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Immigrant Visas

Becoming a Permanent Resident of the United States (obtaining a “green card”) allows individuals to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. However, because obtaining permanent residency has become increasingly complex, our clients turn to us for guidance in navigating the intricacies of this often bewildering process. The following is a brief outline of the various routes to permanent residence which may be available to you:


Individuals who have certain close relatives residing in the United States as citizens or permanent residents may obtain permanent residence through their relationship with that spouse, sibling, child or parent. A quota system applies in most cases and backlogs are common.


Foreign workers can obtain permanent residence based on their particular occupation and skills. The employment-based categories consist of five preference categories. 

  1. Priority Workers (First Preference/EB-1)
    • Aliens of Extraordinary Ability—individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.
    • Outstanding Professors and Researchers—Researchers or professors who are internationally recognized as “outstanding” in a specific academic area.
    • Multinational Executives and Managers—Executives or managers, who have been employed abroad by a multinational company, may transfer permanently to assume executive or managerial positions with the U.S. subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office.
  2. Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability (Second Preference/EB-2)
  • Advanced Degree Holders—The foreign national must hold a Master’s degree or its equivalent (a baccalaureate degree plus five years of experience) and have a qualifying job offer from a U.S. employer. This category requires an approved Labor Certification Application from the U.S. Department of Labor certifying that there are no qualified, able and available U.S. workers to fill the position offered to the foreign national.
  • Exceptional Ability—The foreign national must have a degree of expertise in the sciences, arts or business that is significantly above that ordinarily encountered.
  • National Interest Waiver—The Foreign national is seeking a waiver of the Labor Certification Application process because it is in the interest of the United States. Although not defined by statute, this category generally applies to those who have exceptional ability and whose employment in the United States would greatly benefit the country.

3. Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) (Third Preference/EB-3)

This category requires an approved Labor Certification Application from the U.S. Department of Labor certifying that there are no qualified, able and available U.S. workers to fill the position offered to the foreign national.

  • “Skilled workers” are persons whose job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature
  • “Professionals” are persons whose job requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent and are a member of the professions
  • The “other workers” subcategory is for persons performing unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature.

4. Certain Special Immigrants (Fourth Preference/EB-4)

This category applies to foreign nationals who are religious workers, employees of certain Panama Canal companies, physicians, international organization employees and family members, Juvenile Court dependents, Armed Forces members, Afghanistan/Iraq nationals who supported the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator, and Iraqi nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government in Iraq.

5. Immigrant Investors (Fifth Preference/EB-5)

This category provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States through a regional center or independently. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest a specific amount of capital ($1,000,000 or $500,000) and create full time employment for no fewer than 10 qualified employees. If the petition is approved and residence is granted, it is conditional for 2 years. Prior to the 2 year expiration date, the foreign national must submit an application requesting removal of the conditions, which if approved, will result in the grant of permanent residence.

Diversity Lottery Visa

Each year, the Diversity Lottery Program makes 55,000 new immigrant visas available for individuals from underrepresented nations. Administered by the U.S. State Department, the Diversity Lottery Program requires that:

  • You must meet minimal education or training requirements. You have either a high school education, its equivalent, or two years work experience within the last five years in a job that demands at least two years' training.
  • You or your spouse must be a native of a country whose natives qualify for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. Depending on the number of immigrants in the previous five years, natives of certain countries are not eligible for the current years' lottery.