The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department currently has 5 different employment based (EB) immigration programs. They all offer a different opportunity for international immigrants to establish permanent residence in the United States via a green card. Knowing the difference between the 5 different EB visas will help you choose which opportunity best fits your situation.

Brief Summary:

EB-1: The EB-1 visa program is a merit based opportunity for people with exceptional skillsets in the following categories:

 If you have an Extraordinary ability and you “demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.”


If you are an Outstanding professor and researcher: To qualify for this opportunity you must “demonstrate international recognition for your outstanding achievements in a particular academic field. You must have at least 3 years experience in teaching or research in that academic area. You must be entering the United States in order to pursue tenure or tenure track teaching or comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education.”


If you are a Multinational manager or executive: To qualify for this opportunity you must “You must have been employed outside the United States in the 3 years preceding the petition for at least 1 year by a firm or corporation and you must be seeking to enter the United States to continue service to that firm or organization. Your employment must have been outside the United States in a managerial or executive capacity and with the same employer, an affiliate, or a subsidiary of the employer.”



If you are a professional who has an advanced degree or equivalent experience, or an immigrant with exceptional ability in a profession you may qualify for the EB-2 visa.

Martin Lawler, a San Francisco based lawyer and EB-2 expert describes the EB-2 “for people in the “national interest” and those sponsored for a labor certification, who are being sponsored for jobs requiring at least a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree plus five years of work experience (or greater).”


EB-3 Visa

EB-3: To qualify for the EB-3 visa you must be a “skilled worker, professional, or other worker.” Martin Lawler describes this visa category as an option “for all other workers who usually must be progressive sponsored for a labor certification issued by the Department of Labor to prove worker shortage.”


To be eligible the you must be either

A skilled worker: As demonstrated by 2 years of job experience in a field where qualified workers are not available in the United States, you must hold a labor certification, and have a permanent full time job offer to apply for the EB-3.



To qualify you must have a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign degree equivalent in a field where that degree is required for the occupation.

You must be providing work where qualified workers are not available in the United States,

And you must have a labor certification with a permanent full time job offer to apply for the EB-3.


EB-4 Visa


EB-4: To qualify for the EB-4 Visa you must be considered a “special immigrant.” According to the USCIS, to be qualified as such you must fall under one of the following categories:


  • Religious Workers
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles
  • Broadcasters
  • G-4 International Organization or NATO-6 Employees and Their Family Members
  • International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad
  • Armed Forces Members
  • Panama Canal Zone Employees
  • Certain Physicians
  • Afghan and Iraqi Translators
  • Afghan and Iraqi Nationals Who Have Provided Faith Service in Support of U.S. Operations

*The current regulations for “non-minister”  religious workers have expired since September of 2016 so  be sure to check the latest regulations here to see if you qualify.


The families of EB-4 Visa holders can also qualify for residence in the United States if they are the spouse of the visa holder, or they are the children of the visa holder, are unmarried, and under the age of 21.


EB-5 Visa


EB-5 Visa: To qualify for the EB-5 visa program you must be an entrepreneur who will

  • Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and
  • Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

The investment made in a commercial enterprise can be as low as $500,000 if the investment is made in the correct TEA or targeted employment area. Martin Lawler explains that a TEA is “an area with substancial high unemployment, 150% above the national average, or a rural area.” Lawler explains that this minimum amount is subject to change in the near future and may reach as high as $800,000.

The investment in a commercial enterprise can be made as either a new enterprise or the investment can be made in a regional center” “An eb-5 regional center is an organization approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that sponsors capital investment projects for investments made by EB-5 candidates.

New Commerical enterprises vs Regional Centers

If you choose to create a new commercial enterprise then you must also become a registered employer and hire the minimum of 10 employees yourself. One of the primary benefits of investing in a regional center is that you can qualify for “indirect job creation.” Essentially the money that you are investing into a business that is guaranteed to be hiring 10 united states citizens, will satisfy the employment portion of the visa application.



            The USCIS recommends seeking professional advice for the EB-5 visas and it is a good idea for any visa application to hire proper legal counsel to ensure that the process goes smoothly and is in accordance with the law.


For further information on Employment based visas we have provided the following links:


Martin Lawler is a San Francisco based immigration lawyer and has 30+ years of experience in the industry. His website is an invaluable resource for the latest EB-5 news and information.


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