Green Card for Employment-Based Immigrants

U.S. immigration law provides foreign nationals with a variety of ways to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) through employment in the United States. These employment-based (EB) “preference immigrant” categories include:

  • First preference (EB-1) – priority workers
    • Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
    • Outstanding professors and researchers; or
    • Certain multinational managers and executives. 
  • Second preference (EB-2) – foreign nationals who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers). 

This page provides specific information for foreign nationals in the United States who want to apply for lawful permanent resident status in the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories while in the United States. This is called “adjustment of status.” You should also read the Instructions for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (PDF, 545 KB) before you apply.

For more information on other types of employment-based immigrants, see our pages on Green Cards for EB-4 special immigrants (for example, religious workers and special immigrant juveniles) and EB-5 immigrant investors.

If you are currently outside the United States, see Consular Processing for information about how to apply for a Green Card as a family preference immigrant.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

If you are currently in the United States, in order to be eligible for a Green Card as an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You properly file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • You were inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States;
  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • You are eligible to receive an immigrant visa;
  • An immigrant visa is immediately available to you at the time you file your Form I-485 and at the time USCIS makes a final decision on your application. (For information on visa availability, see Visa Availability and Priority Dates, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin);
  • The job offered to you in the Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker still exists with the employer that filed the Form I-140 on your behalf, and you plan to accept the job once USCIS approves your Form I-485. If you filed Form I-140 as a self-petitioner, you must plan to work in the same or similar occupational field as specified in your Form I-140;
    • Note: Even if you have a new job or employer, section 204(j) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows the approved Form I-140 to remain valid for adjustment of status purposes if:  
      • You submit evidence that the new job is in the same or a similar occupational classification as the job in the original Form I-140.
      • The Form I-485 you filed based on the Form I-140 remains unadjudicated for 180 days or more; and
  • None of the applicable bars to adjustment of status apply to you;
  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief; and
  • You merit the favorable exercise of USCIS’ discretion.

Inspected and Admitted or Inspected and Paroled

Generally, to be eligible to adjust status, you must be present in the United States after being “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by an immigration officer. There are some limited exceptions to this eligibility requirement. For more information on this requirement, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part B, Chapter 2, Section A, “Inspected and Admitted” or “Inspected and Paroled”.

Eligibility to Receive an Immigrant Visa

You are eligible to receive an immigrant visa, if you are the beneficiary of:

  • An approved Form I-140 filed on your behalf;
  •  A pending Form I-140 (that is ultimately approved); or
  •  A Form I-485 filed together with the Form I-140 (and the Form I-140 is ultimately approved).

Bars to Adjustment

Depending on how you entered the United States or if you committed a particular act or violation of immigration law, you may be barred from adjusting status. You are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status if one or more bars to adjustment listed in section 245(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) apply to you.  For more information, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part B, 245(a) Adjustment.

Applying Under INA 245(i) (LIFE Act)

You may be able to adjust status under INA 245(i) even if you are subject to one or more adjustment bars and are therefore ineligible for adjustment of status under INA 245(a). See the separate Instructions for Form I-485 Supplement A, Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i) (PDF, 264 KB) for more information.

Grounds of Inadmissibility

To qualify for a Green Card, you must be admissible to the United States. Reasons why you may be inadmissible are listed in the INA 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility.

In general, USCIS can only approve your Green Card application only if none of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you.                                            

If you are inadmissible, the law may allow you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief in your situation. See Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility and Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal. If a waiver or other form of relief is granted, USCIS may approve your application for a Green Card if you are otherwise eligible.

Whether a waiver or other form of relief is available depends on the specific inadmissibility ground(s) that applies to you and the category you are adjusting under. Eligibility requirements for waivers and other forms of relief vary. For information on the grounds of inadmissibility and waivers, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 8, Admissibility and Volume 9, Waivers.

How to Apply

If you are currently in the United States, an immigrant visa is immediately available to you as an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant, and you meet certain other requirements, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a Green Card without leaving the country. This is called “adjustment of status.” If a visa is immediately available, you may file your Form I-485:

For information on visa availability, see Visa Availability and Priority Dates, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin.

 What to Submit (Principal Applicant)

If you are the named beneficiary of a Form I-140, you are called the principal applicant. As the principal applicant, you should submit the following documentation and evidence to apply for a Green Card as an employment-based immigrant who is already in the United States:

Note: If you are a self-petitioner, submit a signed statement confirming you intend to work in the occupational field specified in the Form I-140;

  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate;
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable) 

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website;

Note: “Relative” means a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is your husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter, or a U.S. citizen who is your brother or sister;

Note: Certain forms, including Form I-485, have a filing fee. You must submit the correct filing fee for each form, unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver. Please see USCIS’ Filing Fees and Fee Schedule for more information.

For more information on applying for adjustment of status, see the Instructions for Form I-485 (PDF, 545 KB). Please also see our page on Tips for Filing Forms with USCIS.

Family Members

If you are the spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age of an employment-based principal applicant, you may apply for a Green Card as a derivative applicant.  For more information on derivatives and eligibility for adjustment of status, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Part A, Chapter 6, Section C, Subsection C - Derivatives.

Eligibility Criteria for Adjustment of Status as Derivative Applicants

In order to be eligible for a Green Card as an employment-based derivative applicant, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You properly file your Form I-485:
    • Together with the principal applicant’s Form I-485 (and the principal applicant’s Form I-485 is ultimately approved);
    • While the principal applicant’s Form I-485 is still pending with USCIS (and the principal applicant’s Form I-485 ultimately approved);
    • After USCIS approves the principal applicant’s Form I-485 as long as:
      • The principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were the principal applicant’s spouse or child at the time USCIS approved the principal applicant’s Form I-485; or
    • After the principal applicant obtained an immigrant visa and was admitted into the United States as a lawful permanent resident, as long as:
      • The principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were the principal applicant’s spouse or child at the time the principal applicant was admitted into the United States.
  • You are currently the principal applicant’s spouse or child;

  • You were inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States;

  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • None of the applicable bars to adjustment of status apply to you;

  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief; and

  • You merit the favorable exercise of USCIS’ discretion.

 

What to Submit (Derivative Applicants)

If you are a derivative applicant (a spouse or child), you should submit the following evidence to apply for a Green Card under an employment-based immigrant category:

  • Copy of documentation showing your relationship to the principal applicant, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption decree;
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the principal applicant’s Form I-140 (unless you are filing your Form I-485 together with the principal applicant’s Form I‑485);
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the principal applicant’s Form I‑485 or a copy of the principal applicant’s Green Card (if not filing together with the principal applicant’s Form I-485);
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate;
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable) 

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website at www.cbp.gov/I94;

  • Proof that you have continuously maintained a lawful status since arrival in the U.S. (or that you are exempt under INA 245(k));

Note: “Relative” means a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is your husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter, or a U.S. citizen who is your brother or sister;

  • Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);

Note: Certain forms, including Form I-485, have a filing fee. You must submit the correct filing fee for each form, unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver. Please see USCIS’ Filing Fees and Fee Schedule for more information.

Employment Authorization and Advance Parole Documents

Generally, when you have a pending Form I-485, you may apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

You may also apply for an advance parole document by filing a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. An advance parole document authorizes you to appear at a port-of entry to seek parole into the United States after temporary travel abroad. If you need to leave the United State temporarily while your Form I-485 is pending, please see the Instructions for Application for Travel Document for more information.  Generally, if you have a pending Form I-485 and you leave the United States without an advance parole document, you will have abandoned your application.

For further information, see our Employment Authorization and Travel Documents pages.

Legal Reference

For more information, see the following:

 

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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