What are the "preferences" categories for employment based visas?
If you are going to apply for an employment visa to move to the United States your chances of success will depend in large part on which preference category you fall under. The purpose of the preference categories is to ensure that the majority of people who are moving to the United States will be beneficial to the country. As a general rule the more skilled you are the more likely it is that you will get a visa.
The first preference category is for what are known as priority workers. This would be the category for people are extraordinary ability. For the most part this covers people like professional athletes, movie stars, famous musicians and similar types of people. Outstanding professors and researchers are also covered in the first preference as are executives from multinational companies.
The second preference category is for people who hold advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability. To qualify as the holder of an advanced degree you would need to have a degree that is above that of a bachelor's degree. Qualifying as a person of exceptional ability is a little bit less clear. You would need to have skills in the sciences, arts or business that are significantly above those that are normally encountered. Clearly this leaves a lot of grey area to determine who would qualify.
The third preference category is for skilled workers, professionals and unskilled workers. These are actually covered by three separate sub categories. A skilled worker is somebody who has a job that normally requires at least two years of training while an unskilled worker is one who has a job that takes less than two years of training. A professional is somebody who works in an occupation that requires a university degree.
The fourth preference category is for special immigrants which covers a wide range of things. There are nineteen different sub categories for this preference, all of which will only apply to a very small number of people. This is something that you will have to look into if you think that you may qualify for it but you should keep in mind that these are mainly for people coming from some pretty rare situations like having worked for the Panama Canal Company or people who have worked as civilian employees at a senior level for NATO.
The fifth preference is for immigrant investors. This category applies to people who invest money in an American company that will create at least ten jobs. The amount that has to be invested varies between half a million and a million dollars depending on the unemployment rate at the time of the investment and the location where the company is operating. The jobs that are created by the investor must provide employment for ten people not including the investor or his family.