The approval of a green card is a very exciting time for most immigrants, however many wonder how long they are required to stay with their employer without facing penalties or jeopardizing their naturalization. In this post we’ll explore the process of a job change after green card approval, what to expect and more detailed scenarios.
Green cards are given based on the premise that the employee is accepting the job or position on a permanent basis. Permanent does not necessarily mean you’ll be at the job forever or until you retire, as many assume. “Permanent” for the sake of immigration can be better defined as an “an indefinite basis”. Moreover, the law suggests that the employee’s intention is to remain at the job indefinitely at the point of approval. So for instance, if it’s obvious that your intention is to change jobs just prior to a green card approval there may be red flags raised.
Keep in mind that an I-140 approval does not automatically guarantee you your green card. Changing your job at any point in the process before you physically receive your visa will incur problems if not handled correctly. However, if you are currently holding your green card in your hands, you can change jobs without notifying the USCIS.
Also, if you are applying for the EB-1A or EB-5 green cards, you do not need a job offer and so your green card is not contingent on which position you hold.
How The Process Works
First things first, there are two main groups that this situation can fall into: either you are simply changing your position with your current employer or you are changing employers altogether. If you are staying with your employer and your job title and description are only changing slightly, you might be able to simply file an I-140 amendment to make sure that the USCIS has the most accurate records of your case.
However, when you completely change employers at any point in the green card process after the I-140 has been filed, you must have that employer file a completely new I-140. Additionally, that employer also needs to obtain a new PERM Labor Certification for you if your green card requires one.
The reason for having to start from square one is this. Your PERM is based on a distinct position for a specific employer in a particular geographic location. If any of those things change, then the PERM can no longer do its job, which is to protect the jobs of U.S workers. Because of this if you are changing jobs before or after I-140 approval and your employer changes as well, a new PERM must be obtained, which means that another recruiting period must be run and your employer will be exposed to the possibility of an audit.
While it may seem as though changing jobs means that you are starting from square one, there is a silver lining. By indicating on the new petition that you would like to retain the priority date of your original petition, you can avoid having to restart the priority date waiting time. Depending on your situation, you could potentially save yourself years of waiting time by doing this.
Retaining your priority date is also the trick to “porting” your green card. If, while waiting for your date to be current, you gain the necessary qualifications and job to make you eligible for a green card in a higher preference level, you can have your new sponsoring employer file a new petition and PERM while requesting to retain your priority date.
Job Change After Green Card Approval With AC21
The AC21 (The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000) has a few important provisions centered on job flexibility for adjustment of status applicants who face long or delayed processing times. More specifically it permits an approved I-140 to stay valid as long as:
- The I-485 has been pending for a minimum of 180 days. This period begins from receipt date of the I-485 (not necessarily the notice date).
- The new job is in a same or similar occupation
Below are the provision directly from USCIS:
“A petition under subsection (a)(1)(D) [redesignated as (a)(1)(F)] for an individual whose application for adjustment of status pursuant to section 245 has been filed and remained unadjudicated for 180 days or more shall remain valid with respect to a new job if the individual changes jobs or employers if the new job is in the same or a similar occupational classification as the job for which the petition was filed.”
The big question to keep in mind if USCIS approved your I-485 in less than 180 days and you have the desire to change jobs after green card approval is whether you had the intention to file for that sponsoring employer while filing your application. On average, the longer you can stay with your petitioning/sponsoring employer the better your case is.
What Falls Under Similar Job?
In many instances, there is confusion as to what qualifies as a similar job. In order to determine this, the adjudicating officer refers to the DOL’s online occupational classification system. In order to properly group and classify jobs, the DOL uses what’s known as the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). Click here to learn where in this classification system you fit.
Be aware however that this system can sometimes be outdated and IT jobs often are lacking up-to-date definitions so if possible, the best measure is to change jobs to one in which the titles and job descriptions are as similar as possible.
For example, USCIS may become suspicious if you work as a medical professional and then accept a position as an account with a different employer after receiving your green card. In any case, it’s always advised to consult with a green card attorney in these types of dilemmas.
Negative Repercussions If Not Addressed Properly
Due to the sensitive nature of changing jobs after a green card approval, it’s important to be aware of the possible repercussions. Assuming you and your employer both had the intention to honor the conditions/terms on the I-140 when filing your I-484 then you should be fine. However, if you do change positions drastically or careers but prepared to answer to USCIS regarding your change when you file for naturalization.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Changing jobs after a green card approval throws a wrench into an already complicated process. The best way to ensure that you are on the best path to your green card is to consult an immigration attorney. He or she can work with you to determine whether or not you need to file a new I-140 or PERM and how you can retain your priority date.
Have additional questions regarding the job change after green card approval process? It’s advised to consult one of our Fort Lauderdale immigration attorneys to learn more about which green card options may be suitable for you. To get in touch with one of our immigration attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today.