Let's Get to Work: The Ins and Outs of Green Cards Via Job Offer

By Shilpa Malik,
business.com writer
Jul 14, 2015
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Second to family sponsored green cards, employment-based green cards are the most popular way for entrepreneurs to gain legal residence in the United States.

Despite this ever-growing popularity, there are stringent regulations in place intended to filter applicants based on their skill set as well as the current needs of U.S. job market.

With that being said, there are effective strategies and ways to improve your chances of getting an employment-based green card through a job offer or other entrepreneurial endeavor. In this post we'll explore the best techniques for getting a green card through a job offer as well as tips to sponsor a foreign national, as a U.S. based employer.

Related Article: Hiring the Hero: 9 Traits to Look For in Successful Candidates

Understand the Various Employment Categories

Each year, 140,000 visas are allocated for employment-based immigration visas. Within the broader category, however, are five preference categories. The first step in the process in learning where exactly you fit in.

  • First Preference (EB-1): Individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers and international executives. 
  • Second Preference (EB-2): Professionals holding advanced degrees or those with exceptional abilities.
  • Third Preference (EB-3): Skilled workers or professionals holding a least a bachelor's degree.
  • Fourth Preference (EB-4): Individuals who fall under the 'special immigrants' category. 
  • Fifth Preference (EB-5): Investors who invest between U.S. $500,000 and $1,000,000, (depending on the employment rate) in an venture that creates a minimum of ten new jobs for citizens and/or permanent residents.

This a very basic outline of the five preference categories. There are many other qualifications which come into the equation, but it's best to consult with an immigration attorney to get the details.

What happens when there are more qualified applicants than a category permits?

When this happens, the category is considers "oversubscribed" and the immigrant visas will be issued in chronological order until the category is reached. 

Employers: Take the PERM Process Seriously

If you're on the other end of the equation, as a sponsoring employer seeking a foreign national there are a number of hoops to jump through initially. One of the most important steps in to complete the PERM Labor Certification process. This step, completed before the green card process, ensures the government that there are no willing and able citizens available to take the position. Here are three useful tips to accomplish it:

Create a Detailed Job Description for the Prevailing Wage

The DOL requires employers, during the PERM process, to send a job description so that they may conduct the necessary tests and determine the prevailing wage. When creating the job description, do your best to be focused in the position's responsibilities and duties while still remaining conversational.

Industry-specific jargon should be avoided, especially since the DOL inspector may not understand it. In some instances, if your description is not sufficient, the inspector may request more information which inadvertently will cause delays.

There are online resources you can use to learn more about the PERM prevailing wage.

Related Articles: How to Get Further in the Interview Process

Be Proactive with Posting Job Advertisements

Another important requirement, as the sponsoring employer, is to place ads in certain recruitment channels including:

  • State Workforce Agency (SWA) for 30 days
  • Two consecutive Sunday editions of a local newspaper


  • A relevant professional journal
  • Internal job posting (in-house) for 10 consecutive business days

Maintain Records of all Advertisements and PERM Documents

It's crucial to keep records of all PERM related documents and advertisements. The DOL has suggested that approximately 30 percent of petitions will be audited so if you are selected, it's imperative to have all the necessary paperwork on hand. Cases that are not audited by the DOL but via electronic applications will normally receive a decision within 5-6 months after filing.

Applying for a Work Permit

An alternative course of action to work in the U.S. while your Immigration Petition for Permanent Residence or I-485 is pending is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). There are a few factors  that would make you eligible for an EAD, according to USCIS.

You may have work authorization resulting from your non-immigrant status, authorization to work for a specific employer due to your non-immigrant status or fall in a category which permits you to file. The best course of action really depends on your long and short term goals for employment. If your desire is to work in the U.S. but not necessarily establish permanent residence, you may want to consider an EAD.

Seek Aid From a Qualified Immigration Lawyer

Whether you are a foreign national seeking permanent residence in the U.S. or a domestic employer looking to hire qualified employees from overseas, it's always advised to consult a professional immigration lawyer. There are other immigration green card options available if you do not meet any of the aforementioned criteria.

For instance, the Green Card Lottery Program is held each year and provides 55,000 green cards to randomly selected applicants. Another possible path may be through family-based sponsorship or marriage to a U.S. citizen. Again, perform due-diligence by discussing all of your options with a knowledgeable immigration professional.

Shilpa is an experienced immigration lawyer specializing in employment based immigration, L-1 & H-1B work visa, family and marriage based immigration. She is the Founder and Managing Attorney of SGM Law Group, PLLC, an immigration firm committed to providing professional service and legal expertise.
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