Employment-Based Green Card: Eligibility, Application, and Processing Time

Employment-Based Green Card: Eligibility, Application, and Processing Time

A green card is a permanent resident card — typically sponsored by a family member or an employer — that grants a person the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. While green cards provide almost all the benefits and rights as citizenship, green cards are not equivalent to United States citizenship. Before the process of applying for an employment-based green card is initiated, there are several things you should know.

How to Obtain a Green Card (Individual)

To apply for a green card, an immigrant petition and green card application (Form I-485) must be filled out and submitted. In most cases, someone must file the initial petition for you. This person will likely be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

Your next steps when applying for a Green Card will depend on your location. If you are in the United States, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status with USCIS. If you are outside of the United States, visit the United States Department of State Consular Processing page.

The general application process to apply for a green card varies depending on your individual circumstances. As an overview, the steps are as follows:

  1. Someone files petition on your behalf (in this case, employer)
  2. USCIS reviews and makes decision on your immigrant petition
  3. If approved, you will attend an appointment to gather fingerprints, photos, and signatures
  4. You will attend an interview
  5. A final decision will be made on your application

For additional information on applying for a green card, contact the attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. or visit the USCIS.

Types of Employment-Based Green Cards

One of the most common ways in obtaining a green card is through an employer. Employment-based green cards are broken down into categories based on type of worker and type of green card your employer sponsors or petitions for you.

EB-1, Employment First Preference

Those who fall under this category are:

  • Persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics
  • “Outstanding” professors or researchers
  • Some executives or managers

In order to qualify for an employment-based green card in any of those sub-categories, extensive documentation and often times years of proven experience are also required to accompany the application for a green card.

EB-2, Employment Second Preference

Those eligible to apply for a green card under EB-2 category are:

  • Professionals holding advanced degrees (beyond a baccalaureate degree)
  • Persons of exceptional ability in arts, sciences or business

All applicants applying for a green card under EB-2 category must have a labor certification approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, a job offer in the United States must be present and the employer must petition on behalf of the applicant under EB-2.

EB-3, Employment Third Preference

Those eligible for EB-3 category green card are:

  • Skilled workers capable of stepping into a job requiring at least two years of former training
  • Professionals holding Baccalaureate Degrees

EB-4, Employment Fourth Preference

Those who fall under this category are:

  • Broadcasters employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau
  • Minister of Religion
  • Employees or former employees of the U.S. Government abroad
  • Former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government

This type of green card qualification has an annual limitation of 500 visas.

EB-5, Employment Fifth Preference

Those who fall under this category are Employment Creation Investors. To qualify, an alien must invest between $900,000 and $1,800,000 US dollars depending on geographical area.


When applying for a green card, there are two forms that need to be completed. The applicant or person seeking to obtain the green card will be responsible for one form, and the sponsor or organization petitioning for you will complete the other. The most common and widely used for is the Green Card Application (Form I-485). For an employment-based green card, your potential employer will complete and submit Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Employment-Based Green Card Labor Certification Steps

To begin the process of obtaining an employment-based green card, an employer obtains application for labor certification from the Department of Labor. Once they have received this, Form I-140 must be completed and submitted by the employer on behalf of the employee. The Labor Certification occurs in three steps:

  1. Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD): This determines how much people in that job are being paid
  2. Recruiting and Advertising of the Position in the United States: Based on regulations, the employer must announce and offer the position to potential employees in the United States before granting the job to a foreign laborer
  3. File PERM Labor Certification: After all criteria has been met and no willing Americans have taken the job, the application can be submitted to the Department of Labor


Program Electronic Review Management, also known as PERM, is the system in place for obtaining a Labor Certification. The PERM system is important in the event that your case for labor certification green cards is audited.

Next Steps

Once your submitted Form I-140 has been approved, you will have two options: to adjust your status or use consular processing to become a (legal) permanent resident.

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of status is the process for those who are already in the United States. This requires you to file Form I-485 to register a permanent resident or adjust status. This process can take up to six months and cost nearly $1,000 in some cases, typically depending on age.

Consular Processing

Consular processing is more involved than adjustment of status. An appointment must be scheduled with the United States Consulate or Embassy in your national/home country. You must participate in an interview with an immigration consular officer. If approved, an employer-based green card will be attached to your passport and you are able to enter the U.S. as a legal permanent resident.

Costs of Applying and Processing Time

Costs for a green card vary depending on the type of work and circumstances. Fees associated with a green card application may include advertising costs, legal fees from an attorney, any additional costs associated with an audit.

On average, the green card application decision can take six months to process. The time frame of your individual case also depends on the USCIS service center. You may request to expedite the process for an additional fee.

Contact an Immigration Attorney Today

At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., we provide individuals and families with the legal representation they need. Our legal team has over seven decades of combined experience to assist you or your loved one through the process of obtaining a green card through employment in the United States. For more information on obtaining a United States green card, contact a member of our legal team at 312.444.1940.

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