Congress has mandated that in a given calendar year, 140,000 employment-based green cards will be awarded to companies sponsoring foreign nationals for permanent employment in the United States. This mandate is effective on October 1, 2021, with the new government fiscal year.
However, 2020 was hardly a normal year for U.S. immigration and due to the pandemic and global consular closures, over 150,000 relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders were unable to immigrate to the United States. When family-based immigrant visa numbers remain unused, they are rolled over to the employment-based categories for the following fiscal year. Commencing on October 1, 2021, it is anticipated that there will be over 290,000 employment-based green cards available – which is more than double the 140,000 issued in years past.
Permanent residence allows foreign nationals to qualify for U.S. citizenship after five years. Additionally, it allows individuals to travel freely, allows for their spouse and children to work in the U.S. without restriction, and enables their children to access the U.S. public school system without hindrance.
The employment-based visa categories are divided into five categories:
- Employment-based first preference visa category (EB-1) – those foreign workers with "extraordinary ability" in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, outstanding professors and researchers, or certain multinational executives or managers;
- Employment-based second preference visa category (EB-2) – professionals with job offers that require the attainment of a U.S. master’s degree or higher or its equivalent of those who are granted a ‘national interest waiver’;
- Employment-based third preference category (EB-3) – professionals with bachelor’s degrees, skilled and unskilled labor;
- Employment-based fourth preference category (EB-4) – certain special immigrants, religious workers, and others;
- Employment-based fifth preference category (EB-5) – immigrant investors.
Given the large numbers of immigrant visa numbers expected to become available in the coming year, it would be a good idea to review which foreign national employees might be considered for sponsorship for U.S. permanent residence status.