A green card represents a significant investment, so it makes sense that you would want to know everything about the process–including how long it will take. A large part of the time it takes to get an employment-based green card is the I-140 processing time, which isn’t the same for everyone. Find out what goes into this versatile form and what you can do to speed up the process.
Which Visas Use the I-140?
While the I-140 is exclusively for employment-based green cards, that doesn’t mean that all of these green cards make use of it. Here are the immigrant visas that use the I-140:
Other employment-based green cards like the EB-4 and EB-5 use separate petition forms and so are not relevant to this post. Check with your immigration attorney if you are pursuing either of these two to find out what your processing time will be.
What is the I-140 Processing Time?
The processing time for the I-140 varies widely depending on several factors. The first is the priority date of the petition. If you are not familiar with priority dates, it is the date that the USCIS receives your petition. In order to have a visa number become available for your petition, your priority date will need to be “current” with the final action dates given in the Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin.
These final action dates are broken up based on green card preference level as well as country of origin and can move forward, backward, or remain locked. If your preference level is oversubscribed by others from your country of origin, you may find that your final action date will not see any movement or will move backwards (retrogress). Once the final action date matches or passes your priority date, you will be able to move forward with consular processing or adjustment of status.
If your priority date will not be current for several years, the USCIS might not begin to process your petition until the final action date gets closer to your priority date, which could add those years to your I-140 processing time.
The second factor that can influence the time it takes for your petition to be approved is the service center that is responsible for its processing. If the center has a large caseload, it may take longer than if the caseload is lighter. However, reports usually indicate that the I-140 processing time is about six months on average.
Lastly, a Request for Evidence (RFE) can add weeks or even months to your petition’s processing time. Think of an RFE as a second chance to bolster your case with missing documentation and avoid rejection or denial. When the USCIS sends an RFE, you will have a limited window of time to respond. There are a few ways that you can respond to an RFE:
- Full Response – you send all of the requested evidence to the USCIS
- Partial Response – you send some of the requested evidence, which might be necessary if you do not have access to that documentation or are unwilling to provide it.
- Petition Withdrawal
The first thing you should do once you receive an RFE is to bring it to your immigration attorney to make sure that you make the best decision and your evidence is submitted on time.
Can The Processing Time Be Shortened?
If six months is too long to wait for your I-140 processing time, there are a few ways to help shorten it.
I-140 Premium Processing Time
The first way is through premium processing. This optional service is provided for certain visas and green cards that make use of the I-129 and I-140 petitions. With an additional fee and an I-907 form, you can opt to have your petition’s processing time expedited to just 15 calendar days.
If the USCIS fails to process your petition in 15 days after you have submitted your I-907, then you will receive a refund. However, keep in mind that premium processing is not available for all employment-based green cards that use the I-140. Specifically, it cannot be used for the EB-1C or EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver.
Green Card Porting
If you are in a situation where your petition will not be processed until your priority date is closer to being current, then one way to shorten the I-140 processing time is to “port” your green card status.
While it seems like a simple transition, “porting” is much more involved than it sounds. In fact, it’s not really even porting. If you obtain the qualifications for a green card of a higher preference level and you also get a new position that requires those qualifications, you may be able to have your employer file a new petition for the higher preference level while retaining your original priority date.
Sound confusing? Here is an example:
Anala is a junior web developer from India with a bachelor’s degree who has a pending petition for an EB-3 visa. Because she has to wait almost a decade for her green card, she decides to study and obtain her master’s degree. When she gets her degree, she is promoted to senior web developer within her company. She then asks her employer to submit a second petition for an EB-2 green card now that she fulfills the requirements and has obtained a new position. Her employer indicates on the new petition that the original priority date should be retained, which reduces her I-140 processing time by several years.
Remember that you almost always need to have obtained a new position in order to qualify for the next preference level. Porting a green card is not necessarily a common practice and should not be attempted without the help of an experienced attorney.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Like any aspect of U.S. law, immigration is a tricky and complicated process that can easily sap you of your time, energy, and resources if you’re not careful. That’s why it is always best to have a guide that can help you avoid common mistakes and fight on your behalf if complications arise.
Here at SGM Law Group, we specialize in employment-based immigration. So whether you need to know how long your I-140 processing time will be or you need to deal with an unexpected RFE, we’ll be by your side every step of the way. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you achieve your immigration goals.
To get in touch with one of our lawyers, you can fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with our office today.