There are five different preference categories for permanent residence based on employment:
First preference (EB1) is for professionals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, or a multinational manager or executive. Each different type of profession has its own evidentiary requirements. Except for those petitioning for themselves based on extraordinary ability, all others in this category must first have a job offer and have their employer (or prospective employer) complete an I-140 petition on their behalf.
The second-preference (EB2) is for professionals with an advanced degree or who have exceptional abilities. This category requires a certified labor certification from the Department of Labor and a Form I-140 filed with USCIS. A National Interest Waiver for the labor certification requirement is available for those who can demonstrate why their work is of importance to the United States.
The third preference (EB3) is for workers who are professionals, skilled workers, or other workers. Professionals must demonstrate they have obtained a four-year university degree and skilled workers must show two years of relevant work experience. Unskilled workers need only show that their job is not of a temporary nature and that there are no minimally qualified U.S. workers to fill the position. EB3 applicants must have an approved labor certification and their employer must file a Form I-140 on their behalf.
The fourth preference (EB4) is for special workers and includes a variety of different professions. Each category has its own evidentiary threshold. People who may apply in this category are religious workers, broadcasters, Iraqi/Afghan Translators, Iraqis who have assisted the United States, International organization employees, physicians, armed forces members, Panama Canal Zone employees, Retired NATO-6 employees, spouses and children of deceased NATO-6 employees.
The fifth-preference (EB5) is for people who wish to make a substantial investment in a U.S. business. Please see our page on permanent residence through investment.
Once an applicant has completed the steps for one of the five preference categories they will need to wait for a visa number to become available before they can apply for adjustment
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Many EB categories require a current priority date in order to complete the process by applying for Adjustment of Status. Once the I-140 petition is approved, foreign nationals in a backlogged category must wait for their priority date (recognized as either the date the certified labor certification was submitted for processing or the date the I-140 petition was submitted when no labor certification was required) to become current. Whether a priority date is current is listed in the monthly U.S. Department of State visa bulletin. It is important to note that neither the certified labor certification nor the approved I-140 provides any authorized period of stay or employment in the U.S.