Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Immigration is a complex and complicated area of law. This page seeks to provide you with a basic overview of concepts.
This site provides general information about immigration law, and does not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions about your particular situation, or would like a consultation with one of our immigration attorneys, please contact Peng & Weber.
Overview of Immigration Law
There are two general categories for people seeking entry into the United States: nonimmigrants (temporary visitors and workers) and immigrants (permanent residents).
Nonimmigrant Categories for Temporary Workers
There are many different types of nonimmigrant classifications. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (called USCIS) provides a comprehensive list of each of the different types of nonimmigrants. Below is a list of the most common non-immigrant categories. Just click on any of the categories to read more about basic eligibility requirements.
Each of these categories have a specific process for obtaining approval, generally from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. It may be possible to extend the visa status, or change to another classification, once you are in the United States.
Permanent resident status allows foreign nationals and their immediate family to live in the United States, and work for any employer. This status is often referred to as having a "green card," based on the green tint on cards that had previously been issued to permanent residents. (The permanent resident alien card is now a lovely shade of pink). Most people obtain green cards by being sponsored by their employers or their relatives. Other people obtain permanent residence through the diversity visa lottery, through asylum and through various other means. You can read more about options for obtaining permanent residency elsewhere on our site.
The process for obtaining permanent residency based on employment depends on the position offered, and the qualifications of the foreign worker. The first preference category is for aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers and professors or those with a national interest waiver. Certain executives and managers of multinational companies may also fall in this category. The primary advantage of this first preference category is that these workers do not require the lengthy and often costly process of labor certification.
Professionals with advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business fall into the second preference category. The third preference category include professionals with basic degrees, skilled workers and "other workers" who have less than two years of relevant experience. Each of these categories require labor certification, where the Department of Labor certifies that the employer has document its unsuccessful efforts to recruit qualified U.S. workers. The length of time which the process takes varies according to the category, backlogs in the labor certification process and the availability of visas.
Permanent residency is also available to investors who meet certain criteria. First, the alien must establish a business or invest in an existing business that was created or restructured after November 19, 1990. Second, the alien must have invested $1 million in the business. This investment requirement is lowered to $500,000 if the investment is in a low employment area. Third, the business must create full-time employment for at least 10 U.S. workers.
Immigration law can be complicated, confusing and frustrating if you do not use it every day. The assistance of an experienced and competent immigration attorney can save time, avoid complications and may ultimately save you or your company money. If you have a question regarding your immigration status, or would like more information on your options for visiting the United States or obtaining permanent residency, contact Peng & Weber for experienced immigration advice and assistance.