Foreign nationals often come into the U.S. under a work visa anticipating that their stay will be temporary. After working in the U.S. for a period of time, however, the individual may wish to make his or her immigration status in the U.S. permanent, in which case he or she will need to obtain a green card.
Although “work visa” and “green card” are often used interchangeably when referring to employment-based immigration, there are several key differences between the two immigration options. Most notably, a green card allows a foreign national to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, whereas a work visa is limited in duration.
If a foreign national with a work visa wishes to seek permanent residency, there are several ways to go about doing so. For instance, the foreign national may be able to seek permanent residency through marriage (including same-sex marriage) or familial relationship. For instance, if a foreign national marries a U.S. resident, he or she may qualify for a green card.
A foreign national may also be able to obtain a green card under one of the following five preference categories for employment-based permanent residency:
First Preference (EB1) is available for priority workers, including persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational organization executives and managers.
Second Preference (EB2) is available for professionals holding advanced degrees (or persons of exceptional ability) working in a position that requires an advanced degree or the equivalent.
Third Preference (EB3) is available for professionals and skilled workers if the job requires a bachelor’s degree or two years of specialized training or experience.
Fourth Preference (EB4) includes special immigrants, such as religious workers and some government workers, among others.
Fifth Preference (EB5) is available for investors who make a substantial U.S. investment that create jobs for U.S. workers.
It is important to know and understand the applicable preference category and the priority date assigned to the I-140 petition since the preference category will impact the cut-off date for priority status of your application. Depending on the citizenship of the foreign national and his or her profession, there may be significant delays in processing of employment-based green cards. For instance, as we recently reported, the cut-off
Applicants in the EB-2 category (professionals holding advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability) from India and China continue to have a priority cut-off date of November 1, 2008 and July 1, 2009, respectively. The cut-off date for EB-3 applicants (skilled workers and professionals) from all countries have a processing delay of several years.
Contact an Employment Immigration Lawyer
If you wish to change your nonimmigrant status under a work visa to permanent residence under a green card, you will need to file an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application process can be complicated and time-consuming, so it is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer.