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What are employment-based visas and who uses them?

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2022 | Family Immigration

The United States has benefited considerably from immigrant labor over the course of its entire existence – and that is still true today.

Current immigration laws offer several different opportunities for foreign workers who possess valuable skill sets to come to the United States on either a temporary or permanent basis. In almost all cases, this is also an opportunity for their spouses and children (under 21 years of age) to join them.

Non-immigrant workers versus immigrant workers

There are two broad categories of foreign workers admitted to the United States: Non-immigrant workers who are only permitted to come to the U.S. for a set period of time and immigrant workers who are seeking permanent residency. In both cases, the number of visas available each year is limited.

To be approved, the foreign worker’s prospective employers must first seek permission from the U.S. Department of Labor and petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a visa in the appropriate employment category.

Why a prospective employee’s category matters

Employment-based visas are limited each year based on the idea that doing so helps keep the labor market competitive. The fear is that native-born residents of the United States might otherwise be unfairly denied career opportunities in favor of foreign nationals who could “take away” their jobs.

Because of this, every foreign national who wants a work visa has to be categorized, and some categories receive greater preference than others. Generally speaking, the more “in demand” a worker may be in their chosen field, the more likely they’ll receive a work visa. That holds true for both non-immigrant visa slots and the spaces allotted for permanent immigrants.

So, what industries tend to rely the most on foreign-born labor forces? The answer may surprise you. Foreign-born workers comprise anywhere from 24% to 45% of the following workforces in this country:

  • Domestic (household) labor
  • Textile and apparel industries
  • Computer and electronic fields
  • Personal and laundry services
  • Agriculture
  • Accommodation services
  • Food manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Administrative and support services


Navigating the complex issues that go along with a work visa isn’t easy to do alone, and both would-be employers and would-be workers alike can benefit from experienced legal assistance throughout the process.