What Is Sponsorship for Employment Visa Status?


An employment visa allows a foreign national to travel to the United States in order to live and work in the country for a specified amount of time. Employment visas are also referred to as work visas, employment-based visas, and EB visas.

In order to receive an employment visa to work in the United States, you’ll need an employer to petition the US government for a visa on your behalf and “sponsor” your travel to the United States. As part of the visa sponsorship process, the employer will need to provide the government with the following assurances:

  • The company needs this particular worker to fill the job position 
  • The job position cannot be filled by local US citizens
  • Proof that the prospective employee must travel to the United States to fulfill the job’s responsibilities (e.g. a research report)

Once you are permitted into the country, the employer must continue to sponsor your visa status by maintaining your employment with them. Unfortunately, that means an employment visa can (and usually will) be immediately revoked if the company closes or goes out of business. Similarly, quitting or being terminated will also result in your employment visa being revoked. 

If you are in the process of petitioning for an employment visa, your employer should handle most of the process. That said, the smallest mistake can derail your application, so it’s still a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure everything is in order before you submit your application.

If you are currently in the United States under an employment visa and your sponsorship status is in jeopardy (e.g. the company is closing or has announced layoffs), you should speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Depending on your situation, you may be able to apply for a new visa or another form of legal residency in order to avoid being removed from the United States. 

How to Get an Employment Visa

In order to receive an employment visa, the employer will need to start the process by first obtaining a labor certification approval from the US Department of Labor. Upon completion of the labor certification, the employer will then file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on the appropriate employment-based preference category.

The best way to ensure that you get approved for you I-140 form is to work with an immigration attorney. An immigration attorney will not only be able to provide you with all the resources necessary to apply, but will make sure that you put the most relevant information in the forms to offer the highest likelihood of approval.

Employment First Preference (E1)

There are three groups that qualify for priority E1 categorization:

  • Persons with extraordinary ability in business, education, athletics, arts, or science – the applicant must present extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in one of the aforementioned fields of expertise. The applicant doesn’t need a specific job offer providing they are entering the United States to continue work in their field of expertise.
  • Outstanding professors and researchers with at least 3 years’ experience in research or education, and some form of international recognition – the applicant must be traveling to the United States to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at an accredited university or higher education institution.
  • Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least 1 of the past 3 years by the employer’s overseas subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch – the applicant’s employment abroad must be in a managerial or executive capacity, and the new position must be in a managerial or executive capacity.

Employment Second Preference (E2)

Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

There are two groups that qualify for E2 categorization:

  • Professionals with an advanced degree – must be greater than a bachelor’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of progressive experience in their profession.
  • Persons with exceptional ability in business, arts, or science – in this case, “exceptional ability” refers to a degree of expertise significantly greater than normal.

Employment Third Preference (E3)

Skilled Workers, Professionals and Unskilled Workers

There are three groups that qualify for E3 categorization:

  • Skilled workers – individuals with at least 2 years of training or work experience (excluding temporary or seasonal work)
  • Professionals – individuals whose occupation requires at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, college, or foreign equivalent.
  • Unskilled workers – individuals who capable of filling positions that require less than 2 years of training or experience that are not seasonal or temporary (this group is sometimes referred to as “other workers”).

Employment Fourth Preference (E4)

Certain Special Immigrants

There are 14 groups of workers that may qualify for E4 classification:

  • Broadcasters in the United States who are employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or a grantee of a comparable organization
  • Religious ministers
  • Current and former employees of the US government abroad 
  • Former employees of the Canal Zone Government or Panama Canal Company
  • Former employees of the US government in the Panama Canal Zone
  • Afghan and Iraqi translators or interpreters who have worked directly with the US armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as an interpreter or translator for at least 12 months
  • Afghan and Iraqi nationals who have provided valuable and faithful service while employed by or on behalf of the US government in Iraq for at least one year between March 2003 – September 2013, or in Afghanistan for at least one year after October 7, 2001. Qualified applicants must have experienced an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of their employment with the United States
  • Foreign medical graduates (adjustments only)
  • Retired international organization employees; unmarried sons and daughters; surviving spouses 
  • Special immigrant juveniles (no family member derivatives—adjustments only)
  • Individuals recruited outside the US who have served or are enlisted to serve in the US armed forces
  • NATO-6 civilians; unmarried sons and daughters; surviving spouses 
  • Individuals who are beneficiaries of petitions or labor certification applications filed before September 11, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act on September 11, 2001
  • Religious workers

Employment Fifth Preference (E5)

Immigrant Investors

This category is reserved for foreign investors who are considering new commercial enterprises in the US that may create new jobs for Americans. Once USCIS approves the petition based on the employment preference category, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will assign a case number, and when the applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to submit Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent (unless you have an immigration attorney, in which case Form DS-261 is not necessary). Once the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request all of the necessary documents, including all application forms and civil documents.

The final step in the employment visa application process is to complete a visa interview in the nearest US embassy or consulate. The interviewer will make the final determination as to whether the applicant should receive an employment visa.

Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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