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Skills Talk: Getting In to the USA On A Skilled Worker Visa

By April 2, 2020June 27th, 2023FinGlobal

Skills Talk: Getting In to the USA On A Skilled Worker Visa

April 2, 2020


The United States is a popular immigration destination for skilled South Africans, seeking better career growth opportunities and a shot at achieving their own American Dream. But just how are South Africans getting into the US of A for working purposes? Which are the careers most likely to get a U.S visa and what is the U.S. Shortage Occupation List? Take a look at all of the answers to these questions and more, below.


What is the U.S Skilled Shortage Occupations List?

The U.S. Occupations List is where you’ll find the complete run-down of all the careers that are in high demand in the USA and thus most likely to get a US visa.  When it comes to finding these skills, employers are not required to first advertise locally for the posts they wish to fill.


How does a skilled worker get a visa for the USA?

Every fiscal year, roughly 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to highly skilled qualified applicants in terms of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. For the purposes of this article, the first three preference categories are relevant.

  1. Before consideration for an immigrant visa in terms of some of the employment-based categories below, as an applicant it will be necessary to have your prospective employer or agent obtain labour certification approval from their Department of Labor.
  2. Once received your employer will then file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140 if it is necessary. They’ll do this with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the relevant employment-based preference category – Those individuals with extraordinary abilities that fall into the Employment First preference category are empowered to file their own petitions.


What are the categories for employment visas in the USA?



Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Worker and Persons of Extraordinary Ability

Within this category, there are three sub-groups:

1. Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

  • If you’re planning to play this card, you’ll need extensive documentation to show that you’ve achieved (and maintained) national or international acclaim in your field and you are accordingly recognised for your expertise.
  • The benefit of being able to play this card is that you don’t need to have a specific job offer to apply, as long as  you plan to enter the U.S. for the purposes of continuing your extraordinary work in your chosen field of expertise.
  • If you’re going this route and you meet all the criteria, you can file your own Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

2. Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years’ experience in teaching or research and international recognition.

  • If you want to get in by means of this category it will need to be a means for you to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education in the USA.
  • You’ll need a job offer from a prospective employer and they’ll need to file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140 on your behalf, with the USCIS.

3. Multinational managers or executives employed for at least one out of the three previous years by an overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of a U.S. employer.

  • If you’re thinking of going this route, the employment that you held outside of the U.S The applicant’s employment outside of the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity, and you must be going over to the U.S to work in a managerial or executive capacity as well.
  • Your prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS on your behalf.


Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

  • Applying under this category will necessitate a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor.
  • You’ll also need a job offer and your U.S. employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, on your behalf.
  • You could be eligible to apply for an exemption known as a National Interest Waiver, which means you won’t need a  job offer or labor certification if it would be in the national interest.
  • Should this be the case, you can self-petition by filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, along with evidence of the national interest yourself.

It’s a fact! 28.6% of the annual worldwide limit on employment-based immigrant visas issued are made available to individuals through the ‘Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability’, along with any unused visas from the ‘Employment First Preference’ category.


There are two sub-groups within this particular employment visa category:

  1. Professionals holding an advanced degree (we’re talking way beyond your average baccalaureate degree here), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the chosen profession.
  2. Individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. America loves talent and exceptional ability means you’ll have to hold a level of expertise that’s exceptionally higher than that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.


Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)

This is generally the most accessible category for most people looking to get into the US.

What are the chances? Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) receive 28.6% of the annual global limit on employment-based immigrant visas, plus any visas that are left over from the Employment First Preference and Second Preference categories.


Within this category are three possible sub-categories for you to choose from:

  1. Skilled workers: persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
  2. Professionals: members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.
  3. Unskilled workers (Other workers): persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.


Careers most likely to get a US Visa

From engineers, to finance and accounting, healthcare, the life sciences, and technology, there are a wealth of possible career opportunities for someone looking to take their work to the United States of America.


Looking for further reading on how to immigrate to the USA? We’ve got it right here.


FinGlobal: the smart choice for South Africans globally

We can help you on your quest to get into the USA on a skilled worker visa, as your cross-border financial services specialist of choice. If you’re planning on moving to the US to live and work, you’re going to need the assistance of financial emigration specialists to plan for your financial future.

We have a 100% successful track record in helping thousands of clients with various aspects of their cross-border financial portfolios, and we’ve been in the business since 2011. We can help you fund your American Dream by helping you encash your retirement annuity, or we can assist with foreign exchange, tax refunds and so much more. So, if you’ve got questions about how to handle your financial affairs as an expat living and working abroad, we’ve got the time to answer them. Get started with your free, no-obligation financial emigration assessment today







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