PERM Labor Certification and EB-2 Green Cards

In U.S. immigration law, there are three employment based categories for green cards. 

The first category, called EB-1, is for Priority Workers.  Priority workers include aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers (the term “alien” means a person who is not a U.S. citizen).

The second category, called EB-2, is for professional workers with advanced degrees or aliens with exceptional ability.  We have provided more information about these terms below.  In general, the government generally views “exceptional ability” under the EB-2 category to be less difficult to prove compared to “extraordinary ability” under the EB-1 category.

The third category, called EB-3, is for professional, skilled, and unskilled workers. 

The procedures for filing EB-2 and EB-3 green cards applications are very similar. Normally, U.S. business must agree to serve as the sponsor, which means that the business signs the application package and certifies to the government that it wants to employ the alien once the green card is approved. 

Also, with EB-2 and EB-3 applications, the employer/sponsor normally must complete a process called “PERM Labor Certification” before it can submit the green card application.  PERM Labor Certification is a process in which the employer/sponsor proves to the government that it cannot find a U.S. worker that is available to fill the position that has been offered to the alien worker.  PERM Labor Certification often takes less than six months to complete.  We can provide more information about PERM Labor Certification procedures upon request.

The advantage of the EB-2 Category over the EB-3 Category is that there is currently a long backlog in processing EB-3 applications.  Due to the backlog, an EB-3 application might take four years or more from start the finish.  There is not the same backlog in the EB-2 category.  As a result, an application may take less than 12 months to complete.  In other words, the green card could be approved and issued in less than 12 months from start to finish.

Of course, qualifying for a green card in the EB-2 Category is normally more difficult than qualifying for the green card in the EB-3 Category.  To qualify for the EB-2 Category, the employer and the prospective worker must show all of the following:

  1. THE JOB: The job offered must require the services of a worker with an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) OR a worker with exceptional ability.
  2. THE WORKER: The prospective worker must have an advanced degree (or the equivalent) or must have exceptional ability.

Regarding Advanced Degreed Professionals:

If the alien worker has a master’s degree or Ph.D. in his or her field from a U.S. or foreign university, then the alien worker should easily qualify for the EB-2 Category as a professional worker with an advanced degree.  However, the alien worker may also qualify if he or she has four-year university degree (bachelor’s degree) from an American or foreign university followed by at least five years of progressive experience in the specialty.  This is often considered to be the equivalent of a master’s degree.  If a doctoral degree is customarily required by the specialty, the alien must have a U.S. doctorate or a foreign equivalent degree.

In order to show that the alien worker is a professional worker with an advanced degree, the government requires the following items:

  • An official academic record showing that the alien has a United States advanced degree or a foreign equivalent degree; or
  • An official academic record showing that the alien has a United States baccalaureate degree (4 year university degree) or a foreign equivalent degree, and evidence in the form of letters from current or former employer(s) showing that the alien has at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience in the specialty.

In a few of these cases, additional evidence may be required to show that the alien worker is engaged in a “profession,” which is an occupation for which a four-year university degree or the foreign equivalent is the minimum requirement for entry into the occupation.

If a license is required to practice in the profession, the alien worker must show that he or she already has the license at the time of application.

Regarding Aliens with Exceptional Ability: 

For the EB-2 Category, the government defines “exceptional ability” as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”

In order to prove this, the government requires at least three of the following:

  • An official academic record showing that the alien has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of exceptional ability;
  • Evidence in the form of letter(s) from current or former employer(s) showing that the alien has at least ten years of full-time experience in the occupation for which he or she is being sought;
  • A license to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;
  • Evidence that the alien has commanded a salary, or other remuneration for services, which demonstrates exceptional ability;
  • Evidence of membership in professional associations; or
  • Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.

If the above standards do not readily apply to the alien worker’s occupation, the government may accept other comparable evidence to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

In summary, it is important to remember the following:

The JOB must require a worker with an advanced degree or a worker with exceptional ability AND the WORKER must have an advanced degree (or the equivalent) or exceptional ability to qualify in the EB-2 Category!

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