All green cards are the same; they all give you the right to live and work permanently in the United States. But there are dozens of different paths to the green card. This article discusses the path most commonly used by foreign workers: the Labor Certification system, also known as PERM.

The labor certification process is a means by which an employer can show that there are no available United States workers for a position, so that a foreign worker can be admitted to the United States as a permanent resident.

A few basic points of the system:

* You need an employer to sponsor you. It can be your current employer or one that promises to hire you in the future.
* The offered job must be full-time.

* The employer will have to advertise the position in the local Sunday newspaper and three other locations. The Department of Labor has very strict rules about how the advertising must be done.

* The employer must be able to show that U.S. citizens or permanent residents who apply for the job are NOT qualified.

So far pretty easy, right? Here's where it gets a little tricky:

The employer can define what the minimal requirements for the job are, BUT the Department of Labor won't allow the employer to set the requirements too high. For example, an employer can't require a Bachelor's degree for a babysitter. Nor can it require a Master's degree for an entry-level programmer position.

Even if the Department of Labor allows the employer to require a high degree or many years of previous experience, the offered salary must rise as the minimal requirements for the job increase.

Because of these two rules, the lawyer's job in a Labor Certification case is to work with the employer to accurately define the job's requirements, taking into account the salary, the employee's education and experience, and the education and experience of others working in the same job.

This is where the EB-2 vs EB-3 distinction comes in:
EB-2 is the category for jobs that require a Master's degree OR a Bachelor's degree plus 5 years' previous experience.

EB-3 is the category for jobs that require a Bachelor's degree (or even if no bachelor's degree is required, a job that requires 2 years' previous experience).

So why does this matter? Simple. THE EB-2 CATEGORY IS SEVERAL YEARS FASTER THAN THE EB-3 CATEGORY. That's why we try to do as many cases as possible in the EB-2 category.

For persons born in most countries, the EB-2 category does not have a waiting line. This means that you can apply for work permission through your green card case as soon as your employer shows there are no U.S. workers for the job offered. It also means that you have the ability to change employers sooner.

For persons born in India and China, the EB-2 category has a waiting list of about 3-5 years.

The EB-3 category requires you to wait in line about 2-3 years, although for Mexicans, Indians and Chinese, the wait can be much longer, maybe even more than 6-8 years.