Employment-Based Permanent Residence

Information for non citizens

What is a lawful permanent resident?

A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who immigrates to the United States and is authorized to live and work here permanently.

What do the employment-based (EB) preference categories mean?

There are five employment-based preference categories.  Which category you are in can determine how long your wait for an employment-based immigrant visa will be.  The date on which the Labor Certification Application or Form I-140 petition is filed is called your "priority date." This is the date to which you will refer to see whether there is an immigrant visa available to you.  You can check the online visa bulletin to see if your priority date is current.

What are the employment-based preference categories?

  • First Preference (EB-1 priority workers): foreign nationals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers.

  • Second Preference (EB-2 workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability): foreign nationals who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees and foreign nationals who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the United States.

  • Third Preference (EB-3 professionals, skilled workers, and other workers): foreign nationals with at least two years of experience as skilled workers, professionals with a baccalaureate degree, and others with less than two years of experience, such as an unskilled worker who can perform labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.

  • Fourth Preference (EB-4 special immigrant workers such as those in a religious occupation or vocation): foreign nationals who, for at least two years before applying for admission into the U.S., have been a member of a religious denomination that has a non-profit religious organization in the United States, and who will be working in a religious vocation or occupation at the request of the religious organization.

  • Fifth Preference (EB-5 employment creation): foreign nationals who wish to invest capital in a commercial enterprise which will create employment for U.S. workers.

What happens if I am here without permission and I try to adjust my status?

If you are in the U.S. without permission (undocumented), and a petition was filed on your behalf after April 30, 2001, you are not eligible to adjust your status while in the U.S.  You may be able to return to your home country to process your paperwork through the U.S. consulate there.

BEWARE: if you have overstayed your visa or you entered the U.S. without inspection, and you leave the U.S. for any reason (even for a visa interview), you may face a severe penalty! A person who is in the U.S. without government authorization for more than 180 days is barred for 3 years from returning to the U.S. once they leave.  If the unlawful presence is longer than one year, the person is barred for 10 years from returning to the U.S. once they leave.  Waivers are available, but they are very difficult to get.