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Employment Based Green Cards in USA

What is a Green Card?

The US Green Card is officially called Lawful Permanent Resident Card. Anyone who obtains the Green Card is granted unrestricted work and residence authorization in the United States of America.

There are multiple ways through which Immigrants can get a Green Card or permanent residency in the United States. They are listed below:

  • Family-Based Green Card

  • Employment-Based Green Card

  • Humanitarian Green Cards

  • Diversity Lottery Green Card

  • Longtime-Resident Green Card

  • Other Green Cards

However, the predominant way through which Indians and other South Asians get a permanent residency here in the US is through the Employment Based Green Card.

In this Guide we will discuss all the different types or categories of Employment based Green Cards.

The U.S. government grants approximately 140,000 visas each fiscal year for employment-based immigrants and their families. There are five preference categories of employment-based green cards divided primarily based on the applicants’ experience, skills and abilities. Each green card type is specific to the kind of workers they admit and the preference each of these visas receive during processing.

Employment Based Green Cards in the US
Employment Based Green Cards in the US

EB-1: People of Extraordinary Ability

As the name suggests, this category is meant for people with extraordinary abilities. USCIS further categorizes them as below:

  • People who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or

  • Are an outstanding professor or researcher, or

  • Are a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria

Examples of people who could be eligible for this type of visa could include academics who’ve won important awards such as the Nobel Prize, researchers pursuing tenure in American universities, and famous artists that can prove their international recognition through awards such as Oscars.

The most important aspect of this visa is that those eligible in some categories don’t need a job offer, just evidence of their outstanding ability, like winning an Oscar.

Others in this category do need a job offer, for example, a professorship on a tenure track, or a manager/executive position from an American employer that has operated in the U.S. for at least a year.

For people who apply in this category do not have to go through a lengthy Labor Certification Process or the PERM process. They can directly apply for a Green Card. The evidence that accompanies these applications goes more along showing that your work as a person of outstanding ability is truly outstanding and is recognizable in your field. Some examples of evidence could be publications, art exhibits, awards and recognitions from organizations in their field.

The best part about this category is that their Priority Date is current and as soon as your I-140 is approved, you can apply for an Adjustment of Status i.e., for your Permanent residency in the US. At the end of which you will have a Green Card.

EB-2 People with Advanced Degrees

USCIS calls it the category for second preference immigrant worker, meaning you:

  • Are a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree, or

  • Have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or

  • Are seeking a national interest waiver

Advanced Degree holders:

This means either a master’s or a bachelor’s degree with relevant professional experience. Basically, people with U.S. master’s degree or higher (or the foreign equivalent), or a U.S. bachelor’s degree plus an additional 5 years of experience within the specialty.

Exceptional Ability:

You must be able to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability “means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.” There are seven criteria USCIS establishes, out of which candidates need to meet at least three. The 7 criteria are listed below:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability

  • Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation

  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation

  • Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability

  • Membership in a professional association(s)

  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations

  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

National Interest Waiver:

This category of employment-based green card is granted to professionals whose work is considered in the national interest. In other words, the National Interest waiver covers work that benefits the United States, regardless of whether the ability is extraordinary or not. To qualify for the National Interest waiver, the work performed must have “substantial merit and national importance,” and be of benefit to the United States.

An example of someone who’d qualify for National Interest Waiver are Doctors and health care workers who were in a lot of demand when the pandemic was surging through the country.

EB-3 Visa for Skilled Workers, Professionals, or Other Workers:

Finally, we have the third preference category for those who have jobs that don’t apply to the first two categories. For each of these worker categories, the work performed must be one for which there are not enough qualified workers already available in the United States.

  • Skilled workers must be able to demonstrate at least 2 years of job experience or training

  • Professionals must possess a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign degree equivalent

  • Other workers (unskilled workers) must be capable of performing unskilled labor that is not of a temporary or seasonal nature. Work is considered unskilled if it requires less than two years of training or experience.

Other EB categories:

Special Workers (EB4):

The U.S. government uses this category for a broad variety of special immigrants from employees of the U.S. government abroad to religious workers. Ramdev Baba might get it through this one.

Investor Visa (EB5)

Non-U.S. nationals who have invested or are investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a high-unemployment or rural area) in a new U.S. business that will create full-time positions for at least 10 workers

Above were all the Employment based Green Card categories under which your green card can be filed. EB2 and EB3 are the categories through which a large majority of Indians apply for their green cards.

How to Start the Employment-Based Immigrant Visa Process

Unless you meet the requirements for the EB1 Category, you’ll need an American employer to sponsor you. (EB-4 and EB-5 also have their own unique petitions.)

The employer must submit Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, with USCIS. But before that, they’ll also have to apply for a PERM labor certification to prove that by hiring you they are not preventing an equally capable American citizen from getting a similar job.

Once the labor certification is approved, they can file the I-140 petition.

After the I-140 is approved, the beneficiary gets a priority date. The priority date marks your “place in line.” Employment-based green cards are subject to a numerical cap along with a country cap every fiscal year. This has resulted in a long wait and backlog predominantly for Indians.

The Green Card is available once a priority date becomes current. To communicate which petitions are coming current, the U.S. Department of State issues a monthly visa bulletin. Once the petition becomes current, you may actually apply for the employment-based green card.

We’ve explained this entire process in a separate Guide called How to Read the Visa Bulletin. Do read it. It is quite important if you are stuck in a green card backlog.


To conclude, there are 5 categories of Employment based green cards.

EB1: Extraordinary Ability

EB2: People with Advanced Degrees or Specialized Skill

EB3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, or Other Workers

EB4: Religious Workers and other deemed important

EB5: Investors that generates employment in the US

Below are the 3 stages of getting an employment based green card (EB2 and EB3_ in the US

Stage 1: PERM/Labor certification stage - Check out the Guide on PERM

Stage 2: I-140 immigration petition

Stage 3: I-485 Application to adjust status or move from your Visa to Green Card

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