In most cases, USCIS must first approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or relative. Then, an immigrant visa number must be available to you, even if you are already in the United States. After that, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.)
Application Procedures: Becoming a Permanent Resident While in the United States
If you would like to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you must file the following items with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
- Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Form G-325A Biographic Data Sheet (Between the ages of 14 and 79)
- Form I-693 Medical Examination Sheet (not required if you are applying based on continuous residence since before 1972,
or if you have had a medical exam based on a fiancé visa)
- Two color photos taken within 30 days
- Form I-864 Affidavit of Support (completed by the sponsor). (This requirement may not apply to you if you are adjusting to permanent resident status based on an employment petition.)
- Form I-765 Authorization for Employment
- Form I-94, Arrival Departure Record
- If you have already been approved for an immigrant petition, you must submit a copy of the approval notice sent to you by the USCIS.
Immigration through Employment
An immigrant is a foreign national who has been authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. If you want to become an immigrant based on the fact that you have a permanent employment opportunity in the United States, or if you are an employer that wants to sponsor someone for lawful permanent residency based on permanent employment in the United States, you must go through a multi-step process.
- First, foreign nationals and employers must determine if the foreign national is eligible for lawful permanent residency under one of USCIS’ paths to lawful permanent residency.
- Second, most employment categories require that the U.S. employer complete a labor certification request (Form ETA 750) for the applicant, and submit it to the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Labor must either grant or deny the certification request. Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the United States which has been certified as underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are relieved from this requirement.
- Third, USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for the person wishing to immigrate to the United States. The employer wishing to bring the applicant to the United States to work permanently files this petition. However, if a Department of Labor certification is needed the application can only be filed after the certification is granted. The employer acts as the sponsor (or petitioner) for the applicant (or beneficiary) who wants to live and work on a permanent basis in the United States.
- Fourth, the State Department must give the applicant an immigrant visa number, even if the applicant is already in the United States. When the applicant receives an immigrant visa number, it means that an immigrant visa has been assigned to the applicant. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
- Fifth, if the applicant is already in the United States, he or she must apply to adjust to permanent resident status after a visa number becomes available. If the applicant is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, he or she will be notified and must complete the process at his or her local U.S. consulate office.
There are four categories for granting permanent residence to foreign nationals based upon employment:
EB-1 Priority workers
- Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
- Foreign national that are outstanding professors or researchers
- Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the United States
EB-2 Professionals with advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability
- Foreign nationals of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business
- Foreign nationals that are advanced degree professionals
- Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the U.S. which is underserved. Read more about this particular program.
EB-3 Skilled or professional workers
- Foreign national professionals with bachelor’s degrees (not qualifying for a higher preference category)
- Foreign national skilled workers (minimum two years training and experience)
- Foreign national unskilled workers
EB-4 Special Immigrants
- Foreign national religious workers
- Employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad
How to Apply
If you are an employer wishing to sponsor (or petition) for a foreign national to work in the United States on a permanent basis, you must file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Detailed information is provided in the instructions for Form I-140. Filing requirements differ for each of the five categories.
The Department of State is responsible for providing visa numbers to foreign nationals interested in immigrating to the United States. To find out more about the Department of State’s visa process visit the Department of State website for specific information on how to get an immigrant visa number.
Where do I apply
If you are an employer wishing to sponsor (or petition) a foreign national to work in the United States, a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker must be filed at the USCIS Service Center. Detailed filing information is provided in the instructions for Form I-140.
For EB-4 special workers, the foreign national or employer must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the CIS Service Center. Detailed filing information is provided in the instructions for Form I-360.