Permanent Visas (Green Cards)

Permanent visas to the United States can be divided into three basic categories; those based upon relatives, employment and investment. U.S. law provides for refugee status however this is not an active category nor is it a topic of this information packet. Except for immediate relatives most immigrant visas are subject to quotas which have resulted in waiting periods for most immigrants. The length of the waiting period depends upon the type of visa and nationality of the applicant. The spouse and children under 21 are entitled to a visa along with the principal applicant.

1. Immediate Relatives
This category includes spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens. This group is not subject to quotas. Processing time is usually four to six months.
2. Relatives Subject to Quotas
1st Preference – unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, ie; children over age 21, currently there is no waiting period.
2nd Preference – spouse, children and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents. The waiting period is about three (3) years for most countries.
3rd Preference – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (i.e. ; married children of any age). The waiting period is over 2 (two) years for most countries.
4th Preference – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The visa has a waiting period of eight or more years depending upon the country.
3. Employment Based Immigration
There are now (since October 31, 1991) three general employment based categories in three separate priority groups. There will be more visas available in the top priority groups than in the bottom and consequently shorter waiting periods NOTE: The legislation came into effect in October of 1991 and therefore visas are immediately available in all three categories at this time.
a) Priority Workers: There are three categories of “Priority Workers”:
Aliens with extraordinary ability: These aliens must meet the high standard of “extraordinary” ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. To meet this standard, there must be a showing that the alien has received sustained national or international acclaim, with recognition in his or her field being demonstrated by “extensive documentation”. The alien must be coming to the United States to continue working in the same field, and his or her entry must be shown “to substantially benefit prospectively the United States.” The 1990 Act does not require that such aliens have a firm job offer to be admissible in this category.
Outstanding professors and researchers: To enter in this academic category the alien must be internationally recognized as outstanding in a specific academic area; have three years of teaching or research experience in that area; and be coming to the United States to take a tenure-track teaching position with a university or institution of higher education, or a comparable research position, either academic or with a private employer. If the position is with a private employer, that the employer must have at least three full-time research employees, and must be able to document its accomplishments in an academic field.
Certain multinational executives and managers: This category encompasses aliens entering the United States to work for an employer, or subsidiary or affiliate thereof, for which they have worked abroad for at least one of the three years immediately proceeding entry. The bill specifies, however, that if a claim is made that managerial or executive capacity is based on the number of staff, consideration will be given to whether that number is appropriate to the organization’s size and functions and its stage of development.
“Managerial capacity” means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily manages the organization or a department , subdivision, function or component of the organization; supervises and controls the work of other supervisors, professionals or managers or manages an essential function within the organization or a department or subdivision; supervises other employees, has the authority to hire and fire, or recommend such actions as well as other personnel actions, or if no supervision occurs, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed, and exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first line supervisor will not be considered to be acting in a managerial capacity unless the persons supervised are professionals.
“Executive capacity” means an assignment within the organization in which the employee primarily directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization ; establish the goals and policies of the organization , component or function; exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors or stockholders.
b) Aliens: Members of a profession holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business: To qualify under the first provision, the alien must hold an advance degree, or the equivalent. To show exceptional ability, the law specifies that it is not enough that the alien possesses a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from an educational institution, or license or certificate to practice a particular profession or occupation. Both categories must show that their entry will “substantially benefit” the United States` economy, cultural or educational interest, or welfare. The alien must also have a job offer from a United States employer, although this requirement may be waived in the case of the alien of  exceptional ability.
c) Skilled Workers, Professionals and Other Workers:
Skilled workers are workers who can perform skilled labour that is not temporary and requires at least two years training or experience, and for which there are no qualified United States workers available.
Professionals who are members of the professions who hold a baccalaureate degree.
“Other Workers” are those capable of performing unskilled labour that is not temporary; again, qualified, United States workers must be unavailable.
Please note that for category (b) and category (c) the prospective immigrant must obtain a job offer (in most cases) and obtain “labour certification” which is a formal process by which the department of labour must certify to the Immigration and naturalization Service that there are no ready, willing and able American workers to fill the position at the prevailing wage rate.
4. Investment Based Immigration
Each year there will be 10,000 visas available to investors setting up businesses in the United States. The investment must be at least 1 million dollars, and 10 U.S. citizens or permanent residents must be employed (other than the immigrant and his family). The investment can be made by way of cash or property based upon the fair market value. The regulations allow for the investment to be financed so long as the investor is personally liable for the borrowed fund, and the liability is not secured by the assets purchased.
The investment can be made by establishing a new business, by the purchase and expansion of any existing business or by investing in a pre-arranged group investment whereby numerous immigrants contribute 1 million each by cash and/or debt in a large project. There are numerous projects now available and many more are expected within the next few months.
In rural areas or areas targeted as areas of high unemployment the investment is reduced to $500,000.