Getting an employment-based green card can be a long but rewarding process. There are many advantages to using your employment to gain lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., and there are many ways to go about getting this status. One such way is through adjustment of status through the use of an I-485 form. Keep reading to learn how long you can expect to wait to get a green card using adjustment of status and what goes into the employment-based green card timeline as a whole.
As per the Immigration and Nationality Act, adjustment of status from a nonimmigrant visa to an immigrant visa (aka green card) is only possible if the beneficiary meets all of the necessary requirements for permanent residence. Understanding what makes someone eligible for a green card will help you determine what your timeline will be in obtaining one.
Benefits of Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
There are many benefits if you’ve reached the employment-based adjustment of status phase. In particular, this is the final step before actually receiving your green card. Unlike other categories, like family-based immigration, which require an interview, once your adjustment of status application is approved, you’re usually ready to go.
Simultaneously Apply for Advance Parole
The second benefit of an employment-based adjustment of status is the ability to simultaneously apply for advance parole. Essentially, advanced parole permits you to reenter to U.S. without an immigrant/non-immigrant visa after traveling overseas. It also protects your pending AOS application from being considered abandoned. This is very advantageous since the interim waiting period for some employment-based green card timelines can span several years.
Apply for an Employment Authorization Document
Another benefit of an employment-based adjustment of status is the ability to file for an EAD. This document allows you to work legally in the U.S. for a temporary period (typically a year).
Change Employers After Filing
If your I-485 petition is sponsored by an employer, for instance, some EB-1 green cards, EB-2, or EB-3, you have the option to change employers six months after the adjustment of status has been filed. The only exception is if your EB-2 is filed under a national interest waiver (NIW).
Employment-Based Green Card Timeline Requirements
In most cases, the following documents are necessary as part of the adjustment of status requirements:
- I-485 Application to Adjust Status
- I-693 Medical Report and Vaccinations
- A Copy of I-797 showing that the I-140 has been received and approved by USCIS. Is your priority date current? If so, you can file both the I-485 and I-140 at the same time.
- Copy of approved Labor Certificate
- Employment letter from the employer confirming that the position/job is still available. This letter should be on official employer letterhead and also include details pertaining to the salary.
- Copies of recent pay stubs
- Copy of approved I-140 if not filing concurrently
Note that since some cases require additional paperwork to be filed, it’s best to contact a qualified employment immigration attorney.
Employment-Based Green Card Timeline
Here are the steps you need to take if you are working toward adjusting your status to an employment-based green card:
- You need to obtain nonimmigrant status through your job or through your family and you need to enter the U.S. through this status. The most common nonimmigrant work visas to obtain are H1B, L1, and J1.
- These nonimmigrant classes will usually require you to find a sponsoring employer or program.
- The timeline for this step depends heavily on which visa you decide to use.
- You must either ask your employer to sponsor you for a green card or find a different employer who is willing to do so.
- Your employer will need to obtain a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. This involves a recruitment process to ensure that you are not displacing any qualified U.S. workers. However, a PERM is not required for the EB-1 green card or the EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver.
- The PERM can take between six months and a year and a half to obtain depending on whether or not your employer is subjected to an audit.
- Your employer must file an I-140 petition for you.
- Once the USCIS receives the petition, that date will be your priority date.
- The I-140 typically takes an average of six months to process, though this can be expedited through premium processing.
- You must wait until your priority date is current with the final action dates posted by the Department of Homeland Security.
- The employment-based green card timeline for this is dependent on which preference level you qualify for and which country you hold citizenship.
- Some preference levels have no wait time while others have a wait time of several years. To get a better idea, check in on the latest Visa Bulletin.
- Once your priority date is current, you can file for an Adjustment of Status by submitting an I-485 form.
- The I-485 processing time varies depending on which service center. On average, this step can take between 4-8 months.
- After your I-485 is approved, the USCIS will issue you an employment-based green card and you will have successfully adjusted your status.
The full employment-based green card timeline can range anywhere from ten months in the best scenarios to several years in the worst scenarios. Your immigration attorney can give you a better idea of what you can expect.
How Much Will It Cost?
Aside from the costs involved with obtaining a nonimmigrant visa, which could be substantial, there are a few fees that come along with adjusting your status.20
- I-140 Filing Fee – $700
- I-485 Filing Fee – This fee varies depending on how old you are and whether or not a biometrics service charge is applied. For a full table detailing the costs for the I-485, you can visit the USCIS website.
- Premium Processing Fee – $1,410
Fortunately, the Department of Labor requires no fees for a PERM Labor Certification. However, there may be costs associated with running an ad campaign and recruitment process.
Green Card Interview for Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
While in most cases, the adjustment of status interview is waived for employment-based cases, there are scenarios in which you may receive an interview notice. If this is the case, it’s important that you show up in professional attire and bring the necessary paperwork.
This includes originals of passports, current or expired EAD cards, interview letters, pay stubs, tax returns, transfer notices, permissions to travel (advance parole), etc. Be aware that if any employment-related circumstances have changed since the time of filing it’s imperative to bring the appropriate documents during the interview.
Green Card Processing Time – PERM
The PERM is made up of several steps which can range in the amount of time it takes to get through each one. The initial recruitment period must last for a minimum of 30 days. After this, your employer will have to wait an additional 30 days to allow an appropriate number of candidates to apply. Then your employer will need to conduct interviews with qualified candidates to ensure that you are not displacing any U.S. workers. If all goes well, and there are no qualified candidates for your position, then it may take as little as six months after that to process your PERM.
However, there are two major hiccups that can delay this process. The first is an audit by the Department of Labor. There are two kinds of audits: random and targeted. You can’t avoid the random audits, but following the required rules and keeping everything above board can help your employer avoid targeted ones. During an audit, your employer will have to send all documents and receipts regarding the recruitment process to the DOL. This can add as many as nine months to the processing time.
The second obstacle is supervised recruitment. If your employer has a history of receiving targeted audits or attempting to circumvent the system, they may be subjected to supervised recruitment. If this is the case, your employer will have to go through the recruitment process with a DOL certifying officer working alongside every step. Avoid attempting to cheat the PERM process to steer clear of supervised recruitment.
Do I Need To Maintain My Nonimmigrant Status?
There are a few disadvantages in the overall adjustment of status process. One significant drawback is that processing times may not be consistent. Another disadvantage is the risk of having your I-140 denied. For that reason, many recommend that AOS applicants maintain their non-immigrant status until the I-140 is approved.
Premium processing is an optional service that allows petitioners that are using the I-140 petition for certain visas to expedite the processing times of these petitions from the typical average of six months to just 15 calendar days for an extra fee of $1,140. This involves filing an I-907 Request for Premium Processing.
However, keep in mind that premium processing can only be used for the I-140 petition and is not able to be used with the I-485 or any other form in the employment-based green card timeline. It also does not increase your chances of having your petition approved and it does not affect your priority date waiting time. However, if you are on H-1B status and you would like to reap the benefits of having an approved I-140 filed with the USCIS, premium processing may be for you.
Lastly, premium processing is not available for the EB-1C green card for multinational executives and managers and the EB-2 green card with a National Interest Waiver.
Green Cards Under President Trump
In the most recent iteration of draft The Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs, President Trump mentions that he is calling for the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan to streamline the green card process “in order to reduce inefficiencies in the way immigrant visas are allocated”.
He is also calling for a more stringent immigration system that effectively eliminates the waiver for the green card interview for employment-based visas. This means that all green card applicants may expect to go through an interview with an immigration officer prior to entering the U.S.
Additionally, the administration is taking a hard look at the H-4 EAD rule, which allows the spouses of H-1B holders to apply for an EAD card to work in the U.S. as long as the principle H-1B holder has a pending I-140 for an employment-based green card.
Lastly, President Trump has recently mentioned an intention to create a direct path for H-1B holders to obtain citizenship, effectively cutting out the green card process entirely. While, at the moment, there are no direct paths from any nonimmigrant visa to citizenship (all require obtaining a green card first), this change, if made, would make the H-1B an incredibly advantageous visa.
Employment-Based Green Card Porting
One of the biggest factors contributing to your employment-based green card timeline is your priority date waiting time. As we’ve already mentioned, your priority date is the day that the USCIS receives your petition. Green card petitions are processed in order of when they were received, so your priority date essentially tells you what your place in line is. These dates are divided according to the type of green card and the country of origin for the petitioner. Therefore the dates for a Chinese citizen applying for an EB-3 green card are going to be different than that dates for a Colombian citizen applying for an EB-1.
In many if not most cases, you will find that the priority date waiting time is much shorter for green cards of higher preference levels (e.g. the EB-3 takes longer than the EB-2 for the same country). So is there a way to shorten your employment-based green card timeline by “porting” your green card from a lower to a higher preference level?
Unfortunately, the answer is “not really”. You are able to retain your priority date from your first petition so that you do not need to start over in terms of your place in line, but in all other regards, you will be starting over and re-petitioning for the green card in the higher preference level.
You will first need to gain the required qualifications for the new green card (e.g. earning a master’s degree, becoming an extraordinary alien, etc.). Then, you will need to find a new job that requires your new qualifications. This job can be with your current employer or with a new one, but it cannot be the same job that you used for your lower green card. After that, the employer who is sponsoring you for your higher green card will have to obtain a new PERM (if necessary) and file a new I-140 petition for you under the new preference level while indicating that you would like for the priority date from the lower green card to be retained.
If the new I-140 is approved, then you will have successfully “ported” your green card, which can drastically reduce your priority date waiting time.
Alternatives to Adjusting Your Status
If you are unable to obtain a nonimmigrant visa to enter the U.S. before adjusting your status, the other option for obtaining an employment-based green card is to go through a process called consular processing.
This means that, instead of adjusting from nonimmigrant to immigrant status, you can go straight to your green card by traveling to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to participate in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. Instead of an I-485, this method requires a DS-260 online immigrant visa application to be completed and brought to the appointment.
Keep in mind that consular processing is still an option for those that are under a nonimmigrant visa status. However, if you are not, then you have no choice but to go through consular processing. This method may be faster and less expensive than adjustment of status, though that varies from case to case.
However, be sure to speak with an immigration attorney before deciding to use consular processing as there are some disadvantages that may impact your case.
How Our Employment-Based Green Card Attorneys Can Help
As a final note, be aware that an adjustment of status is ultimately up to the discretion of the USCIS officer. Are you ready to get the process started? Our employment immigration lawyers can quickly identify the documents you’ll need to begin filing as well as the fastest course of action for your employment-based green card timeline.
If you would like to get in touch with one of our attorneys, contact us to schedule an initial consultation and learn exactly which options are at your disposal.