Green Card Through Employment

A foreigner may be eligible to become a permanent resident (receive a green card) based on an offer of permanent employment in the United States. Most categories require an employer to get a labor certification and then file an immigrant petition.

Some categories allow the foreigner to file for a permanent residence himself (“self-petition”). This option is available for either “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability” or certain individuals granted a National Interest Waiver. 

There are a number of specialized jobs that may allow you to get a green card based on a past or current job, such as:

  • Afghan/Iraqi Translator
  • Broadcaster
  • International Organization Employee
  • Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
  • NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
  • Panama Canal Employee
  • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Religious Worker

If the foreigner is not eligible to adjust his status inside the United States to a permanent resident (get a green card), the immigrant petition will be sent to the U.S. consulate abroad to complete the visa process.

In order to apply for a green card, there must be a visa immediately available to you. Currently, about 234,000 people have applied for employment-based adjustment of status (green card) in the United States and are waiting for a visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to individuals seeking permanent resident status (a green card) each year. Immigrant visa numbers for individuals in a “preference category” are limited, so are not always available. 

Employment based preference visa are limited to 140,000 per year. Because the demand is higher than the supply of visas for a given year for some categories, a visa queue (waiting list) forms. To distribute the visas among all preference categories, the Department of State (DOS) gives out the visas by providing visa numbers according to the preference category and one’s priority date. The priority date is used to determine an individual’s place in line in the visa queue.  When the priority date becomes current, the individual will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa.

The priority date for an immigrant petition that is based on employment is either:

  • The date the petition was properly filed with USCIS, or
  • The date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor (DOL) (when a labor certification is required)

The priority date can be found on Form I-797, Notice of Action, for the petition filed for the foreigner.

The DOS publishes a monthly report of visa availability referred to as the “Visa Bulletin.” This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers.