If you are among the people whose dream is to live in the United States permanently, then getting a green card is your best bet. A green card comes with the freedom for an individual to work and live in the US permanently. On top of that, green card holders are entitled to many exceptional benefits. They have the flexibility to take up any employment with no restrictions, start their own business or join the armed forces, qualify for social security benefits, and indeed the list goes on. However, getting a green card through an employer is not a cake walk. It is a multi-stage process that could take anywhere between six months to several years, depending on factors like country of origin and your qualifications. During the processing, it is very important that you work with your employer diligently, making wise decisions when needed. We recommend that you learn everything you possibly can about the process to make better choices without tripping down the line. To make the process easier for you to understand, we have a detailed outline of the complete green card process.
Every year U.S. Immigration allocates about 140,000 employment based immigrant visas to qualified foreign nationals. U.S. Immigration provided different categories or preferences for the employment based visas depending on the level of qualification of the individual. The time it takes to obtain a green card for an individual primarily depends on the category that he/she comes under.
Except EB1 category, generally all other categories individuals need an employer to sponsor their immigration visa. Unlike H1B visa, employer should be willing to hire the individual on a longer term basis.
EB1 Category: Priority Workers
The first preference or category (EB1) is reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability (EA), outstanding professors and researchers (OPR), and multinational executives and managers (MET).
A permanent employment offer is required from a US sponsoring employer for outstanding professors and researchers (OPR) as well as multinational executives and managers (MET). No employment offer is required for individuals with extraordinary ability (EA).
Unlike EB2 and EB3, no Labor Certification (PERM) is required for any of the individuals that come under EB1
EB2 Category: Advanced Degree Holders
The second preference or category (EB2) is reserved for individuals holding advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability in the fields of arts, science or business. USCIS defines advanced degree holders as professionals with beyond Bachelor’s degree or at least 5 years of experience in the profession.
A permanent employment offer and Labor Certification (PERM) are generally required. However, certain foreign nationals may qualify without an employment offer and PERM if eligible under National Interest Waiver.
EB3 Category: Professional, Skilled Workers
The third preference or category (EB3) is reserved for the professionals who holds Bachelor’s degrees or foreign equivalent and for skilled workers who are capable of performing skilled labor with a minimum requirement of at least 2 years of training or experience.
A permanent employment offer and Labor Certification (PERM) are required for EB3 category.
EB4 Category: Special Immigrants
The fourth preference or category (EB4) is reserved for special immigrants including religious workers, Retired International Organization Employees, NATO-6 civilians, and certain other immigrants.
Neither employment offer nor Labor Certification (PERM) is required
EB5 Category: Investor/Job creation
The fifth preference or category (EB5) is reserved for foreign investors who invest in commercial enterprise or in the targeted employment area that will benefit the US economy.
Foreign investor need to invest at least $1 million in new commercial enterprise or $500,000 in a targeted employment area.
Investor is required to create at least 10 full time jobs for U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Investor needs to prove that he will be engaged in day-to-day business activities.
Normally, employment based green card processing involves 3 stages:
Stage I: Application for Labor Certification (PERM)
Obtaining Labor Certification (PERM) is the first step of green card processing. A U.S. sponsoring employer must file Labor Certification (PERM) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The main objective of this Labor Certification is that the sponsoring employer must prove to the Department of Labor that no US citizen or a permanent resident is ready, willing, and qualified for this certain position at the time of application. To demonstrate that to the DOL, the employer must conduct intense recruitment and advertising for that specified position prior to filing Labor Certification. Also, the employer must confirm the minimum prevailing wage with the State Workforce Agency (SWA) for the position in the area of intended employment.
After extensive recruitment efforts and confirming a prevailing wage, the employer then files the application “ETA Form 9089” to the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA). ETA reviews the application and if it thinks the employer conducted the recruiting process well enough, ETA certifies (approves) the Form 9089 and returns it to the employer. Normally, processing time between filing and approval can take anywhere between 60 days to one year.
Stage II: Immigration Petition for Permanent Employment (I-140)
After the employer receives an approved Labor Certification (Form 9089), the next step is to file a Petition for Permanent Employment (I-140) with United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Regardless of the category an individual comes under, this process is a must for all employment based green card filings.
The petitioning employer should provide proof of evidence that foreign individual meets the necessary qualifications for the relevant EB category. Also, the employer must submit financial documents that demonstrate their financial ability to pay the salary as advertised.
Stage III: Adjustment of Status (AOS/I-485) or Consular Processing
This is the last stage of the Employment based permanent resident process where the foreign individual and his/her family dependents apply to become lawful permanent residents. Depending on the individual’s place of residence at the time of apply, he/she must apply either the AOS or Consular Processing option.
Individual can apply AOS or Consular Process once his/her priority date is current.
Individual and his/her dependents should not have been violated their immigration status.