Green Card Process with Employer Sponsorship

By Anil Gupta, 8  NRI

Green card process has 3 main steps: PERM, I140 and I485. Minimum processing time is about 2 years and max is defined by your country’s queue.


Applying for Green card while you are in USA is one of the most important thing, if you are planning to stay here for long term. H1B and L1 visas only allow you to stay here for a fixed number of years unless you have started the GC process.

One of the most common and most used path to green card is via the employer sponsorship. Here, I am trying to share the snapshot of the whole process for any new comers and the knowledge that I have gathered after going through various information sources.

This is the very first step in starting your Green card process and has multiple sub-steps. They all have to be completed by your sponsoring employer.

What it means is


The employer must engage in a variety of recruitment efforts, including the placement of two Sunday newspaper ads, over a period of two to six months before the application can be filed, under the PERM process.

The employer must also be able to provide financial documents to prove that they have the ability to pay the wage offered at the time of the filing of this application.

Green card process for USA - A snapshot

Green card process for USA – A snapshot
Purpose of this step


The U.S. Department of Labor issues this certification to affirm that there are no qualified Americans available or qualified to perform the job, and that hiring a foreign national in the position described will not harm the wages and working conditions of American workers.
  1. The first sub-step is to publish job advertisements in local and national newspapers for the job profile. Your employer will have to maintain all the paper work for the job applications received, interviews done (if any), interview rejections (if any).

    DOL can ask for all these if your case comes under Audit later.

    This step takes about 2-3 months.

  2. The second sub-step is to file for prevailing wage determination. This helps to identify the minimum salary that you (employee) should get at the location that your employer wants you to work.

    At the time of writing this article, it was taking about 2 months (60 days) including holidays and weekends, to get this certificate.

  3. Once your employer has completed the above two steps, they are ready to file the PERM application.

    They might also ask you to procure the ‘Skill letter for Green card’ and ‘Experience letters’ from your past 5 years. You would need to reach out to all your employers to get this letter.

    Sample Skill letter is available here.
    Experience letter is a standard letter listing your years of work with organization.

    These letters are not required immediately, but would be required if your PERM application lands in audit.

    • The PERM application is generally filed electronically; and the DOL (Department of labor) reviews the application and requests an audit, or issues the certification.
    • There is no filing fee for this application.
    • Timing: At the time of writing this article, approvals currently are arriving within a 7-8 months of filing, depending on whether a case is audited.

      Audited cases can take approximately 20 months.

Total time


The total sub-steps are 3 and their time frames (3 months, 2 months and 8 months) can be added to reach at 13 months. This is an approximate time (you can say minimum) at this time.
Purpose


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issues a petition approval notice to certify that an individual may apply for an immigrant visa in one of the specific immigrant visa classifications. The petition approval notice specifies the individual’s priority date, immigrant visa category, and country of chargeability.
  1. The immigrant visa petition is prepared on Form I-140 and signed by the employer. It is submitted to one of the four regional CIS offices, depending on the location of the job.  The I-140 must be accompanied by the approved PERM application (Step 1 above), and evidence that the applicant meets all the requirements listed on the PERM, as well as a filing fee of $580.
  2. The USCIS reviews the I-140 petition and supporting documents, including the financial documents confirming that the employer has the ability to pay the wage offered (as of the date of the filing of the labor certification application); and issues the petition approval notice on Form I-797.
  3. The USCIS permits the filing of a request for premium processing (decision in 15 days) for certain I-140 cases, with a filing fee of $1,225.
Total time


6-8 months

Starting 26 May, 2015, USCIS has opened up H1-EAD applications if the primary H1B visa holder has moved pass this I-140 (Step 2) in green card process.

You can also file H4-EAD for your dependent wife or husband using this step by step process yourself.

Purpose


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issues an immigrant visa from the appropriate visa category, to the principal applicant and any derivative applicants (spouse and/or child(ren) under 21). 

The status of the applicants is adjusted from “nonimmigrant” to “immigrant.”  In doing so, the USCIS has also checked that no ground of exclusion applies to any of the applicants. The USCIS issues an approval notice indicating that the applicant was adjusted to lawful permanent resident status as of the date of approval.

  1. The application for adjustment of status to permanent residence (filing fee: $1,070) is completed on Form I-485 for each adult family member.

    The biographic information form is completed for each family member age 14 or older; and the filing fee is $635 for applicants under the age of 14, if filing with at least one parent. 

    Work and travel authorization will be issued within approximately 90 days of submitting the applications for periods generally of one year, and each is renewable throughout this final stage of the permanent residence process.

  2. The I-485 and related forms and documents are submitted to one of two regional USCIS Service Centers, depending on where the applicant lives.
  3. All applicants are given an appointment to appear at a local USCIS application support center to be fingerprinted.
Total Time


Generally takes 10 to 12 months for the USCIS Service Center to issue an approval notice for the I-485.

The USCIS will send the actual “green” card within one to three months or the applicant can go to their local CIS office to have his or her passport stamped at that time to permit foreign travel. 

The new permanent resident should be sure to present their new card or stamped passport to the H.R. department so the I-9, Employment Eligibility form can be updated in their records.

What is the total green card processing time?


The total time from start to finish for an employer sponsored Green card is based on the country specific queue. The country queue is defined by your country of birth.

Most of the countries have immediate GC availability except China and India. India has the longest queue in terms of GC availability. At this time, the EB2 category is hanging on the year 2008.

What this means is that if you are an Indian and start the GC process in 2014, you can’t really complete the STEP 3 (as mentioned above) unless your country’s date reaches 2014.
So, the total time apart from the timings mentioned above (for 3 mandatory paper work) is this waiting time for your country’s queue to reach your year.

  • nare

    you missed a most important step in perm processing. company has to accept resumes and interview candidates with same skill set as yours. if they find any suitable candidates with PR or Citizenship company either let you go or reset your case after hiring that guy.

  • Yes, you are right. I should have added that point as well.
    It’s an important step.

  • Keshava

    Thanks for the post Anil.
    I’ve couple of questions, can you please help me:
    Currently I’m on H1B visa, after receiving PERM approval can I move from my current company (A) and join new company (B) ?
    If I do so:
    1.Does new company (B) should start my GC processing from first (PERM) or directly they can file I-140?
    2.Also does the ‘priority date’ I received with PERM approval from company A be still valid or will I get new priority date ?

    If I can’t do so:
    1.Do I need to wait till I receive approved I-140 with my current company (A) ?
    2.If I move to new company (B) after receiving approved I-140 from current company (A), does the new company has to again start my GC processing from first or will they have to just do kind of I-140 transfer ? How does this work?

  • Hi Keshava,

    1. You should wait until you receive i-140 to PORT your priority date to company B. If you switch before getting i140 approval, you will have NO option to even port the priority date. This essentially means that if you leave after your PERM approval (and No i140) with Company A, you lose your PRIORITY date immediately as you leave company A.
    2. If you leave after i140 approval from company A, your GC process has to be re-started from STEP 1 again i.e. PERM processing. The only benefit is that you will have the option of porting your priority date to company B. Other than that, the whole process has to be re-started with each company change.

    Let me know if you need more information.

  • Keshava

    Thank you very much Anil,
    I have one more question:
    By the time I receive I140 with company A, if I complete 6 years of stay in US on H1B.
    Am I blocked with company A, till I receive EAD or GC on to hand?
    Because my H1B visa will be extended periodically using company A’s I140, and if I move out of company A my I140 will be invalid and I don’t have any more limit on H1B visa.

    How does this concept will work i.e. ‘moving from company A to company B with approved I140 in hand and 6 years stay is completed in US with H1B visa’

    I admire your inputs.

  • Hi Keshava,
    If your company A ‘withdraws’ the i140, then there could be an issue.
    But, if you get the H1B transferred to Company B before resigning (i mean wait till you REALLY get the approval in your hand), you would be safe.
    This way, you would get 3 year extension on your H1B even after 6 years, then you can move to Company B and re-start the GC process.
    These 3 years would be enough to file new PERM and get a new i140 (company B).

    Does that answer your question?

  • Keshava

    Thanks for your reply Anil.
    Indeed, it answered my question.

  • You are welcome.