US Permanent Residency: Overview


The Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT 90) established new categories, guidelines and quotas for internationals seeking permanent residency in the United States. The allotted visas are divided among the countries of the world, and the same conditions and requirements apply to everyone, regardless of country of origin.

To qualify for an immigrant visa, an applicant must fit into one of the designated categories. Unless the requirements of the category are met, no immigrant visa will be approved.

The intent of the law is to bring needed job skills to the U.S and to unite families. Immigration categories are therefore divided into employment-based immigration and family-based immigration.

Under IMMACT 90, five employment-based categories were established.

Priority Workers (EB-1)
(No certification through the Department of Labor (DOL) is necessary)

  • Extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics
  • Outstanding Professors and Researchers (EB-12)
  • Multinational Executives and Managers

Advanced-degree Professionals (EB-2)
(Labor certification is required unless waived "in the national interest")

  • Professionals holding advanced degrees (EB-21)
  • Employees of exceptional ability in the arts, sciences or business

Professionals holding basic degrees, Skilled Workers and other Workers (EB-3)
(Labor Certification is required)

  • Professionals holding bachelor degrees
  • Skilled workers with at least 2 years of training/experience
  • Unskilled workers

Special Immigrants (EB-4)

Includes ministers of religion, religious workers, certain former U.S. government and international organization employees.

Investors (EB-5)

To qualify for this category an individual is required to invest at least $1 million in capital and employ 10 or more U.S. workers.