Understanding Employment-Based Immigration

Every fiscal year, the federal government opens up a certain number of employment-based visas - in 2013, there are 140,000 such visas available - to immigrants around the world wishing to come to United States to work for an American company. These visas are not limited to one particular type of worker. There are five different "preference categories"/types of employment-based visas available from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including:

  • Priority workers (E1)
  • Professionals holding advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability (E2)
  • Skilled workers, professional workers and unskilled/other workers (E3)
  • Certain special immigrants (E4)
  • Immigrant investors (E5)

Priority workers (E1)

According to USCIS, E1 visas are granted to "persons with extraordinary ability," "outstanding professors and researchers" or "multinational managers or executives." What does this mean in the real world? The people who receive these visas are the best and brightest in their respective fields. They are talented doctors, artists, performers, researchers, lecturers, inventors, entrepreneurs or athletes. Unlike other employment-based visa programs, it is possible for some applicants in this categories (those with "extraordinary ability") to apply for and be granted a visa without a firm job offer in place.

Professionals holding advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability (E2)

Workers seeking entry into America by applying for E2 visas must have a firm job offer in place and a labor certification approved by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In addition, these applicants need either hold an advanced degree in their field, have at least five years of experience in their profession, or show abilities in their area of expertise that are "significantly above" their peers.

Skilled workers (E3)

The perspective employers of these applicants for these visas need to have submitted a valid and approved "Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker/Form I-140" to USCIS on behalf of the applicant. Furthermore, the workers themselves must have been issued labor certification by the DOL.

Certain special immigrants (E4)

This category is a unique subset of overall business visa applicants. Those seeking an E4 visa must be, according to USCIS criteria, the "beneficiary of an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant Form I-360." This is a surprisingly broad category, though, and includes such varied professions as broadcasting, translating and performing certain types of work for a religious organization.

Immigrant investors (E5)

This is sometimes called the "job-creator" visa or the "foreign investor" visa. These visas are only available for investors who are interested in funding new commercial, job-creating ventures in America.

Each of the categories described above serves both different purposes and wholly different types of applicants. If you are a business owner seeking skilled employment candidates abroad, a foreign company thinking of expanding into America's economic marketplace, or a skilled worker who wants to enter the U.S., it is important to find both the most applicable visa category and to prepare the application for that visa as exactingly as possible to increase the chances that it will be granted.

Having a working knowledge of the different types of employment-based visas available and the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney will help you find the best fit for your business needs and ease your worries about the application process.