If you have an offer for a permanent job in the United States, you may be aware it could provide you with the opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident -- a green card holder. Did you know that you could petition for your green card before you leave home? It's true. Through consular processing, you can apply for an employment-based visa and a green card at the same time, allowing you to enter the United States as a permanent resident.
Am I eligible for a permanent employment-based visa?
The USCIS calls visas that allow permanent residency based on a job offer "EB" visas, and there are four basic types. EB-1 visas are for "first preference" immigrants, such as people whose extraordinary ability has earned them broad acclaim, or multinational executives coming to work for an existing employer. EB-2 visas are given to "second preference" immigrants, such as those with advanced degrees or exceptional ability. The preference categories run through EB-4. An immigration lawyer can explain which category applies to you.
In most cases, it will be your employer who petitions for you by filing a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Once the Form I-140 is filed, you need to wait for a visa to become available. Around 140,000 employment-based visas are issued each year, according to the USCIS, and they are given out in order of preference, with EB-1 applicants first.
Petitioning for a green card from outside the United States
If you live outside the U.S., your case will be handled by the U.S. Department of State consulate closest to your home. Once your Form I-140 has been approved, you should wait for the National Visa Center to contact you with information about what supporting documentation and fees are required and when you can expect an immigrant visa number.
Once a visa comes available, the consulate will schedule an interview with you. They will then complete the processing of your case and make a final determination that you are eligible for the visa, as long as there haven't been any significant changes in your situation. The National Visa Center may be back in contact if they need further information.
Upon granting your visa, the consulate will give you a "Visa Packet," which you should not open. You will give the unopened Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection Officer at your port of entry into the U.S. The officer will inspect you and, assuming you are found admissible, you will enter the U.S. as a permanent resident. Your green card will be mailed to you in about 45 days.