive a decision and get your Green Card.

The process for work-based Green Cards also differs depending on your category. There are different forms (I-140, I-360, I-526) as well as different ways to file the petition (either done by yourself or by your future employer in the USA). 

First Preference: EB-1 Green Card

Immigrants who are considered of special value by the US government can apply for their Green Card under preference category 1.

For an EB-1 Green Card, you have to be an extraordinary person with outstanding skills in a specific field of art, the sciences, academic work, or management. USCIS provides lists of criteria that EB-1 Green Cards applicants have to fulfill.

EB-1: Extraordinary Ability

If you want to apply for a Green Card because of your extraordinary ability, you need to submit evidence that you fulfill at least three of the following criteria:

  • You have received nationally or internationally respected awards or honors for outstanding performance (e.g. an Olympic Medal, a Pulitzer Prize, or an Oscar).
  • You are part of professional associations that require outstanding performance from their members.
  • Articles have been published about you in trade journals or other major media outlets.
  • You were part of a panel to judge the work of others, either individually or in a committee.
  • You made outstanding scientific, academic, artistic, athletic, or business contributions of great significance to the discipline.
  • You are the author of scientific articles in professional or major trade publications or other important media.
  • Your work was displayed at art exhibitions or in showcases.
  • You have had a leadership or critical role in respected organizations.
  • You have a high salary or other significantly high compensation compared to others in your industry.
  • You have had commercial success in the performing arts.

You must also prove that you will be working in your field of expertise after you immigrate to the United States.

Application and costs for EB-1 Extraordinary Ability

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-1 Extraordinary Ability Green Card:

EB-1 Green Card: Extraordinary Ability
Who applies? You apply for yourself (not your employer)
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification No
Costs
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee

EB-1: Outstanding Professors and Researchers

If you want to apply for a Green Card because of your outstanding achievements as a professor or researcher, you need to submit evidence that you fulfill at least two of the following criteria:

  • You have received significant awards or honors for outstanding performance.
  • You are a member of associations that demand outstanding performance from their associates.
  • There are publications about you in relevant professional publications from your academic field.
  • You were - either on a panel or individually - evaluator of the work of others in the same or related academic field.
  • You are the originator of scientific or academic research contributions in your field of expertise.
  • You are the author of scientific books or articles (in professional journals with international circulation) in your field of expertise.

Also, you must have at least three years of teaching or research experience in that academic field, and enter the USA to obtain tenure or a comparable position in research at a university, college, or with a private employer.

You must submit a job offer from a potential US employer. The employer must show documented accomplishments, and that they employ at least three full-time researchers.

Application and costs for EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers Green Card:

EB-1 Green Card: Outstanding Professors and Researchers
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification No
Costs
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee

EB-1: Certain Multinational Manager or Executive

If a US employer wants to bring you to the United States, along with your current position, you must have been employed by that same employer outside the United States for at least one year in the three years preceding your petition.

Your employer, on the other hand, must have been doing business in the USA for at least one year, have a qualifying relationship with the company for which you worked outside the US, and intend to employ you in a management or executive role.

Application and costs for EB-1 Certain Multinational Manager or Executive

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-1 Certain Multinational Manager or Executive Green Card:

EB-1 Green Card: Certain Multinational Manager or Executive
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification No
Costs
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee

Second Preference: EB-2 Green Card

You can apply for an EB-2 Green Card if you hold an advanced degree or equivalent, or have an exceptional ability. There are three categories with different requirements:

EB-2: Advanced Degree

When applying for an EB-2 Green Card in the advanced degree category, the position for which you are applying must require at least an advanced degree (baccalaureate or foreign equivalent.) In addition, you must also have five years of advanced work experience in the relevant field and meet all requirements from the Labor Certification.

The following documents must be submitted:

  • An official academic transcript showing that you have an advanced degree.
  • Letters from current or previous employers indicating that you have at least five years of post-baccalaureate progressive work experience in your field.
  • If a Ph.D. is usually required for your position, you must prove that you have a US Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree.

Application and costs for EB-2 Advanced Degree

Here are some things you need to know about required documents when applying for an EB-2 Advanced Degree Green Card:

EB-2 Green Card: Advanced Degree
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification Yes
Costs
$3,000 - $4,000 Labor Certification (costs vary), paid by the employer
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee
$2,500 I-907 Premium Processing (if applicable)

EB-2: Exceptional Ability

To get an EB-2 Green Card for Exceptional Ability, you need to prove outstanding skills in your field of science, art, or business. This means you must be way above average. You are required to submit evidence that you meet at least three of the criteria listed below:

  • You have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other educational institution that relates to your area of exceptional ability.
  • You have at least 10 years of full-time experience in your profession.
  • You have a license to practice your profession or certification in your profession or occupation.
  • You receive a salary or other compensation for services that demonstrate your exceptional ability.
  • You are a member of one or more professional organizations.
  • You have received recognition for your accomplishments and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government agencies, professional or business organizations.

Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also accepted. Also, the Labor Certification will set further requirements.

Application and costs for EB-2 Exceptional Ability

Here are some things you need to know about required documents when applying for an EB-2 Exceptional Ability Green Card:

EB-2 Green Card: Exceptional Ability
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification Yes
Costs
$3,000 - $4,000 Labor Certification (costs vary), paid by the employer
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee
$2,500 I-907 Premium Processing (if applicable)

EB-2: National Interest Waiver

If your work in the US is of national interest to the country, you can apply for a National Interest Waiver. When approving it, USCIS waives the requirement for a job offer and therefore the approved Labor Certification.

There is no statutory definition for the jobs that fall under "National Interest". However, they are usually positions such as emergency medical assistance in times of crisis or military personnel.

The criteria by which a National Interest Waiver is awarded are subject to frequent adjustment. Therefore, do not rely on hearsay in this case, but make sure to check with reliable sources before applying.

When applying for a National Interest Waiver, submit your application yourself. You do not need an employer to sponsor you.

Requirements for a National Interest Waiver

If you wish to apply for a Green Card through a National Interest Waiver, you must meet the three National Interest Waiver criteria listed below in addition to demonstrating an advanced degree or exceptional ability:

  • Your plans in the US are both of great value and national importance.
  • You have all the qualifications and resources to carry through or advance the proposed project.
  • The United States would benefit from suspending the high foreign worker requirements in your case.

Note: The fact that you do not need an approved Labor Certification for a National Interest Waiver does not mean you don’t need the ETA Form 9089 at all.

There are so-called A-occupations for which only a handful of US citizens are eligible. To fill these jobs, a US employer can file ETA Form 9089 (Permanent Labor Certification) and submit it to USCIS along with Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.

The requirements for Schedule A occupations differ from the normal requirements for other employment-based immigrant visa classifications, which makes the process a lot easier.

Application and costs for EB-2 National Interest Waiver

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver Green Card:

EB-2 Green Card with National Interest Waiver (NIW)
Who applies? Either yourself or your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification No approval needed. A completed form ETA 9089 is enough.
Costs
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee

Third Preference: EB-3 Green Card

EB-3 Green Cards are for skilled workers, professionals (people with a US baccalaureate or foreign equivalent), or workers with little work experience. Since this is the third preference category with much lower entrance requirements, it should be clear to everyone that the number of eligible applicants is larger and the waiting times are much longer than for EB-1 and EB-2.

EB-3: Skilled Workers

To get an EB-3 Green Card as a skilled worker, your job in the USA has to require a minimum of two years of training, experience, or relevant post-secondary education. Also, no US citizen may be able to do your job as well as you can.

You need to prove a full-time job offer from a US company that sponsors you and meet all the requirements from the Labor Certification.

Application and costs for EB-3 Skilled Workers

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-3 Skilled Workers Green Card:

EB-3 Green Card: Skilled Workers
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification Yes
Costs
$3,000 - $4,000 Labor Certification (costs vary), paid by the employer
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee
$2,500 I-907 Premium Processing (if applicable)

EB-3: Professionals

For an EB-3 Green Card as a professional, you must prove that you have a US or foreign equivalent college degree and that this degree is the requirement for your occupation.

A permanent full-time job offer is required.

Application and costs for EB-3 Professionals

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-3 Professionals Green Card:

EB-3 Green Card: Professionals
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification Yes
Costs
$3,000 - $4,000 Labor Certification (costs vary), paid by the employer
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee
$2,500 I-907 Premium Processing (if applicable)

EB-3: Other Workers

Even without a degree or many years of work experience, you might be qualified for a job that can’t be done by any US citizen. As you can imagine, though, these jobs are hard to find.

To get an EB-3 Green Card for so-called other workers, you must prove that you can perform work:

  • That requires less than two years of training or experience.
  • That is not temporary or seasonal.
  • For which there is no qualified labor force in the United States.

You must also have a permanent offer of full-time employment and meet all other requirements specified in the Labor Certification.

Application and costs for EB-3 Other Workers

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-3 Other Workers Green Card:

EB-3 Green Card: Other Workers
Who applies? Your future US employer
Required Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
Labor Certification Yes
Costs
$3,000 - $4,000 Labor Certification (costs vary), paid by the employer
$700 I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
(paid by the employer)
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee
$2,500 I-907 Premium Processing (if applicable)

Fourth Preference: EB-4 Green Card

EB-4 Green Cards are for so-called “Special Immigrants”. If you are a religious worker, a juvenile, a broadcaster, a US government employee living abroad, a U.S. Army member, or an Iraqi or Afghan translator, you might be eligible for an EB-4 Green Card. The following categories are available:

  • Green Card for a NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
    Some people who entered the United States with "nonimmigrant status NATO-6."
  • Green Card for certain physicians
    To meet immediate needs and avoid bureaucratic delays, certain foreign physicians with medical degrees may immigrate as part of the special immigrant category.
  • Green Card for an Afghan or Iraqi Translator or Interpreter
    Up to 50 immigrant visas per year are granted to Iraqi and Afghan nationals who worked directly with the US forces.
  • Green Card for Iraqi
    Also, a certain number of Iraqi nationals who have been employed by the US government in Iraq during a specified period of time and who have experienced or will experience a continuing serious threat may apply for a Green Card.
  • Green Card for International Organization Employees
    Certain long-term employees of international organizations may obtain a Green Card as long as their organization remains valid. This applies, for example, to NATO, the IMF, the OAS, the IADB, INTELSAT, and ITSO.
  • Green Card for Religious Workers
    Employees in religious occupations may immigrate to the US to perform religious work in a full-time paid position. This special immigrant category is subject to periodic review and thus could be made more difficult or eliminated by law at any time.
  • Green Card for Juveniles
    To give juveniles special protection in the event of abuse or mistreatment, there is the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification. If it is granted by a juvenile court, the juvenile may qualify for a Green Card.
  • Green Card for Broadcasters
    Each year, 100 foreign nationals who are to work as reporters, writers, translators, editors, producers, announcers, or anchors for the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) can apply for a Green Card.

Application and costs for EB-4 Special Immigrant

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-4 Special Immigrant Green Card:

Who applies?

Your individual case decides who files the petition

Required Form

I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant 

Labor Certification 

No

Costs

The fees for EB-4 Special Immigrant Green Cards vary. Please check the USCIS website for details.

Fifth Preference: EB-5 Green Card

Non-Americans who are making investments in US companies may qualify for an EB-5 Green Card. To get one of these investment-based Green Cards, you neither need a Labor Certification nor a job offer, but the premises are high:

  • You have to invest $1,800,000 in a US business (or $900,000 in a rural area or a region with high unemployment rates).
  • You must submit a business plan that shows how you will improve the US economy.
  • You have to create or preserve at least ten full-time jobs. You need to play an active role in the company management.
  • The company must be a for-profit enterprise like a partnership, holding company, joint venture, corporation, business trust, or other privately owned entity.
  • The investment must be in cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, or cash equivalents.
  • You must prove that you are the legal owner of the invested capital.

Application and costs for EB-5 Green Card for Immigrant Investors

Here are some things you need to know about required documents and costs when applying for an EB-5 Green Card for Immigrant Investors:

EB-5 Green Card:Immigrant Investors
Who applies? You apply for yourself
Required Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor
Labor Certification No
Costs
$3,675 I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor
$1,140 I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
$325 Immigrant Visa Application
$85 Biometrics Services
$220 USCIS Immigrant Fee

Where do I send Immigrant Petitions I-140, I-360 or I-526?

When applying for an employment-based Green Card, you or your future US employer must send your immigrant petition to the issuing authority U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

There are different addresses for the different categories:

Process U.S. Postal Service (USPS) FedEx, UPS, and DHL
Filing I-140 USCIS
Attn: I-140
P.O. Box 660128
Dallas, TX 75266
USCIS
Attn: I-140
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Filing I-140 together with I-485 (e.g. in EB-1 cases) USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Filing I-140 with Premium Processing Find your address on the USCIS I-140 addresses page Find your address on the USCIS I-140 addresses page
Filing I-360 Find the address for your individual case Find the address for your individual case
Filing I-526 USCIS
P.O. Box 660168
Dallas, TX 75266
USCIS
Attn: I-526 2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Waiting Times for Green Cards through the workplace

Waiting times for employment-based Green Cards vary widely by category. Basically, they take much more time than for example the Green Card Lottery cases.

Depending on your case, the timeline can range anywhere between ten months and several years. Current events, individual case delays and US government decisions also affect the queues.

To check out your place in the visa queue, you must know your so-called “priority date” and look it up in the Visa Bulletin.

How do I find out my priority date?

There is a simple rule for each category to find out your priority date:

If your Case...

your priority date...

...requires a Labor Certification from Department of Labor (DOL),

… is the date on which your Labor Certification is accepted by the Department of Labor (DOL).

...does not require a Labor Certification from Department of Labor (DOL),

… is the date on which USCIS accepts your I-140 petition for processing.

… is a special immigrant case under the EB-4 category,

… is the date on which USCIS accepts your I-360 petition for processing.

… is a EB-5 investor case,

...is the date on which USCIS accepts your I-526 petition for processing.

At the moment, the only way to avoid the long waiting times for employment-based Green Cards is to file for Premium Processing.

Does my family get a work-based Green Card too?

Family members of employment-based Green Card applicants or beneficiaries may apply for admission to the USA in specific immigrant status categories:

  • EB-1 Green Card holders
    Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply for E-14 or E-15 immigrant status.
  • EB-2 Green Card holders
    Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply for E-21 or E-22 immigrant status.
  • EB-3 Green Card holders
    Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply for E34 immigrant status (spouse of a “skilled worker” or “professional”), EW4 immigrant status (spouse of an “other worker”), E35 immigrant status (child of a “skilled worker” or “professional”) or EW5 (child of an “other worker”).
  • EB-4 Green Card holders
    Some EB-4 cases allow your spouse and unmarried children under 21 to apply for immigrant status.
  • EB-5 Green Card holders
    Investors may include their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 in their I-526 petition. Thus, all are eligible for a Green Card.

For more information, please visit the USCIS Green Card Eligibility Category page.

Do I need a Green Card to work in the USA?

Instead of an employment-based Green Card, you can also get limited work permits through other visa categories. Unfortunately, the expiration date of a work visa is an additional hurdle for job seekers. Those who want to avoid the time limits and are not eligible or don’t want to wait for an employment-based Green Card should therefore participate in the Green Card Lottery.

Working while waiting for a Green Card

If you are already in the US and waiting for your Adjustment of Status (I-485) to be approved, you do not yet have a work permit. To work in the USA legally until your status is adjusted, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Learn more about the EAD on the USCIS website I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Finding a Sponsor

First of all, we don't have a secret formula that will get you a sponsor willing to pay. Educate yourself thoroughly on the guidelines and requirements for job-seeking and working in the USA, and then apply for suitable positions. All we can say is that it's not easy. Therefore, our recommendation is to try your luck in the Green Card Lottery in parallel, which will most likely get you into the USA much faster.

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Sources:

uscis.gov