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Within each family and employment preference, the INA further allocates the number of LPRs issued visas each year.
The family preferences are based upon the closeness of the family relationship to U.S. citizens and LPRs.
The employment preferences are based upon the professional accomplishments and skills needed by U.S. employers.
As Table 1 summarizes the legal immigration preference system, the complexity of the allocations becomes apparent.
Note that in most instances unused visa numbers are allowed to roll down to the next preference category.
Employment-based visa allocations not used in a given year roll-over to the family preference categories the following year, and vice versa.
Legal Immigration Preference System Category Numerical limit Total Family-Sponsored Immigrants Immediate relatives Aliens who are the spouses and unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens and the parents of adult U.S. citizens Family-sponsored Preference Immigrants 1st preference Unmarried sons and daughters of citizens 2nd preference (A) Spouses and minor children of LPRs (B) Unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs 3rd preference Married sons and daughters of citizens 4th preference Siblings of citizens age 21 and over Employment-Based Preference Immigrants
- 1st preference
- 2nd preference 3rd preference— skilled 3rd preference— “other” 4th preference 5th preference
Priority workers: persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, science, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; and certain multi-national executives and managers Members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional abilities in the sciences, art, or business
Skilled shortage workers with at least two years training or experience, professionals with baccalaureate degrees Unskilled shortage workers”Special immigrants,” including ministers of religion, religious workers other than ministers, certain employees of the U.S. government abroad, and others Employment creation investors who invest at least $1 million (amount may vary in rural areas or areas of high unemployment) which will create at least 10 new jobs 480,000 Unlimited
This provision states that the employment 3rd preference “other workers” category is to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under NACARA.
As part of the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress added a fifth preference category for foreign investors to become LPRs. The INA allocates up to10,000 admissions annually and generally requires a minimum $1 million investment and employment of at least 10 U.S. workers.
Less capital is required for aliens who participate in the immigrant investor pilot program, in which they invest in targeted regions and existing enterprises that are financially troubled.16 Employers who seek to hire prospective employment-based immigrants through the second and third preference categories also must petition the U.S.
Department of Labor (DOL) on behalf of the alien.
The prospective immigrant must demonstrate that he or she meets the qualifications for the particular job as well as the preference category. If DOL determines that a labor shortage exists in the occupation for which the petition is filed, labor certification will be issued.
If there is not a labor shortage in the given occupation, the employer must submit evidence of extensive recruitment efforts in order to obtain certification.
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