Besides family and immediate relative immigration visas, the U.S also gives visas to people who qualify to work in the country. The Employment immigrant visas allow foreign workers who have found an employer willing to hire them to come to the U.S permanently and work without an Employment Authorization Document. The employment visas are denoted with the letter E and are of 5 types:
- EB-1 Visa or First Priority Workers Visa is for outstanding professors, researchers, people with extraordinary abilities in arts, science, business, athletics, or education, as well as executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S company for the past 3 years
- EB-2 Visa or Second Priority Workers Visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and people with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, or business.
- EB-3 Visa or Third Priority Workers Visa is for skilled workers with more than 2 years of experience, professionals with a higher education degree, or unskilled workers with less than 2 years of experience (EW-3 Visa).
- EB-4 Visa or Fourth Priority Workers Visa is for various religious, government, or international organizations workers
- EB-5 Visa or Fifth Priority Workers Visa is for investors in the U.S who will invest between $500K to $1 million in the U.S economy
The Employment Sponsored Visas are subject to a cap of 140,000 visas per year. They are allocated between the five visas, which creates long wait times for processing. Once the limit of the visas is reached in a year, the rest of the applications wait for their turn in the coming years. That is why those who are applying for any employment based visa need to wait for their priority dates to become current in order to qualify for immigration in the U.S.
This article will go through the EB-4 visa, what it is, its requirements, application procedures, and other relevant details.
What is the EB-4 visa?
The EB-4 visa is for the category of special immigrants. The group of special immigrants includes the following:
- Religious workers or Ordained Ministers (from Dec 8, 2017, applications from other religious workers will not be accepted except for ministers)
- Special Immigrant Juveniles (minors who have been through hardship and are seeking permanent residence in the U.S)
- G-4 International Organization or NATO-6 Employees
- International Employees of the U.S Government who are stationed abroad
- Armed Forces Members
- Certain Physicians
- Panama Canal Zone Employees
- Afghan and Iraqi Translators
- Afghan and Iraqi Nationals who have provided services to support U.S operations
These groups of people will get an EB-4 visa if they find a permanent job position in the U.S which is according to their area of expertise if they are defined by the occupation (for example Ministers or Broadcasters).
With an EB-4 visa, they will be able to work and live in the U.S permanently. They must follow U.S laws and regulations, as well as pay applicable taxes. They are allowed to travel in and out of the U.S and after a certain period of time, they can also change their job position and move in any state of the U.S that they want.
Since the employment based visas have an annual limit on the number issued, EB-4 visas also have a limit. Out of the 140,000 employment based visas available, 7.1% are given to special immigrants as EB-4 visas. This is around 9,940 visas in one year. If this limit is filled for the year, your application will be processed in the next years.
What are the requirements for the EB-4 visa?
In order to get the EB-4 visa, there are some requirements which applicants must meet. These eligibility criteria are as follows:
- The applicants must have a valid and permanent job offer from a U.S employer. The offer must not be seasonal or part-time.
- The applicants must have the job position in their occupation and job offers from employers outside their field of expertise do not qualify.
Besides the applicants, there are also requirements for the U.S employers. They must prove that they are financially stable to be able to hire a foreign worker. Those who do not meet these criteria will not be eligible to apply for the EB-4 visa or will not be allowed to hire EB-4 visa applicants.
How to apply for the EB-4 visa?
The application process for the EB-4 visa is divided in two parts involving both the U.S employer and foreign employee or applicant:
- S employer must petition for the foreign employee to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Following approval, the foreign employee must apply for the EB-4 visa at a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence
Filing the petition
The U.S employer must get the approval of USCIS in order to be allowed to hire a foreign employee. This is done by filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. The form will have the sections that the employer must fill out and any necessary supporting documents such as tax returns, audit documents, or financial statements.
There are however cases when the foreign employee is allowed to self-petition and they must review the form and contact USCIS in order to determine whether they are allowed to.
Additionally, if a person who is a broadcaster wants to get an EB-4 visa, the petition must be submitted by the U.S Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) or a grantee of the BBG. The broadcaster must be involved in media work and not have a technical or support role for the BBG.
After the employer submits the petition, USCIS will process it and notify of their decision. If approved the case will go on to the National Visa Center (NVC). If not approved, the U.S employer is not allowed to hire a foreign employee and the employee cannot get the EB-4 visa.
When the NVC gets the case, they will assign a case number and invoice ID number. Then they will send a package to the foreign employee in their home country with instructions and forms on the application procedure. However, because the EB-4 visa has a cap, this will only happen when the applicant’s priority date is current. When the NVC sends the package to the applicant, then they will start the application at the U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
File Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent
The foreign employee or applicant will file Form DS-261 online. The form is the initial visa application and you as the applicant can access it by entering your case number. You must fill out all the necessary sections and after submission, you will get a confirmation page and number.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
In the NVC packet you will also find requirements for medical examinations and vaccines you must have before going to the U.S. You must complete the examinations at a licensed doctor and take the vaccines that you do not have. The medical documents must be signed by the doctor and attached to your supporting documents.
Compile the supporting documents file
After the NVC approves your Form DS-261, you must send the supporting documents for your case. This includes the following:
- Your passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after your intended departure to the U.S
- Your employment offer from the U.S employer
- The approved petition
- Your DS-261 confirmation page
- Your signed medical and vaccine documents
- Two photographs meeting the Photo Requirements
- Academic achievements (diplomas and certificates)
- Your CV or resume
- Court and criminal records
- Depending on the case, the NVC might require other supporting documents, so you must follow their instructions carefully.
Attend the visa interview
NVC will review your supporting documents and if they do not require anything else, they will schedule a visa interview for you. The visa interview will be held at the U.S Embassy or Consulate you are applying. The questions will be mostly on your background and your reasons for immigrating to the U.S.
Receive the NVC package and travel to the U.S
The U.S official conducting the interview will decide whether you get the EB-4 visa. If approved you will get another NVC package but you are not allowed to open it under any circumstances. You must bring it with you when you travel to the U.S and have an official at any U.S port of entry open it. The immigration official who gets the package decides whether you are allowed to enter the country or not after they review the documents inside.
What are the EB-4 visa fees?
There are many fees which both the U.S employer and the foreign worker must pay for the EB-4 visa. The amounts vary and are decided by USCIS and the U.S Embassy in the country you are applying from. In general, your employer and you will have to pay the following fees:
- USCIS Form I-360 petition filing fee (employer)
- Form DS-261 processing fee (employee)
- Medical examination fees (employee)
- Fees to obtain supporting documents (employee)
- Any translation fees from foreign language to English (employee)
How long is the EB-4 visa processing time?
Because of the annual limit on the number of visas for EB-4, the processing time for it can be quite long. The visas are processed chronologically and in order, so if your visa is the next one after the year has ended and the limit is filled, you will be processed in the next year.
Many people apply for this visa and that is why you can end up waiting for a very short time such as a few months or one year or for a longer time such as up to four years. It all depends on when you applied and when your priority date becomes current. USCIS and NVC will notify you when you can start your application to be processed.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after you have gotten your EB-4 visa is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. This is usually known as getting the Green Card. To change your status from your immigrant visa to an LPR, you must first have an approved petition from USCIS and the visa, as well as live in the U.S.
Afterwards, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved you will get your Green Card in the mail after a few weeks.
Can I bring my family to the U.S with an EB-4 visa?
Many of the EB-4 special immigrants are allowed to bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old to the U.S. If you get approved for the EB-4 visa then you can have your spouse and children apply for derivative family visas.
Once the spouse and children’s visas are approved, the spouse can apply for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and start working in the U.S too.