Can a work visa qualify someone for a green card?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Employment Immigration

Employment-Based Immigration: Pathways to Permanent Residency

Foreign professionals across various fields may be eligible for employment-based visas to work temporarily in the United States. However, those seeking to remain in the country indefinitely often pursue permanent residency, commonly known as a “green card.” This article outlines the process of transitioning from temporary work visas to permanent resident status through employment-based immigration.

Temporary Work Visas vs. Permanent Residency

Temporary work visas, such as H-1B, L-1, or O-1, allow foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. for a specified period. While these visas can often be renewed, they do not provide a direct path to permanent residency. In contrast, a green card grants the holder the right to live and work permanently in the United States, subject to certain conditions and periodic renewal requirements.

Employment-Based Green Card Categories

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has established several preference categories for employment-based immigration:

  1. EB-1: Priority Workers
  •    EB-1A: Individuals with extraordinary ability
  •    EB-1B: Outstanding professors and researchers
  •    EB-1C: Multinational executives and managers
  1. EB-2: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability
  •    Individuals with advanced degrees (master’s or higher) or exceptional ability in their field
  •    National Interest Waiver (NIW) subcategory for those whose work is in the national interest
  1. EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers
  •    Skilled workers (requiring at least 2 years of training or experience)
  •    Professionals (requiring at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent)
  •    Other workers (for unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years of training or experience)

The EB-1 category typically has the shortest processing times and does not require labor certification. EB-2 and EB-3 categories generally require a job offer and labor certification, unless qualifying for a National Interest Waiver.

Permanent Labor Certification (PERM)

For most EB-2 and EB-3 visa categories, employers must obtain a permanent labor certification (PERM) from the Department of Labor (DOL) before filing an immigration petition with USCIS. The PERM process involves several key steps:

  1. Prevailing Wage Determination : The employer must obtain a prevailing wage determination from the DOL to ensure the offered wage meets or exceeds the average wage for the occupation in the area of employment.
  2. Recruitment : The employer must conduct a recruitment process to test the U.S. labor market, including advertising the job and reviewing applications to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position.
  3. Filing ETA Form 9089 : The employer submits ETA Form 9089 to the DOL, detailing the job offer, recruitment efforts, and the foreign worker’s qualifications.

The DOL must certify that hiring the foreign worker will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers and that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the job.

Adjustment of Status Process

Eligible foreign nationals already in the U.S. on a valid nonimmigrant status can apply for adjustment of status to obtain a green card. This process typically involves:

  1. Filing Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) by the employer or self-petition in certain cases
  2. Filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) when a visa number becomes available
  3. Undergoing biometrics and potentially an interview
  4. Paying required fees

Occupations with Favorable Prospects

Certain professions may have better chances of obtaining employment-based green cards due to high demand or specific immigration provisions:

  •  Healthcare professionals, particularly physicians working in underserved areas (may qualify for EB-1, EB-2, or Conrad 30 waiver program)
  •  STEM professionals (often eligible for EB-2 or EB-3)
  •  Individuals with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (EB-1A category)
  • Multinational executives and managers (EB-1C category)


Transitioning from a temporary work visa to permanent residency through employment-based immigration can be a complex process. The specific pathway and likelihood of success depend on factors such as the individual’s qualifications, job offer, and chosen immigration category. Given the intricacies of immigration law and the potential consequences of errors in the application process, it is advisable to retain an experienced immigration attorney to navigate this journey effectively.

This information is provided for general educational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. Individual circumstances may vary, and specific legal counsel should be sought for personal immigration matters