FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-05-01
About 140,000 employment-based immigration visas are available each year for foreign-born individuals wishing to relocate to the United States for work. Employment-based immigrant visas fall into one of five preference categories, most of which contain two or more subcategories.
E1: Priority Workers
Applicants in the First Preference category, or E1, are referred to as Priority Workers. They are divided into three subcategories:
- People with extraordinary abilities in business, science, athletics, education or the arts
- Outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally and have three or more years of experience in research or teaching
- Multinational managers or executives who have a job offer in the U.S. and have worked for the U.S. employer or its affiliate for at least one of the last three years
As a group, E1 applicants receive up to 28.6 percent of the available employment-based immigrant visas.
E2: Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability
Applicants in the Second Preference Category receive 28.6 percent of the employment visas, plus any left over from the E1 category. Second Preference applicants include:
- Professionals who have an advanced degree (bachelor’s degree or above), or who have a bachelor’s degree and five or more years of progressive experience in their field
- Others with exceptional abilities in business, science or the arts
E2 applicants usually must have a job offer from a U.S. employer but may qualify for a waiver in certain situations.
E3: Skilled Workers, Professionals and Unskilled Workers
Applicants in the Third Preference category are required to have a job offer from a U.S. employer, and must be certified by the Department of Labor. The E3 category includes the following subgroups:
- Skilled workers whose jobs require at least two years of training or experience and are not temporary or seasonal
- Professionals whose jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. educational institution or an equivalent degree from a foreign institution
- Other people who are capable of filling jobs that require less than two years of training or experience and are not seasonal or temporary
E3 applicants receive 28.6 percent of the employment immigrant visas each year, plus any remaining from the E1 and E2 categories.
E4: Certain Special Immigrants
Fourth Preference applicants fall into several subgroups, including but not limited to:
- Some religious workers
- Some employees and former employees of the U.S. government abroad
- Some foreign medical graduates
A total of 7.1 percent of employment-based immigrant visas are granted to E4 applicants each year.
E5: Immigrant Investors
To be eligible for a visa as an Immigrant Investor, an applicant must invest between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in a U.S. commercial enterprise that will create 10 or more new jobs for U.S. citizens or other lawful residents outside the applicant’s family. Immigrant Investor visas make up 7.1 percent of the employment-based immigrant visas awarded each year.
Legal Help for Visa Applicants
This article provides a broad overview of a complex area of the law. For more information or for assistance with a visa application, contact an experienced immigration attorney.