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Employment-Based immigrant visas are divided into several different categories (“preferences”), depending on the particular position offered. Applicants considered to be “Priority Workers” (such as those possessing extraordinary ability or multi-national executives) are eligible for the First Preference Employment-Based Green Cards.
The Second Preference Green Cards are reserved for those positions requiring advanced degrees or the equivalent in experience/ability, while the most common category, the Third Preference Green Cards are issued for Skilled Workers and Professionals.
The Employment-Based Green Card Application Process for Second and Third Preference categories involve three (3) main steps:
PERM Labor Certification Application: This application seeks certification from the Department of Labor that the PERM position being offered to the foreign national does not displace a U.S. worker’s job. Upon completion of requisite, recruitment activities, the employer files PERM application to notify the Department of Labor that there were no U.S. workers available for the position.
I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition: Upon certification of PERM Labor Certification, the employer must file an I-140 petition requesting approval from USCIS that the employer may hire the foreign national for the PERM position. The employer must show that it has the ability to pay the proffered wage and the foreign national is qualified for the position.
Application to Adjust Status or Consular Processing: Because only a certain number of immigrant visas are issued per country per year, even upon approval of the I-140 petition, depending on his/her nationality and preference category, the employee may or may not be eligible to immediately receive his/her green card. Once his/her “priority date” becomes current and an immigrant visa becomes available for his/her nationality and preference category, the foreign national may begin this final stage of the green card application process. Foreign nationals in the U.S. will apply for Adjustment of Status with USCIS to adjust from nonimmigrant to immigrant status, while those not in the U.S. will apply at a U.S. consulate overseas to receive his/her green card.
The above first step, PERM Labor Certification Application, is not required for First Preference category applicants.