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Different Types of Visas

Whether you are trying to get an employment-based visa or family sponsored immigration status, it helps to know more about the process.

Immigrants wanting to get a visa or citizenship to the United States have a few different avenues available to them. It is helpful to know the different categories and qualification criteria before you get started. Understanding the basics will help you start off on the right foot.

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Family Sponsored Immigration

If a citizen from another country is attempting to live in the United States permanently, then they will need to acquire an immigrant visa (IV). The foreign citizen needs to apply with an immediate relative who is 21 years old or above. This relative must also be a United States citizen or have a green card that qualifies them as a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident.

One type of family-based immigrant visa is with an immediate relative. These visas are obtained if a close family member is a U.S. citizen. A close family member would be a spouse, child, or parent. This category doesn't limit the number of immigrants within a year.

The other type of family-based immigrant visa is called family preference. These visas are limited in number each year and relate to more distant family relationships than the ones listed above. The relationship must be with a U.S. citizen or, in some cases, a Lawful Permanent Resident.

With a family preference visa, a U.S. citizen can only file a visa petition for their spouse, child, parent, or sibling. The process if the relationship is with a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident is more limited. They can only file a visa petition for their spouse or unmarried child.

Employment-based Visas (and categories)

If you are coming to the United States to work, then you may qualify for an employment-based visa. If this is the case, your prospective employer or agent has to get approval from the Department of Labor.

After the approval is received, the employer files the right form with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the right employment-based category. There are 5 categories for employment-based visas that you should know about to begin.

Employment First Preference (E1) is for priority workers and persons of extraordinary ability. Within this group, there are three sub-groups that you may fit into. A person with an extraordinary ability doesn't have to have a specific job offer as long as they are going to continue to work in their field. There has to be specific documentation proving national or international recognition in their fields like the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

Another subcategory is outstanding professors and researchers. They must have at least three years of experience teaching or doing research and be recognized internationally for their efforts. They have to be seeking tenure, tenure track teaching, or a research position at a university in the United States to apply for this visa.

The last subcategory is multinational managers or executives. This applies to an employee of an overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of a U.S. employer that has been in that position for at least one of the last three years. The employment position must be managerial or executive in nature and they must be coming to work in a comparable position.

The second category is Employment Second Preference (E2). This is for people who hold an advanced degree. Their labor certification must be approved by the Department of Labor. They must also have a job offer in the United States.

There are two subgroups in this category. The first is the person must hold an advanced degree beyond a baccalaureate degree or a baccalaureate degree with five years or more of experience in the profession. The other category is a person with exceptional ability in the fields of science, art, or business with a degree significantly higher than that normally found in those fields.

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The third category is Employment Third Preference (E3). People in this category are skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers. Their petition must be filed by a prospective employer and have a labor certification that is approved by the Department of Labor.

There are three subgroups in this category. Skilled workers are in a position that requires at least two years of training or work experience, but doesn't apply to those that are temporary or seasonal. Professionals are people in positions that require a baccalaureate degree. Unskilled workers are people who can fill positions that require less than two years of training that isn't temporary or seasonal.

The fourth category is Employment Fourth Preference (E4). This is reserved for certain special immigrants. A labor certification is not required for any of these subgroups. There are many subgroups in this category and include groups of people like broadcasters employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, ministers of religion, and certain employees or former employees. It also applies to certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company, Canal Zone Government, or the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone.

Other subgroups of this category might be Iraqi and Afghan interpreters or translators who worked previously with the United States armed forces for at least one year. It also applies to Iraqi and Afghan nationals who were employed by the U.S. government and provided valuable services for at least one year.

Some foreign medical graduates, retired international organization employees, unmarried sons and daughters, surviving spouses, immigrant juveniles, and retired NATO-6 civilians may also qualify. People recruited outside the U.S. who served in the armed forces, Certain unmarried sons and daughters or surviving spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees can also qualify. Certain religious workers may be able to qualify.

The fifth category is Employment Fifth Preference (E5). This is for immigrant investors. These categories are for foreign investors who invested capital in new enterprises in the U.S These enterprises must also create jobs within the United States. You will need to look into the details closely to see if you qualify for this category.


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