If you are looking to hire foreign workers for your business, you should know that every year the United States allows a fixed number of green cards for foreign workers who are needed by U.S. businesses to fill vacancies under the EB-2 green card.
Applicants for the EB-2 visa, an employment-based visa, are categorized based on their skills, background, and knowledge. An EB-2 green card is available for those foreign workers who fall into the United States’ second preferred category. They are available for individuals who fall into the following EB-2 visa categories.
- Advanced Degree – Foreign workers who have a degree beyond a U.S. bachelor’s degree, such as a Master’s or Doctorate, or its foreign equivalent: A bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of work experience in the field. Workers in this category must be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Certification Process.
- Exceptional Ability – Foreign workers who have a specialized degree and hold a significant competence in one of the following areas: art, business, or science. Workers in this category must also be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Certification Process.
- National Interest Waiver – Foreign workers seeking to have the Foreign Labor Certification Process waived because it is in the national interest of the United States to do so. Unlike the other EB-2 green card categories, these workers do not need an employer sponsor and may self-petition for an EB-2 visa.
Other EB-2 Visa Requirements:
Immigrants seeking an EB-2 green card under the Exceptional Ability or National Interest Waiver categories must additionally meet at least three of the following requirements:
- Official academic record of a degree relating to the field of exceptional ability.
- Documentation of at least 10 years of work experience in the field.
- Professional license or certification
- A salary that indicates the person has exceptional ability in the field.
- Be a member of related professional associations.
- Peer or government recognition of achievements in the field.
- Any other comparable evidence of exceptional ability.
EB-2 Category Process
To successfully receive an EB-2 green card, applicants and their employers must follow a three-step process.
1. The first step is for the employer who wishes to hire a foreign worker to file with the U.S. Department of Labor for Permanent Labor Certification using the Program Electronic Management Review (PERM) System.
This requires the employer to certify that a job opening is available in a specified professional field, that the job is also available to U.S. workers, that a foreign worker is needed, and that the pay for the job is at a prevailing industry rate.
2. Your employer will need to go through an extensive recruiting process to ensure that no qualified American workers are available to take the position. Going through this process the right way is key, as raising suspicion may trigger an audit from the Department of Labor. This could delay your processing time for up to a year and a half.
3. If all of the requirements are met, the Department of Labor will issue a PERM form, which is necessary to proceed to the next step. EB-2 green card applicants seeking a National Interest Waiver (NIW) may skip this first step.
4. After the PERM form is received, the employer wishing to sponsor a foreign worker for an EB-2 green card must complete and file form I-140, which is the petition for the EB-2 visa. After the petition is received, the applicant must wait for his or her EB-2 priority date to be eligible to proceed to the next step. The priority date depends on when the application is received.
Here’s a summary of the broader green card process steps:
- PERM/Labor Certification
- File I-140 Petition
- File I-485 Application to Adjust States
EB-2 Green Card Processing Time
While we can’t provide a definitive timeline the total time it takes for your case to process will depend on a number of factors including your country of origin, the service center that processes your I-140, the documents included in your submission, etc. Typically, the I-140 processing time takes anywhere from 6-9 months. Premium processing is an option, however, which can save you valuable time. The cost to opt for premium processing is $2,500. The normal I-140 filing fee (regular processing) is $700. To get the most accurate case processing time, use this USCIS case tool.
So the overall EB-2 visa processing time can range from 10 months – 2 years, depending on how long your I-140 takes to process and then when a visa becomes available.
For those applying overseas through consular processing, you can expect to wait 4-6 months to receive word back from the U.S. embassy/consulate after a visa becomes available to you. In terms of how long the adjustment of status takes, that will depend significantly on the service center processing the case.
This section covers the PERM timeline for EB-2 cases. In 2023 the average time for PERM Labor Certification (carried out between the U.S.-based employer and the DOL) processing is about 4 months for preparation then 6 months for the application to be processed. The prevailing wage determination is part of this process as well and takes anywhere from 2-4 months. Recruiting also takes 60 days at a minimum. In terms of a timeline, make sure the PERM Labor Certification is presented within 180 days of beginning any recruiting efforts. Essentially, the purpose of this process is to ensure there are no domestic workers willing and able to carry out the job available.
Once Priority Date Becomes Current How Long to Get a Green card?
You can find your wait time by looking at the monthly Visa Bulletin.
Go to the Employment-Based Preferences chart, and identify your category (EB-2) on the left-hand side (they are organized by India, Mainland China, Mexico, Philippines, Central America and the rest of the world). Some countries have longer wait times than others depending on the per-country visa cap number of submissions. The cutoff date is what you will compare to your priority date (when USCIS received or I-130 or when DOL received the labor certification from the employer). If on the Dates for Filing box chart, the section is marked “current”, that means your priority date is current and there are visas available. Once you see that it’s current you can contact the National Visa Center for moving forward.
EB-2 Priority Date Retrogression and Consular Processing
It changes over time depending on how many visa applications are currently in processing. Applicants need to be aware of the idea of retrogression in the priority date. It occurs when there are more applicants for an EB-2 green card than there are allocated green cards available.
For example, if the current processing time is three months and suddenly there is a spike in the number of applications, only applicants who have filed at least six months ago might be allowed to proceed to the next step. This means that as soon as you can proceed to the final step, it is in your interest to do so if you do not want to experience delays in the EB-2 processing time.
When applicants are allowed to proceed to the final step they may follow one of two different procedures. If the applicant is not in the United States, he or she will need to be interviewed at a U.S. Consulate office in their home country. The consular office will process the application from there and determine whether the individual qualifies for an EB-2 green card.
This is done through a one-on-one interview with a consular officer who will ask specific questions related to your employer, your occupation, and your arrangements in the U.S. If the officer clears you, you will be able to travel to the U.S. and get stamped as a legal permanent resident.
If the applicant is already in the United States on a different Visa, the applicant needs to file for an Adjustment of Status using Form I-485 to have their status automatically adjusted to EB-2 status.
Applicants will then be told to go to a USCIS Application Support Center for security processing, which generally requires fingerprinting and having your picture taken. Some applicants may be required to attend an interview. The final decision will be mailed to the applicant once it is available.
How Long Will the Total Process Take?
The total processing time varies tremendously depending on your country of origin and the service center that processes your I-140. On average, however, the petition takes about six months to process.
If you are required to get a PERM Labor Certification, then that could take anywhere from eight months to two years depending on whether or not your employer is audited after the recruitment process. To ensure the best chances for avoiding an audit, make sure you work alongside an immigration attorney.
If six months is too long to wait for your I-140, you may want to consider opting for the premium processing service. This optional feature is offered by the USCIS and shortens your petition processing time from about six months to 15 calendar days for a fee of $2,500
Once your petition is approved, you will need to wait until your priority date is current. For most countries, the date will be current as soon as the petition is approved. However, for EB-2 processing time India and China, the dates may not be current for several years. The only way to expedite this process is to port your green card petition from EB-2 to EB-1, which is no easy task.
After your priority date is current, you can submit your I-485, which will take around six months to process. Again, like the I-140, this depends on the caseload of your service center.
All told, without premium processing, the total EB-2 processing time can range from a year and a half to several years. Because this varies from case to case, speak with your to get a better idea of how long you can expect to wait for your EB-2 visa.
How We Can Help With Your EB-2 Visa
When it comes to employment-based immigration, you want to get it right the first time. Just like you wouldn’t sell your home without a realtor, you shouldn’t attempt to navigate immigration law without an experienced attorney by your side.
The EB-2 green card attorneys at VisaNation Law Group have extensive experience with complex employment immigration cases and are prepared to assist you with all stages of the process. VisaNation Law Group’s EB-2 immigration attorneys can help you create the best strategy to meet and document all of the EB-2 requirements efficiently and cut down on the EB-2 processing time.
We can help your employees obtain EB-2 green cards with minimal delays as we have the experience necessary to help you cut through the bureaucratic red tape. We can also make sure that an EB-2 green card is the most appropriate visa program for you or your employees. If it is not, we have the experience to help you with alternatives.
To get in touch with VisaNation Law Group by filling out this contact form and schedule your consultation today!