The first three (3) employment-based preferences require that an employer or prospective employer submit a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, along with all supporting documents, with USCIS to classify the foreign national in the particular preference category. (Special immigrants, persons of extraordinary ability, national interest waiver cases, and immigrant investors are excepted from the employer requirement.) A petition to be classified as a Special Immigrants must be filed on Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Finally, a petition to be classified as an Immigrant Investor must be filed on Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.

If the foreign national is in the United States in a lawful status, and his priority date is current, that individual may also apply to USCIS to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident. As noted earlier, an immigrant investor will initially only be afforded conditional permanent resident status. If the foreign national is outside the United States, and his priority date is current, he can apply for an immigrant visa (essentially a "Green Card" that is issued outside the United States) at the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction over his residence.