Is it faster to obtain permanent residency through work?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers the question of a reader who wants to know which is the fastest way: permanent residency for family or employment.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

I am Mexican and have lived in the United States since 2007, when I entered the country illegally. My mother recently became a permanent resident through my citizen sister and wants to petition me. I am single and help take care of my mother who is ill.

I have worked as a carpenter for the past 4 years for different employers. Now, an American construction company wants me to work for them and they are willing to sponsor me for permanent residency.

Can I be requested by my mother and the construction company? Which procedure would be faster? -Antonio P.

Antonio, depending on several factors and if you meet the necessary requirements, your mother or an employer may be able to help you obtain permanent residency. Below, I will explain what each of the procedures consist of and their processing times.

Family Petition

Your mother may be able to file a family petition on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She will need to prove the relationship between you and that she is a permanent resident.

If USCIS approves your mother's family petition and you are over 21 years of age, your case will be assigned to the F2B family category, unmarried children of permanent residents. They will forward the application to the U.S. Department of State's National Visa Center for processing and hope that an immigrant visa becomes available for you.

Labor Petition for Alien Immigrant Worker

The U.S. construction company may sponsor you for permanent residency through an Immigrant-Based Alien Worker Petition under the Third Preference (EB-3) category, which is reserved for skilled, professional and unskilled workers.

As a carpenter, you may be categorized as a skilled worker. To qualify under this category, you must prove that you have a minimum of two years of training or work experience.

Your prospective employer will also have to obtain a labor certification and then file an Immigrant Alien Worker Petition on your behalf. If the federal government approves these applications, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa to obtain permanent residency.

Availability of Immigrant Visas

Currently, you may be able to obtain permanent residency much faster through a labor petition filed by your prospective employer than through a family petition.

According to the June 2017 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State is processing cases of Mexicans under the F2B family category that were filed before April 8, 1996. In other words, there is a 20+ year wait for an immigrant visa to become available to you.

For labor petitions under the Third Preference (EB-3) category, the federal government is processing cases of Mexicans that were filed before April 15, 2017. In other words, there is a wait of approximately two months for an immigrant visa to become available to you.

The demand and availability of immigrant visas constantly varies and is subject to change.


Regardless of the type of application, you must be admissible to the United States in order to obtain permanent residence. For example, criminal acts or unlawful presence in the United States may disqualify you.

Because you entered and have been living in the U.S. illegally, you will have to go to Mexico to reclaim your immigrant visa - either through a family or labor petition. This could change if you are covered by 245(i) which allows you to adjust status within the country if you meet certain requirements.

When you travel to Mexico, you will be subject to the penalty law that will not allow you to return to the U.S. for a period of 10 years unless USCIS grants you a provisional unlawful presence waiver before you travel abroad. You may be able to obtain this kind of waiver if you can show that your permanent resident mother would suffer extreme hardship if you are not granted permanent residence.

These kinds of immigration procedures are complicated. You should hire an immigration attorney to help you evaluate your immigration options.