The uncertainty surrounding the future of the H1B visa program has spurred current non-immigrant work visa holders to look into the alternate possibility of permanent residency. If there is increasing restriction in the H1B program, this may be the best route to work long term in a specialty occupation in the US.
Fast Facts: H1B to Permanent Residency (Green Card)
- The maximum work period for an H1B visa is six years, and then you must return home for at least one year
- For this reason, it is not the best long-term option to work in the US
- It is permitted to seek a green card while currently working in the US with a non-immigrant visa (H1B)
- Your H1B visa will be valid even during the green card application process
- There is a quota every year for green cards and you may need to wait to be included in the annual quota
- Recent rule changes make it easier to keep your current green card application active, even if you switch employers
- There are three type of employment based green cards: EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3
- Most H1B visa workers will fall into the EB-3 category (skilled and professional workers)
The H1B to Green Card Step by Step Process
Step One: PERM Labor Certification (EB-2 and EB-3)
This is the first stage and must be completed by your current employer. It includes the Prevailing Wage Determination (establishing the base salary depending on occupation, position type and location), Recruitment (where the demonstrates the position has been advertised and posted for qualified American workers) and finally filing of Form 9089 the employment certification with the Department of Labor.
Step Two: Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: Form I-140
If Form 9089 is approved, the employer will file Form I-140 affirming the H1B worker’s eligibility and proof the employer has the funds to pay the worker the stated salary. A new rule change affects the validity of this form, and if it has been approved for 180 days or more, it will not be revoked even if the employer withdraws the petition.
What this means is that the I-140 is portable and can be used for a green card application with another employer, preserving the important priority date, and eliminating the need to start all over again. The priority date can be preserved indefinitely, a welcome change for green card applicants that may change employers during the course of their H1B visa stay in the US.
Step Three: Adjustment of Status: Form I-485
This is the last step, and assuming the previous requirements are met and approved, Form I-485 will adjust the worker’s status from an H1B worker to green card holder. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can be applied for during this stage.
When the form is approved, you will get your passport stamped as a permanent resident and receive the physical green card.
How Long Does It Take to Obtain an Employment Based Green Card?
This is the question on everyone’s mind since obtaining a green card is well known for being a time-consuming process. Because most H1B workers will be in the EB-3 category, this is the third level of preference in the annual quota. This means you are last in line for the annual quota, and less than a third of EB-3 petitions will be selected each year.
Even if you clear this hurdle, all of the steps described can take several years, so it is best to begin the process as soon as early as possible during your H1B visa eligibility. If you are still looking for an H1B sponsor and position, please contact us to assist you obtaining a non-immigrant work permission in the US to make you eligible to apply for a green card.
- January 15th, 2018