Employment Preference: E Visa


The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly limit of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas, which are divided into five preference categories. They usually require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the filing of a petition with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Employment First Preference (E1)

Priority Workers must have an approved I-140 Form, Immigrant Petition for Foreign Worker, normally filed by the employer in the U.S. with the DHS. They include:

  • People of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants must have extensive documentation showing national or international acclaim and recognition in their field of expertise. They do not have to have a specific job offer and can file their own petition with the DHS.
  • Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years of experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally. No labor certification is required for this classification, but the prospective employer must provide a job offer and file a petition with the DHS; and
  • Executives and managers who have already been employed by a U.S. company’s affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch. No labor certification is required, but the prospective employer must provide a job offer and file a petition with the DHS.

Employment Second Preference (E2)

Professionals holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. All applicants must have a labor certification or establish that they qualify for one of the shortage occupations. A job offer is required, and the U.S. employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant.

Employment Third Preference (E3)

Skilled workers, professionals holding baccalaureate Degrees and other workers. All applicants require an approved Form I-140 filed by the prospective employer. All require a labor certification.

Employment Fourth Preference (E4)

Special E4 immigrants must be the beneficiary of an approved petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, I-360 Form, with the exception of Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad. Certain Employees of Former Employees of U.S Government Abroad must contact their Human Resource office or its equivalent.

Employment Fifth Preference (E5)

Employment Creation Investor applicants must file a I-526 Form, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, with the USCIS. To qualify, the applicant must invest between U.S. $500,000 and $1,000,000, in a commercial enterprise which creates at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and his or her family. Please refer to the USCIS website information for EB-5 immigrant Investor for more information.

Labor Certification

A person whose occupation requires a labor certification must have prearranged employment in the United States. The prospective employer will coordinate with the prospective employee to file the appropriate forms for the Labor Certification in the United States where the work will be performed.

The employer will be notified by the Department of Labor (DOL) when it is approved or disapproved. If a labor certification is granted, the employer may then file a Form I-160, Petition for Prospective Immigrant Employee, with the DHS for the appropriate preference category.

Numerical Limitations

Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available places, the category is considered oversubscribed. Immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a labor certification becomes the applicant's priority date.

Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.

How to Apply

File the Immigrant Visa Petition

All intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa application on employment in the United States must obtain an approved immigrant visa petition, filed by their prospective employer, from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If a labor certification is granted, the employer must first obtain that and then file a Form I-160, petition for Prospective Immigrant employee. The DHS will forward the approved petition to the National Visa Center, which will contact the intending immigrant with further information.

Gather Required Documents and Prepare for the Immigrant Visa Interview

Once you have received the "Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants" from NVC, the intending immigrant must follow the instructions regarding the visa fees and documentation. Applicants who have completed the necessary forms and submitted documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) for their visa appointments, will be scheduled for interviews.

Approximately one month before the applicant’s scheduled interview appointment with a consular officer, the applicant will receive an appointment letter containing the date and time of the applicant’s visa interview along with instructions for obtaining a medical examination.

The Immigrant Visa Interview

On the interview date, a consular officer will adjudicate the application based on the visa interview and documents submitted at the interview by the applicant. Whether to issue the immigrant visa is up to the discretion of the interviewing officer.

You must bring your current passport and all old passports. You must have completed your medical exam before your interview. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Only applicants with appointments will be admitted into the U.S. Embassy. Due to the limited space in our interview waiting room, only beneficiaries may enter; the petitioner may accompany the applicant. Other accompanying parties, including friends, employees, or attorneys, must wait outside. Children under 18 years old may be accompanied by one parent or guardian to the interview. Beneficiaries are strongly advised not to finalize travel arrangements, dispose of their property, or give up their jobs until after they have been issued visas. Quitting a job, leaving school, selling property and/or closing bank accounts prior to visa issuance may be risky, as in certain cases visa issuance may be delayed for some time.