In addition to immigrant visas for family members and immediate relatives, the United States also grants visas for individuals to work in the country.
Labor immigrant visas allow foreign workers who have found an employer willing to hire them to reside permanently in the United States and work without a work permit.
Immigrant labor visas are capped at 140,000 per year; they are divided among five visa categories, resulting in long processing waits; if the visa cap is reached in one year, the remaining applications do not come up until the following year. Because of this, individuals applying for employment-based visas must wait until their priority date has passed to qualify for immigration status in the United States.
What is the EB-4 visa?
The EB-4 visa is part of the special immigrant category. The special immigrant group includes.
- Religious workers or clergy (Effective December 8, 2017, applications from non-clerical religious workers will no longer be accepted.
- Special immigrant youth (minors who have experienced a hardship and are seeking permanent residence in the United States)
- Broadcasting personnel
- G-4 international organization or NATO-6 personnel
- U.S. government personnel stationed abroad.
- U.S. military personnel
- Certain physicians
- Panama Canal Zone personnel
- Afghan and Iraqi translators
- Afghan and Iraqi nationals who have provided services in support of U.S. operations.
These individuals may be eligible for an EB-4 visa if they can find permanent work in the United States that is consistent with their specialization as defined by their occupation (e.g., minister or broadcaster).
An EB-4 visa allows you to work and live permanently in the United States. You are subject to U.S. laws and regulations and must pay all applicable taxes. You are also allowed to travel in and out of the U.S., and after a certain period of time, you can change your position and move to a state of your choice in the U.S.
There is an annual limit on the number of employment-based visas that can be issued, but there is also a limit on EB-4 visas. 7.1% of the 140,000 employment-based visas are issued as EB-4 visas to special immigrants. That’s about 9,940 visas per year. If this limit is reached in one year, your application will be processed the following year.
What are the requirements for the EB-4 visa?
There are a number of eligibility requirements that an applicant must meet in order to qualify for an EB-4 visa. These eligibility criteria are as follows.
- The applicant must have a valid and permanent offer of employment from a U.S. employer. This offer must not be seasonal or part-time.
- The applicant must have a job in their field; job offers from employers outside their field are not eligible.
In addition to the applicant, there are also requirements for U.S. employers. They must demonstrate that they are financially stable to hire foreign workers. If you do not meet these requirements, you cannot apply for an EB-4 visa, nor can you hire an EB-4 visa applicant.
How to apply for the EB-4 visa?
The application process for an EB-4 visa is divided into two parts involving both the U.S. employer and the foreign worker or applicant.
- The U.S. employer applies for the foreign worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Once approved, the foreign worker applies for an EB-4 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country.
Filing the petition
In order for a U.S. employer to hire a foreign employee, they must obtain approval from USCIS. To do so, they must file an I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). The form contains items that the employer must complete, as well as necessary supporting documents such as tax returns, audit certificates, and financial statements.
However, in some cases, foreign employees may be allowed to apply on their own. In this case, you should review the form and contact USCIS to determine this.
In addition, the American Broadcasting Group (BBG) or a BBG grantee must file a petition for broadcasters to obtain an EB-4 visa. The broadcaster must be engaged in media relations and not in a technical or support capacity for BBG.
After the employer files the petition, USCIS will process the petition and notify the employer of the outcome. If the case is approved, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). If it is not approved, the U.S. employer cannot hire the foreign national employee and the employee cannot obtain an EB-4 visa.
Once NVC receives the case, it assigns a case number and a billing ID number. It then sends a packet to the foreign worker in the home country with instructions and forms to process the application. However, because EB-4 visas are capped, this is only the case if the applicant’s priority date is current; once NVC sends the packet to the applicant, the applicant can begin the application process at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
File Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent
The foreign worker or applicant submits Form DS-261 online. This form is the initial visa application and can be accessed by the applicant by entering their case number. All required fields must be completed. Once submitted, a confirmation page and number will be issued.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
Included in the NVC packet are the medical examinations and immunization requirements that must be completed prior to travel to the United States. You must have a physical examination by a qualified physician and be vaccinated against any vaccines you do not have. Documentation of the medical examination must be signed by a physician and attached to your documents.
Compile the supporting documents file
After NVC approves your DS-261 form, you must send supporting documentation for your case. This includes the following
- Passport (valid for at least 6 months from the date you plan to leave the U.S.)
- A letter of job offer from an employer in the U.S.
- An approved petition
- DS-261 confirmation page
- Signed medical certificate and proof of immunization
- Two photographs that meet the requirements for applying for a U.S. visa
- Academic records (diplomas, transcripts)
- Your curriculum vitae
- Court and criminal records
- In some cases, additional documents may be requested. Therefore, please follow the NVC’s instructions carefully.
Attend the visa interview
The NVC will review your documents and, if nothing else is required, schedule a visa interview. The visa interview will take place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you submitted your application.
During the interview, you will primarily be asked questions about your background and your reasons for moving to the United States.
Receive the NVC package and travel to the U.S
The U.S. official who conducted the interview will decide whether or not you will receive an EB-4 visa. If you are approved, you will receive another NVC packet, which you must not open under any circumstances.
You must bring the NVC with you when you travel to the United States and have it opened by an officer at a U.S. port of entry.
After receiving the package, the immigration officer will review the documents inside and decide whether or not to allow you to enter the United States.
What are the EB-4 visa fees?
There are a number of fees that must be paid by both the U.S. employer and the foreign worker to obtain an EB-4 visa. The amounts vary and are determined by USCIS and the U.S. Embassy in the country where you are applying. Generally, you and your employer must pay the following fees.
- USCIS Form I-360 Petition Filing Fee (Employer).
- Form DS-261 processing fee (employee)
- Medical examination fee (employee)
- Cost of obtaining supporting documents (employee)
- Translation fee from foreign language to English (employee)
How long is the EB-4 visa processing time?
Due to the limited number of EB-4 visas that can be issued each year, the processing time can be quite long. Visas are processed in chronological order. So if your visa is the next one to fill the limit at the beginning of the year, it will be processed the following year.
Because so many people apply for these visas, the waiting time can be as short as a few months or a year, or as long as four years. It depends on when you apply and when your priority date is; USCIS and NVC will notify you when your application is ready to be processed.
Do I Get Access to American Healthcare With an EB4 Visa?
Yes, you can receive medical care in the U.S. with an EB4 visa. However, the cost of medical care in the United States is among the highest in the world.
A broken leg or arm can cost up to $2,500, and a stay in a U.S. hospital can cost an average of $10,000 or more. You need to choose a health insurance plan that is right for you and covers your needs in an overall affordable way.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after obtaining an EB-4 visa is to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States. This is usually referred to as obtaining a green card. To change status from an immigrant visa to an LPR, your petition must first be approved by USCIS, you must obtain a visa, and you must reside in the United States.
You must then file a Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved, you will receive your green card in the mail in a few weeks.
Can I bring my family to the U.S with an EB-4 visa?
Most EB-4 special immigrants can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. If you are approved for an EB-4 visa, you can have your spouse and children apply for derivative family member visas.
Once your spouse and children’s visas are approved, your spouse can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and begin working in the United States.
Other Types of Employment Based Visas
Employment-based visas are designated with the letter E and are available in five types
- EB-1 visa (first preference worker visa) are available for outstanding professors, researchers, individuals with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, business, sports, or education, and executives who have worked for a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. company in the past three years.
- The EB-2 visa (second preference worker visa) is for professionals with advanced degrees and exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business.
- EB-3 visa (third preference worker visa) are for skilled workers with two or more years of experience, skilled workers with advanced degrees, or unskilled workers with less than two years of experience (EW-3 visas).
- EB-4 visa, or fourth preference worker visas, are for workers of various religious, governmental, or international organizations.
- EB-5 visa, or fifth preference worker visas, are for investors in the United States who invest between $500,000 and $1 million in the U.S. economy.