How Employment Based Immigration System Works in the USA?
The United States of America welcomes up to 675,000 permanent immigrants every year and these immigrants are selected upon four major principles. They are: reunification of families (family-based), allowing immigrants with skill values to the country (employment-based), refugees and promoting diversity (DV-system).
The complicated immigration law of the United States leaves most of the people confused. The current immigration policy is governed by The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). The immigration Act of 1990 changed American immigration law, allowing more people to enter the country each year. This fact sheet provides basic information and guidelines about how the employment-based immigration system works in the US.
Employment-based Immigration System
Employment-based Immigration System is based on another important principle in the immigration policy. Based on this principle, only people that have skills which are valuable to the US are allowed to immigrate. However, it is much more complex than it sounds.
First, this system presents limited and static numerical caps for immigrants every year. Secondly, before petitioning for a foreign worker, the employer is often required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor. This certification should state that the employer could not find any US worker who is willing and qualified to take the job that the petitioner has applied at a wage which is equal to or greater than the usual wage paid for that occupation in that particular area.
There are two different systems at place which allows people to immigrate to the US through the employment-based immigration policy. The first one is temporary employment visa and the other is permanent employment visa.
(a) Temporary Employment Visas
Foreign nationals can get a specific job for a limited time period by getting temporary employment visas. Depending on the visa classification, the employer may be required to file a petition for a non-immigrant worker with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the petition is approved then a State Department consular officer will determine the foreign worker’s eligibility for a non-immigrant visa. There are more than 20 types of visas for temporary non-immigrant workers. Some of these are given below:
L visa: Intra-company transfers
P visa: Athletes, entertainers and skilled performers
R visa: Religious workers
A visa: Diplomatic employees
O visa: Workers of extraordinary ability
H visa: Highly-skilled and less-skilled employment
If the visa is approved, then the worker will be able to travel to the US and work on the job that is given by the petitioning employer. Some of these visa types can be issued for a permanent visa upon fulfilling certain requirements.
(b) Permanent Employment Visas
Permanent employment visa is also known as ‘green card’. This visa system allows immigrants to work and live permanently (become LPRs) in the United States. LPRs will be able to apply for US citizenship after five years. Some temporary visas can be converted into permanent ones after the employer petition for ‘adjustment of status’ is approved by the USCIS. If the individual is not in the US, or is in the US but chooses to have the immigrant visa application processed abroad, then the immigrant visa is processed by a US consular officer. The quota for the permanent visas is 140,000 per year. This number includes immigrants plus their eligible spouse and minor children. These visas are also divided into 5 preference systems which are given below:
Category 1: “Persons of extraordinary ability” in the arts, science, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers, some multinational executives.
Category 2: Members of the professions holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional abilities in the arts, science, or business.
Category 3: Skilled workers with at least two years of training or experience, professionals with college degrees, or “other” workers for unskilled labor that is not temporary or seasonal.
Category 4: Certain “special immigrants” including religious workers, employees of US Foreign Service posts, former US government employees and other classes of aliens.
Category 5: Persons who will invest $500,000 to $1 million in a job-creating enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time US workers.
There is also a per-country limit system at place for this visa type. Due to this system, in some cases, individuals have to wait for a long time to apply for adjustment of statuses or an immigrant visa even after the employer’s petition has been approved by the USCIS.