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.
What is the I-140 Form 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 the 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 backward (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 document 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.
What is the I-140 Form?
Also known as the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, the I-140 form is the document used to file an employment-based green card petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers who are interested in hiring foreign nationals for a permanent position are required to file this form to establish their eligibility.
Apart from employers, foreign professionals that qualify for EB-1A extraordinary ability or EB-2 National Interest Waiver can also file the I-140 to self-petition the USCIS for a green card. There is a lot that goes into the I-140 processing, which requires both the employer and employee to fulfill certain requirements. If the instructions are not followed, the petition may be rejected, delayed, or denied.
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 the processing time.
How the Premium Processing Service Works for the I-140 Petition
While the regular I-140 process can take several months, with the premium processing service, your petition will be processed within 15 calendar days. This means the USCIS will make a decision on your case within 15 days and you will know the results of the decision sooner. Within those 15 days, you will receive one of these decisions: an approval notice, a denial notice, a request for further evidence (RFE), a notice of intent to deny (NOID), or notice requesting to commence an investigation for misrepresentation or fraud. If you receive an RFE or NOID, you will need to provide the information requested within the specified period given in the notice. Once you make the required information available, the USCIS will begin a new period of 15 calendar days for premium processing.
However, if the USCIS fails to process your petition in 15 days after you have submitted your I-907, then you will receive a refund. It is worth noting that not all employment-based green cards allow for premium processing. Specifically, it cannot be used for the EB-1C or EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver.
When Can I File for I-140 Premium Processing?
The I-907, Request for Premium Processing can be submitted together with the I-140 by the petitioner. However, if you have already submitted your I-140, you can still file the I-907 to expedite the pending petition. But if the USCIS has already issued a final decision on your petition, you can no longer use premium processing. Bear in mind that the I-907 request for premium processing can only be filed by the petitioner of the I-140 petition. This means only an employer, self-petitioning beneficiary, accredited representative or attorney can file the I-907.
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.
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. These employment-based green card applications are in different categories, based on each applicant’s qualifications, experience, and achievements. Here are the immigrant visas that use the I-140:
EB-1 Green Card
The I-140 can be used for foreign professionals who qualify for any of these three EB-1 categories – EB-1A, EB-1B, and EB-1C.
EB-1A: To qualify for the EB-1A green card, you must demonstrate that you possess extraordinary achievements in science, education, arts, athletics, or business, through international or national recognition. If you can meet the eligibility criteria, you will be able to self-petition, meaning you will not need a U.S. employer to file the I-140 for you.
EB-1B: The EB-1B green card is for outstanding professors and researchers. This category requires applicants to demonstrate national or international recognition for their outstanding achievements in a particular academic field.
EB-1C: The EB-1C green card is for certain multinational executives and managers. The applicant must have worked at a foreign office of the sponsoring company for at least one year in the three years preceding the I-140 petition filing date. For both the EB-1B and EB-1C, the I-140 must be filed by a U.S. employer. You cannot self-petition as an employee or beneficiary.
EB-2 Green Card
The EB-2 green card is also divided into three categories, which are: advanced degree holders, those with exceptional ability, and those who qualify for a National Interest Waiver. It tends to have a longer processing time than the EB-1 in that it requires a PERM Labor Certification approval from the Department of Labor (DOL). For both the advanced degree and exceptional ability categories, your green card application must be sponsored by an employer. The employer must first process and obtain an approved PERM Labor Certification before they can file an I-140 petition on your behalf.
But if you qualify for an EB-2 NIW green card, you can bypass the Labor Certification requirement and also self-petition your I-140. With this privilege, the overall processing time for your employment-based green card may be substantially reduced. However, premium processing will no longer be available.
EB-3 Green Card
The EB-3 green card is also broken into three categories of applicants, which are: skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers. All three of these categories require both a PERM Labor Certification and a permanent full-time job offer from a U.S. employer.
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.
How to Expedite the I-140 Processing Time
Whether you are using the regular method or the premium processing service, the best way to avoid delays and expedite your petition is to file your I-140 properly. If necessary information and supporting documents are not provided, you may receive an RFE or NOID from the USCIS.
This may significantly prolong the processing time than anticipated. It may also lead to outright denial. We recommend that you work closely with your immigration attorney to avoid potential hitches and red flags. The following are some of the factors to take note when filing your I-140:
- Follow the submission location instructions carefully and submit your petition to the appropriate address.
- Use the current version of the I-140.
- Select the appropriate green card preference category and don’t select more than one. Your petition will be rejected by the USCIS if you choose more than one preference or fail to choose any and leave the space blank.
- The petitioner must sign the form. Any unsigned petition will not be processed by the USCIS.
- Ensure that the information you provide in the form is written in black ink only. Avoid highlighting or background shading of your entries in the form. And be sure to print the form in black ink only.
- Include the specified fee along with the I-140. Also, if you are using I-907 premium processing or filing other forms concurrently with your I-140, ensure that the required fee for each application form is included.