Employment-based immigration is organized in a “preference” system which has annual quotas. The total number of employment-based “Green Cards” available in the U.S. government’s fiscal year is 140,000. The availability of “Green Cards” under the quota system is determined by a foreign national’s “priority date.” A priority date is the date upon which someone initially submits documentation establishing eligibility of a foreign national for one of the preference categories under the immigrant visa (i.e., Green Card) system. In cases involving an employment-based preference, the priority date is the date on which the application for labor certification is filed with the USDOL, or, if a labor certification is not required, the date on which a preference petition was submitted to USCIS.
There are five (5) employment-based preferences. They are:
- Priority workers, including foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; and multinational executives and managers.
- Foreign nationals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business; and members of professions with advanced degrees.
- Professionals with a baccalaureate degree; skilled workers with at least two (2) years of training or experience; and unskilled workers.
- Certain Special Immigrants (e.g., Religious Workers).
- Employment Creation (e.g., immigrant investors).