OverviewEmployment First Preference (E1)Employment Second Preference (E2)Employment Third Preference (E3)Employment Fourth Preference (E4)Employment Fifth Preference (E5)Labor CertificationPetitionsVisa Ineligibility/WaiverRequired DocumentationMedical ExaminationsVisa FeesNumerical LimitationsHow to Apply for a Social Security Number CardAdditional InformationFurther Visa Inquiries
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas which are divided
into five preference categories. They may require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the filing
of a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS).
Employment First Preference (E1)
Priority Workers receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit. All Priority Workers must be the beneficiaries of an
approved Form I- 140, Immigrant Petition for Foreign Worker, filed with USCIS. Within this preference there are three sub-groups:
Employment Second Preference (E2)
Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees, or Persons of Exceptional Ability in the Arts, Sciences, or Business receive 28.6
percent of the yearly worldwide limit, plus any unused Employment First Preference visas. All Second Preference applicants
must have a labor certification approved by the DOL, or Schedule A designation, or establish that they qualify for one of
the shortage occupations in the Labor Market Information Pilot Program (later). A job offer is required and the U.S. employer
must file a petition on behalf of the applicant. Aliens may apply for exemption from the job offer and labor certification
if the exemption would be in the national interest, in which case the alien may file the petition, Form I-140, along with
evidence of the national interest. There are two subgroups within this category:
Employment Third Preference (E3)
Skilled Workers, Professionals Holding Baccalaureate Degrees and Other Workers receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide
limit, plus any unused Employment First and Second Preference visas. All Third Preference applicants require an approved I-140
petition filed by the prospective employer. All such workers require a labor certification, or Schedule A designation, or
evidence that they qualify for one of the shortage occupations in the Labor Market Information Pilot Program. There are three
subgroups within this category:
Employment Fourth Preference (E4)
Special Immigrants receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit. All such applicants must be the beneficiary of an approved
I-360, Petition for Special Immigrant, except overseas employees of the U.S. Government who must use Form DS-1884. Certain
spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join the principal special immigrant. Different types of special immigrants
provided for under immigrant law are listed below:
Employment Fifth Preference (E5)
Employment Creation Investors receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit. All applicants must file a Form I-526, Immigrant
Petition by Alien Entrepreneur with USCIS. To qualify, an alien must invest between U.S. $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending
on the employment rate in the geographical area, in a commercial enterprise in the United States which creates at least 10
new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and
his or her family.
A person whose occupation requires a labor certification must have prearranged employment in the United States.
- Individual Labor Certification
The applicant must complete DOL Form ETA-750B, Statement of Qualifications of Alien, and send this completed form to the prospective
employer who completes Form ETA-750A, Application for Alien Employment Certification, Offer of Employment. The prospective
employer submits both forms to the local office of the State Employment Service in the area in the United States where the
work will be performed. The employer will then be notified by the appropriate regional office of the DOL of its approval or
- Schedule A Designation
The Department of Labor has made a schedule of occupations for which it delegates authority to USCIS to approve labor certifications.
Schedule A, Group I, includes physical therapists and nurses. Schedule A, Group II includes aliens of exceptional ability
in the sciences and arts (except performing arts). To apply for Schedule A designation, the employer must submit a completed,
uncertified Form ETA-750 in duplicate to USCIS along with the I-140 petition.
- Labor Market Information Pilot Program
The Immigration Act of 1990 provides for the DOL to establish a Labor Market Information Pilot Program which will define up
to ten occupational classifications in which there are labor shortages. For aliens within a listed shortage occupation, a
labor certification will be deemed to have been issued for purposes of an employment-based immigrant petition. USCIS can provide
All intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa application on employment in the United States must obtain
an approved immigrant visa petition from USCIS. If a necessary labor certification is granted, the employer may then file
a Form I-140, Petition for Prospective Immigrant Employee, with USCIS for the appropriate employment-based preference category.
The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the health, welfare, and security of the U.S., prohibit the
issuance of a visa to certain applicants. Examples of applicants who must be refused visas are those who: have a communicable
disease, or have a dangerous physical or mental disorder; have committed serious criminal acts; are terrorists, subversives,
members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war criminals; have used illegal means to enter the U.S.; or are ineligible
for citizenship. Some former exchange visitors must live abroad for two years. Physicians who intend to practice medicine
must pass a qualifying exam before receiving immigrant visas. If found to be ineligible, the consular officer will advise
the applicant of any waivers.
All applicants must submit certain personal documents such as passports, birth certificates, police certificates, and other
civil documents, as well as evidence that they will not become public charges in the United States. The consular officer will
inform visa applicants of the documents needed as their applications are processed.
Before the issuance of an immigrant visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination. The examination
will be conducted by a doctor designated by the consular officer. Examination costs must be borne by the applicant, in addition
to the visa fees.
The cost of each immigrant visa application processing fee (per person) is (US) $335. Fees must be paid for each intending
immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable. Local currency equivalents are acceptable. Fees should not be sent to
the consular office unless requested specifically. USCIS charges additional fees for filing petitions.
Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available numbers, the category will be considered
oversubscribed, and immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the
numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant
visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there
may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.
How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card
If you are the potential employer of a non-citizen who plans to immigrate to the United States, you can help that potential
employee learn how to apply for a social security number card. To learn more about this process, visit the website for the
Social Security Administration.
Since no advance assurances can be given that a visa will be issued, applicants are advised not to make any final travel arrangements,
not to dispose of their property, and not to give up their jobs until visas have been issued to them. Some visa applications
require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer. An immigrant visa can be valid for
six months from issuance date.
With few exceptions, a person born in the United States has a claim to U.S. citizenship. Persons born in countries other than
the U.S. may have a claim, under United States law, to U.S. nationality if either parent was:
Any applicant believing he or she may have a claim to United States citizenship should not apply for a visa until his or her
citizenship has been determined by the consular office.
Further Visa Inquiries
Foreign Labor Certification Overview
The Department of Labor issues labor certifications for permanent and temporary
employment under the following programs:
Permanent Labor Certification
H-1B Specialty (Professional) Workers
H-2A Temporary Labor Certification (Seasonal Agricultural)
H-2B Temporary Labor Certification (Non-agricultural)
D-1 Crewmembers Certification
Foreign labor certification programs permit U.S. employers to hire foreign workers
on a temporary or permanent basis to fill jobs essential to the U.S. economy.
Certification may be obtained in cases where it can be demonstrated that there
are insufficient qualified U.S. workers available and willing to perform the
work at wages that meet or exceed the prevailing wage
paid for that occupation in the area of intended employment.
Foreign labor certification programs are designed to assure that the admission of foreign
workers into the United States on a permanent or temporary basis will not
adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S.
Employment based immigration is a complex process that
may involve a number of government agencies within the
Federal Department of Labor, the State Department of Labor, the
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and the Department of State.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8
U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) regulates the admission of foreign workers into the United
States. The INA designates the Attorney General and the Secretary of State
as the principal administrators of its provisions.
About the Foreign Labor Certification Process
Compensation of Foreign Workers
Regulations require that the wages attested to on foreign labor certification applications
must be the average wage paid to all other workers in the
requested occupation in the area of intended employment. This average wage is
referred to as the prevailing wage. See Prevailing Wages for more information.
The employer is not precluded from paying nonimmigrant(s) more than the prevailing wage.
The employer should be aware that in filing for a foreign labor certification,
the employer is obligated to comply with all employment related laws and
regulations. In the case of H-1B Specialty (Professional) Workers
and H-2A Temporary Seasonal Agricultural workers, additional obligations also apply.
The details on these obligations may be found in the sections detailing H-1B
and H-2A. Failure to comply with the established laws and regulations may potentially result
in penalties and possible legal action.
The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration (ESA)
at the Department of Labor is responsible for investigating and determining an employer's
misrepresentation in or failure to comply with the H-1B and
H-2A program requirements and with employment laws, principally the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Non-DOL Employment Visas
For information regarding other employment based visas which do not require
Department of Labor certification, see the U.S. Department of State's website at
or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's website at