When Can an Employer Sponsor an Individual for a Green Card?

One of the most common methods for foreign nationals to live and work in the United States is through employment-based visas. American companies may petition to sponsor foreign workers and provide them with lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as a green card. Employers can also sponsor qualified workers already living in the United States as well.

Employment-based green cards offer many benefits for foreign workers, such as the ability to live and work in the United States, including spouses and children under 21 years old, obtain a 10-year green card, sometimes at no costs at all to the workers, and the ability to apply for American/U.S. citizenship.

In order for employers to sponsor foreign workers, they must first show that no United States citizen, permanent resident, asylee, or refugee is available, qualified, or willing to accept the position. This process is referred to as labor certification, and it is the responsibility of the company to provide the government with evidence.

Once approved, employers must petition to hire foreign workers based on the permanent labor certification program. Labor certification procedures include:

  • Prevailing wage request: The first step in obtaining labor certification is for the employer to file a prevailing wage determination (PWD) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Wage determination indicates the salary typically paid to other works in an equivalent position. This is a crucial step in the process as the employer is required to offer the foreign worker 100 percent or more of the current prevailing wage.
  • Recruiting: The employer must make a good faith effort to find suitable employees in the United States by advertising and recruiting for the position. This step can be accomplished before this step in the labor certification process, as long as the salary offered is at least the current prevailing wage. The DOL requires employers to post job notices at worksites, announce the position through a state databank, and newspapers or trade journals with advertisements published on two separate Sundays. If the position is for professionals, there are three additional steps required.
  • File form: Upon completion of the previous two steps and proven there are no qualified or available workers residing in the United States, employers may then file a permanent labor certification application with the DOL. Decisions can take as little as 45 days or as much as a year.

Are There Exceptions to the Labor Certification Requirement?

Certain categories of workers and professions do not require labor certification before applying for a green card, which include:
  • Individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, arts, business, or athletics and outstanding researchers, professors, executives, and managers of multinational companies.
  • Immigrants who are millionaire entrepreneurs.
  • Special immigrant religious workers who are members of a religious denomination with a certified non-profit organization in the United States for two or more years.
  • Immigrants in Schedule A occupations, which are professions the DOL recognizes as having a shortage of worker in the United States. These can include medical professionals, researchers, artists, and many others.

Who Is Eligible for an Employment-Based Green Card?

There are many categories of employment-based immigration visas available that American employers are eligible to sponsor. These visas are divided by preference categories and also occupational priorities as mandated by the United States government. They are:

  • EB-1 priority workers: Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, and arts, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives and managers.
  • EB-2 professionals and exceptional ability: Foreign professionals with advanced education degrees or the equivalent, and workers with exceptional ability in the sciences, business, or arts who will contribute substantially to the economy, education, and welfare of the United States.
  • EB-3 professional or skilled: Foreign workers who are professionals holding a bachelor’s degree, skilled laborers for two or more years in professions not available in the United States, and unskilled laborers for which no American workers are available.
  • EB-4 special immigrants: Foreign physician or religious workers and employees of the Panama Canal Company, Canal Zone Government, or the U.S. Government in Canal Zones, and certain other professions.

For migrants already residing in the United States and who have been approved for an employment-based green card need to change their status or apply for visa processing:

  • Adjustment of status: This refers to the process of converting the type of status you currently have in the United States to permanent residency status by filing a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process will take place within the United States, and you must physically in the country when applying and processing. The adjustment of status application can often be filed concurrently when filing the immigrant visa petition, reducing the processing time.
  • Immigrant visa processing: This refers to the process of apply for immigration visas at United States consulates or embassies in other countries. This requires electronically filing and the applicant will be required to attend a visa interview at the consulate or embassy of the migrant’s home country. The immigrant visa should be issued within a week of completing the interview. This process is typically done if you have another status within the United States but are not currently residing in the country and ineligible for an adjustment of status.

Workers obtaining employment-based green cards through a United States employer can also bring a spouse and children under 21 years old, however, the employer cannot apply for dependents when applying for the worker. Once the foreign worker has reached the point in the process to apply for lawful permanent resident status, the family members may also apply.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Foreign Workers Seeking Employment-Based Immigration Visas

If you are seeking an employment-based immigration visa to live and work in the United States, our Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. have extensive experience working with foreign workers to obtain green cards, and we can help. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.