EB 101: Overview Of Employment-Based (EB) Immigration

What Is Employment-Based Immigration?

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Overview of The U.S. Immigration System

Anyone who wishes to come to the U.S. to either live or work must have some sort of authorization to do so. The body of law that generally governs the immigration process in the U.S. is the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). That body of law provides among other things, for certain “avenues” for individuals to apply for what is termed “lawful permanent residency”, or LPR. Individuals granted LPR status are allowed to work and live permanently in the U.S. Under most conditions, once an LPR has continued to reside in the U.S. for more than 5 years, they are then eligible to apply for citizenship.

Each year, the INA provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants with some limited exceptions. In general, the INA can be viewed as being premised on a handful of principles. These principles can be summed up as 1) encouraging the reunification of families of both citizens and LPRs, 2) protecting refugees, 3) promoting diversity and finally 4) encouraging the immigration of immigrants with skills and knowledge that will benefit the U.S. It is this latter principle that guides the body of law within the INA that is so aptly named “employment based immigration”.

What is Employment Based Immigration?

Employment-based immigration can be thought as one pathway for an individual to merit the issuance of an visa. Visas can be either for a temporary period or permanently. Temporary visas allow employers to hire foreign nationals for a particular job for a limited period of time. The classic example of a temporary employment-based visa would be the H-1B visa. However, there are several types of employment-based temporary visas including the L-1 for intracompany transfers, P visas for athletes, entertainers, and skilled performers, and O-1 visas for workers of extraordinary ability to name but a few of the most prevalent. These visas can vary quite widely on the exact terms they grant the recipient, but the underlying theme behind each of them is that they are premised on the fact that the beneficiary is meriting the issuance of the visa because of the skills they bring for U.S. employers.

Permanent employment-based immigration visas are similar to the temporary visas in that they too are premised on the idea that visas should be issued to individuals who can bring substantial skills or knowledge to the U.S. that will ultimately be beneficial country. Permanent employment based immigration visas are limited by statute to 140,000 per year. But it should be noted that this number does not simply reflect how many visas are issued to primary applicants, but rather reflect visa issuance to primary applicants (i.e. the individual with the unique skill/knowledge set) and those issued to their spouses and unmarried children. As a result, the actual number of individuals that are granted a permanent employment-based immigration visa is actually quite smaller than the 140,000 each year.

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