August 16, 2023
Reading Time: 8 min

Employment-based visa types to the USA: each category explained

Each year, the USA opens around 140,000 slots for employment-based immigrant visas that allow foreigners to obtain Green Cards. These visas are categorised into 5 types, and the allocation of slots is based on the priority level assigned to each type.

Permits for highly skilled professionals and recognised academics get the highest priority with the EB‑1 and EB‑2 visas.

The EB‑5 visa for foreign investors is 5th priority with a share of 7,1% in the pool of all employment visas to the USA.

Albert Ioffe
Albert Ioffe

Broke down all the employment-visa types to the USA

Employment-based visa types to the USA

Employment-based visa types to the USA: each category explained

What is an employment-based immigrant visa and who qualifies for it

Employment-based immigrant visas to the USA allow moving to the country for permanent residence and work. Employment visas are intended for highly-qualified professionals, foreign employees of companies in the USA, and investors willing to make a financial contribution to a local business.

A holder of an employment-based visa obtains a Conditional Green Card, which is a 2‑year residence permit. After living in the country for 2 years, residents can apply for a regular Green Card that allows living in the USA permanently. A Green Card is valid for 10 years.

Every fiscal year, around 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to foreign applicants. The visas are divided into five categories, each intended for a specific group of workers.

The distribution of visas among these categories is not uniform and is determined by the priority level assigned to each group. The higher priority categories receive a greater number of visas annually.

There are 5 types of employment-based visas:

  1. EB‑1 visa for people with extraordinary skills in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. This group receives 28,6% of the yearly limit of employment-based visas.

  2. EB‑2 visa for professionals with advanced degrees who have a job offer from an employer from the USA — 28,6%.

  3. EB‑3 visa for professionals, skilled and unskilled workers for permanent jobs in the USA — 28,6%.

  4. EB‑4 visa for special immigrants. This category includes broadcasters, ministers of religion, employees of the US Government abroad, etc. — 7,1%.

  5. EB‑5 visa for immigrant investors willing to invest into at least $800,000 in a business in the USA — 7,1%.

Close family members of immigrants to the USA, such as spouses and children, can obtain visas as well.

How to get a US immigrant visa as an investor and move a step closer to a Green Card

EB‑5 visa for foreign investors

The EB‑5 Visa Program is intended for foreigners looking to invest in a business in the USA and obtain residency.

Requirements. To join the program, applicants must be over 18 years old, have no criminal record and be able to prove the legality of their income.

The program implies investing in a business in the USA and creating jobs for locals. The investment can be made independently or in cooperation with a Regional Center.

The minimal amount of the investment depends on the region where the investment-receiving business is located:

  • $800,000 if the investment is made into a target employment area project located in a rural or high-unemployment area;

  • $1,050,000 for investments into non-target employment area projects.

Aside from the investment itself, applicants also pay $80,000+ in fees and purchase health insurance.

EB-5 target employment areas | California wineries

California is one of the most popular states among EB‑5 investors. Foreigners looking to obtain residency in the US and move to California can invest in local wineries, hotels, entertainment facilities, and more

Documents to submit with the application:

  1. Copy of the investor’s and their family members’ passports.

  2. Birth, marriage, and divorce certificates.

  3. Evidence that the investor has made the required financial contribution.

  4. Certified copies of any judgement pending civil or criminal action against the petitioner from any court outside the USA within the past 15 years.

  5. Business ownership papers.

  6. Copy of all business licences.

  7. Tax returns for the last 7 years — both personal and business.

  8. Bank statements for the last 7 years.

  9. Financial statements for each business.

  10. Evidence that the investment money was acquired legally.

  11. Project investment documentation: proof of investment in a designated regional centre, evidence of the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs, and, if applicable, evidence that the business is established in a targeted employment area.

Obtainment timeframe. The EB‑5 visa applications are reviewed for 3—4 years. Until their visas are approved, applicants can stay in the USA with non-immigrant visas for work or study, such as L‑1 or F‑1 visa.

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

In total, it takes over 5 years to obtain a Green Card with a EB‑5 visa.

Immigrant Invest lawyers provide EB‑5 visa candidates with valuable advice and ensure that all documents and forms are up to standard. This reduces the risk of delays in the application processing and rejection.

How to obtain EB-5 visa to the USA

Here’s how the process goes.


1 day

Preliminary Due Diligence

Before starting the preparations for application, Immigrant Invest lawyers run a background check on a potential participant in the EB‑5 visa program to identify risks and minimise them. For this stage, the investor needs only to provide their passport copy.


2+ weeks

Collecting the documents

Immigrant Invest experts provide the list of documents required for filing a petition for an EB‑5 visa. After the original papers are gathered, the lawyers translate them and notarise the copies.


2+ weeks

Choosing the investment project and fulfilling investment conditions

The investor chooses a project from specialised EB‑5 businesses and completes a transaction through an EB‑5 Regional Center.


1 week

Submitting documents for the EB-5 visa

The investor files an I‑526E petition along with all the documents to the USA consulate or, if the applicant is already in the country, to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS.


3+ years

Processing of the application

The USCIS reviews EB‑5 visa applications within 3—4 years. Until they get their approval, the investors can stay in the USA with their non-immigrant visas.


6+ months

Obtaining a Conditional Green Card

Once the visa is approved, investors can file a petition for a Conditional Green Card. If they are already in the USA, they submit the I‑485 form to USCIS. If they are outside of the country, investors file the DS‑260 form to the US Embassy.

The Conditional Green Card is issued for 2 years.


3—4 years

Obtaining a Green Card

After residing in the USA with a Conditional Green Card for 21 months, the investor can apply for permanent residency, US Green Card. For that, they need to file an I‑829 petition to the USCIS.

EB‑1 visa to the USA for priority workers and people with extraordinary ability

Eligibility. The EB‑1 visa is granted to individuals who show outstanding skills or professionals who have international recognition. This applies to:

  • professionals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, which is supported by national or international recognition;

  • outstanding professors and researchers with outstanding achievements in their academic field;

  • multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one year by an overseas branch or affiliate of a US company within the last three years.

Exceptional talents, skills and experience must be proven by corresponding documentation, such as evidence of holding international prizes and awards, membership in professional associations that demand outstanding achievements, publications written by others about the applicant, work history, etc.

Application. For an EB‑1 visa, a participant needs to file a I‑140 form. Professionals with extraordinary ability do it themselves to an US embassy or the USCIS. For outstanding professors and researchers, as well as multinational managers of US companies, the form should be submitted by their employer to the USCIS.

Form I-140 for US visas EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3

Applicants for visas EB‑1, EB‑2 and EB‑3 file the I‑140 petition form, it consists of 9 pages and includes the petitioner’s personal information, their employment state, and questions about their family members

Obtainment timeframe. The processing of a EB‑1 visa application takes up to 12 months. It is possible to request premium processing and have the application reviewed within 15—45 calendar days.

To request premium processing, a participant needs to file an I‑907 form along with the rest of the documents during the initial application or separately, if the rest of the papers are already at the service centre. The I‑907 form has to be submitted to the same service centre where the application is currently pending. It also can be done online via the USCIS online account.

The fee for premium processing is $1,500. It is non-refundable, regardless of the application processing outcome.

Visa EB‑2 for professionals holding advanced degrees

Eligibility. An EB‑2 visa is available to professionals who have an advanced degree or show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

Applicants for this visa must have a job offer from a US employer. The position must require an advanced degree — a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent plus at least 5 years of post-bachelor’s progressive work experience in the field.

A person applying for a EB‑2 visa on the ground of exceptional ability must show evidence of such. This includes official academic record, letters from current and former employees documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the field, recognition for an applicant’s achievements by government entities and professional associations, etc.

Application. A candidate for an EB‑2 visa must have a job offer and the employer must file a Form I‑140 on the applicant’s behalf. Above that, the employer must submit a labour certification from the Department of Labor and prove their ability to pay the offered wage to the visa candidate until they obtain their permanent residency.

To demonstrate their ability to pay, the employers provide annual reports, federal income tax returns, or audited financial statements.

In some cases, EB‑2 visa candidates can apply for an exemption from the job offer and labour certification requirements. For that, they need to apply for the National Interest Waiver. It is granted to workers whose transfer to the country has national importance and is beneficial to the USA.

Obtainment timeframe. The processing of EB‑2 visa applications takes from a few months to two years. It is possible to apply for premium processing and get the decision on the visa within 45 calendar days for those who seek the National Interest Waiver and 14 calendar days for those who don’t.

To apply for fast processing, the applicant or their employer submit a I‑907 form and pay a $1,500 fee.

Visa EB‑3 for skilled individuals, professionals, and other workers

Eligibility. The EB‑3 visa is available to workers employed by American companies. There are three subcategories of such professionals:

  • skilled workers whose job requires at least 2 years of training or experience, as well as relevant training or postsecondary education;

  • professionals whose job in the USA requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent;

  • other workers whose job requires less than 2 years training or experience.

Applicants for this type of visa must be performing work for which there are no available qualified professionals in the United States.

Application. The candidate’s employer in the USA applies for the EB‑3 visa on their behalf. For that, they submit a Form I‑140 and an individual labour certification from the Department of Labor.

Obtainment timeframe. Processing of EB‑3 visa applications can take from 1 to 3 years. There is an option to expedite the process through premium processing. In this case, the decision on the visa will be made within 15 calendar days. To apply for the fast processing, either the applicant or their employer submit an I‑907 form along with a fee of $1,500.

EB‑4 visa for special groups of immigrants

Eligibility. EB‑4 visa is available to certain special immigrants. This includes:

  • religious workers;

  • broadcasters in the USA employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau or a grantee of such organisation;

  • certain retired officers or employees of a G‑4 international organisation or NATO‑6 civilian employees;

  • certain physicians licensed and practising medicine in the USA;

  • members of the U.S. armed forces;

  • Panama Canal company or Canal Zone government employees;

  • individuals who have provided information concerning a criminal or terrorist organisation or enterprise.

Application. Depending on each individual case, the petition for a EB‑4 visa should be filed by either the candidate themselves or their employer. The required form for this visa is I‑360.

Obtainment timeframe. The processing time for each candidate for an EB‑4 visa depends on their circumstances — it could take from a few months up to 2+ years. Premium processing is not available for this category of employment-based visa applicants.

Family members to join the application

Immigrants with employment-based visas can provide their spouses and unmarried children under 21 with Green Cards in the USA as well. For that, they need to submit their documentation and the Form‑485 to the USCIS or the US Embassy.

The Form‑485 can be submitted with the main candidate’s initial application, while their application is pending or after it has been approved. Aside from that, family members provide civil documentation, such as passports and birth certificates, as well as evidence of their relation to the main applicant.

General requirements for applicants

Aside from the specific eligibility criteria for each category of employment-based visas, there are some general requirements for applicants as well. These include having a clean criminal record and no history of overstaying previous visas.

Medical requirements. Candidates for any immigrant visa to the USA must meet the vaccination requirements. The applicant undergoes a medical examination during which panel physicians review their vaccination records and determine vaccinations to be done.

An applicant must have the following vaccinations:

  1. COVID‑19.

  2. Hepatitis A.

  3. Hepatitis B.

  4. Influenza.

  5. Influenza type b (Hib).

  6. Measles.

  7. Meningococcal.

  8. Mumps.

  9. Pneumococcal.

  10. Pertussis.

  11. Polio.

  12. Rotavirus.

  13. Rubella.

  14. Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids.

  15. Varicella.

Documents to provide for an employment-based visa to the USA. Aside from proofs of eligibility for certain visa type, such as job offers and university degrees, and petition forms, applicants are also required to provide the following papers:

  • a passport that is valid for at least 6 months;

  • two 51×51 mm photographs in colour;

  • civil documents, such as birth and marriage certificates;

  • proof of adequate means of financial support;

  • completed medical examination forms.

Application fees. Visa candidates pay processing fees $345 for the Form I‑140 and $205 for the Form I‑360. Some categories of applicants for the EB‑4 visa don’t pay a processing fee.

Aside from that, applicants whose visa was approved must pay the USCIS immigrant fee, which is $220. This fee must be paid before entering the USA.

Other expenses on an employment-based visa to the USA include costs for medical examination and vaccination and healthcare coverage.

Visa interview. Once the National Visa Center determines that an applicant’s file has all the required documents and fees, they schedule an interview appointment for the candidate. The applicant receives the interview invitation by email.

The National Visa Center sends the applicant’s file to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be held. Visa candidates may be requested to bring additional documents for the interview, as well as their valid passport.

At the embassy, the applicant will be interviewed by the consular officer and asked to submit their biometric data. Typically, the applicant receives their original documents and translations back at the time of the interview.

After the visa is approved: important things to remember

Once the application is approved, visa holders can start planning their move to the United States. There are a few important rules to follow during planning:

  • applicants must enter the country before the visa expires;

  • along with their passports, successful applicants receive a sealed envelope with all the documents they had submitted earlier — it has to remain sealed until the visa holder travels to the U.S., only an immigration official can open it;

  • if a EB visa holder relocates to the United States with their family members, it is necessary for the accompanying family members to either enter the country simultaneously with the primary applicant or follow them at a later time;

  • the USCIS immigrant fee of $220 must be paid before the trip to the United States.

Key takeaways

  1. There are different categories of employment-based visas to the USA. Each of them is intended for a specific group of applicants.

  2. There is a limited amount of employment-based visas issued every year. The processing of an application can take up to 3—4 years.

  3. Foreigners willing to invest in a business in the USA can obtain an employment-based visa as well. The EB‑5 visa requires an investment of at least $800,000.

  4. Other employment-based visas require specific skills, talents, experience, and, in some cases, international recognition. EB‑2 and EB‑3 visas also require the applicant to have an employer in the USA which will submit the visa application on their behalf.

  5. Foreigners with employment-based immigrant visas to the USA can invite their spouses and unmarried children under 21 to the country as well.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

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Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

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