Apply for Green card while you are in USA working on H1B and L1 work visas. Employer sponsored GC process has 3 main steps:
STEP 1 – US Green Card PERM (Labor Certification)
Takes 15 months (1.2 years) in total, approximately. No premium processing available. Check current PERM processing times here.
This first step in starting your Green card process has multiple sub-steps. They all have to be completed by your sponsoring employer, usually the H1B or L1 sponsor.
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.
More questions and answers related to PERM processing.
The U.S. Department of Labor issues PERM 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.
PERM Step 1 – Publish job advertisements 2-3 months
Ads 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 (Department of Labor) can ask for all these if your case comes under Audit later.
PERM Step 2 – Prevailing wage determination 30-90 days
This helps to identify the minimum salary that you (employee) should get at the location that your employer wants you to work.
Check current prevailing wage determination time here.
PERM Step 3 – File
Once your employer has completed the job ads and got the wage certificate, 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 working years.
Note that Skill letter is different than Experience letter.
These letters are not required immediately, but would be required if your PERM application is selected for 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.
Audited cases can take approximately 20 months.
You can file 7th year H1B extension if your PERM is pending for 365+ including Audit.
PERM 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 minimum time at this time.
STEP 2 – Immigrant Visa Petition (Form I-140)
Takes 6-8 months in normal, 15 days in premium processing. Check current standard I-140 application processing times here.
I-140 Purpose and Process
The USCIS (“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.
You can apply H1B transfer using pending I-140 at the time of job change.
The i-140 approval notice shows GC priority date, immigrant visa category, and country of charge-ability.
The I-140 must be accompanied by the approved PERM application, and evidence that the applicant meets all the requirements listed on the PERM, as well as a filing fee.
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.
Sample i797 approval looks like this for I140 applications
I-140 Total Processing time
6-8 months in regular application. Premium processing (decision in 15 days) is allowed for I-140 application.
Spouses of H1B worker with approved I-140 approved can file for H4-EAD work permit.
STEP 3: File Form I485 12-15 months, premium processing not available
I-485 Purpose and Process
As and when your country’s GC priority date becomes current, you can file I-485 application to claim your Green Card.
USCIS issues an immigrant visa (called Green Card) to the applicant and any dependents (spouse and/or child/ren) under 21).
The status of the applicant is adjusted from “non-immigrant” to “immigrant.” (lawful permanent resident status).
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.
I-485 EAD card
Work and travel authorization (EAD) 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.
I-485 Total Processing Time
Generally takes 10 to 12 months depending on your priority date remaining current at the time of approval.
The USCIS will send the actual “green” card within 1 to 3 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 country queue, which is defined by YOUR country of BIRTH.
Most of the countries have immediate GC availability except China & India.
What this means is that if you are an Indian and started 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.