Can I obtain permanent residency through a job?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers the question of a reader who wishes to obtain permanent residency through 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 a French food chef in a restaurant. I have seven years working as a chef, including two years with my current employer. Can the restaurant where I work sponsor me for permanent residency? - Kathy T.

Kathy, your current employer may be able to help you obtain permanent residency if you meet all the requirements. These kinds of immigration proceedings are difficult and you should proceed very cautiously, especially if you have been living in the U.S. undocumented.

There are five categories of employment-based visas for permanent residence. One of them is reserved for skilled workers, professionals and unskilled workers. These types of employees fall under the Third Preference (EB-3) category.

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

To initiate the process, your employer will need to obtain a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. This document requires detailed information about your experience, as well as the type of employment available. Among other requirements, it also requires proof that there is a lack of available, qualified U.S. workers willing to fill the position you would be offered at your current salary, and that your hiring will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar jobs.

The employer will need to request and obtain a prevailing wage determination for your occupation from the federal government and include that information in the labor certification application.

If your employer decides to proceed with the process, it is required to pay you at least the federally mandated wage and demonstrate that it has the financial ability to meet that wage.

The process of obtaining a labor certification can be time-consuming and costly. Your employer must be willing to pay certain expenses and provide your financial information to the federal government.

After obtaining a labor certification, your employer will have to file an Immigrant Alien Worker Petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within a limited period of time.

If that petition is approved, you may be able to apply for permanent residency inside or outside the United States, depending on your situation.

Kathy, you should consult with an immigration attorney before you start the process to be sure that you and your employer meet all the requirements.