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Nonimmigrants can apply to change their status to permanent resident status within the following categories:

Employer-sponsored petitions:

The foreign national must be sponsored by a U.S. employer. For certain types of applicants, labor certification is required through the Program Review Electronic Management (PERM) process. This process, handled through the Department of Labor, ensures that a shortage of qualified U.S. workers exists before the applicant can fill the job.

Employer-based immigration categories are as follows:

First Preference - EB-1

Includes workers of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers. This class doesn't require labor certification.

Second Preference - EB-2

Includes workers of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, and professionals with advanced degrees. With some exceptions, labor certification is required.

Third Preference: EB-3

Includes professionals with at least a bachelor's degree, skilled workers with at least two years experience, and other workers with at least two years experience.

Fourth Preference:

Includes religious workers, such as ministers, priests and monks, or professionals and others working in a religious occupation.

Fifth Preference:

Includes foreign nationals investing in the US.

Family-sponsored petitions:

US citizens can sponsor relatives from abroad. The types of relatives who qualify fall into two categories:

Immediate relatives:

  • Spouses of US citizens.
  • Unmarried children, under 21, of US citizens.
  • Parents of US citizens. The citizens must be at least 21 years of age.

Nonimmediate relatives:

  • First preference - unmarried sons or daughters of US citizens who are 21 years of age or older.
  • Second preference - unmarried sons or daughters of permanent residents.
  • Third preference - married sons or daughters of US citizens.
  • Fourth preference - brothers or sisters of US citizens who are at least 21 years of age.