One can take several different paths to obtain permanent residence, which allows people without U.S. citizenship to live and work in the country indefinitely. The most common way to apply for a permanent resident card, also known as a green card, is through family, but one may also apply through asylee or refugee status, by serving in the U.S. military or via the annual diversity immigrant visa program. Another popular way is through a job offer by an American employer.
Employment-based immigrant categories
When an applicant is being considered for permanent residence based on a job offer, the type of employment is taken into consideration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ranks cases according to the importance of the profession in terms of how it can benefit the nation. The employment-based categories in order of most to least important are:
• Foreign-born individuals with exceptional knowledge and skills in science, arts, education, business and athletics
• Prestigious professors or researchers
• International CEOs, other executives and managers
• Applicants who have exceptional abilities in business, the sciences or the arts and are expected to benefit the economy, education system, culture or other aspect of national improvement
• Those who have earned advanced degrees and work in the profession for which they studied
• Foreign-born applicants with two or more years of experience as skilled workers
• Professionals with bachelor’s degrees
• Other workers with fewer than two years of experience, like unskilled workers who perform jobs that generally cannot be filled by workers with U.S. citizenship.
• Religious workers
• Iraqi/Afghan translators
• Iraqis who have helped the U.S.
• Employees of international organizations
• Members of the Armed Forces
• Employees of the Panama Canal Zone
• Retired employees of NATO-6
• Children and spouses of deceased NATO-6 employees
The application process
The employer takes most of the responsibilities for completing the application for permanent residence through a job offer. He or she must first obtain a labor certification through the Department of Labor. This allows one to hire a foreign individual to work and live in the country indefinitely. After obtaining this certification, the employer must also file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, selecting the correct employment-based immigrant category for the position. Once approved by USCIS, it is up to the foreign-born individual to obtain an Employment Authorization Document.