If you are currently on an H-1B visa, then it is possible that at some point, you will want to change your visa status from H-1B to a green card. If this sounds like something that might be in the cards for yourself or someone close to you, then read on.
In this article, Florida’s leading immigration law firm, Isa Law, will talk about the process of changing your H-1B visa to a green card, and provide you with all the information that you need for this transition to be successful.
What is an H-1B Visa?
An H-1B visa is a type of work visa that is given to foreign workers who wish to work in the US in specialty occupations. To qualify for an H-1B visa, you must have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or higher. You also need to be paid the prevailing wage, and the job that you will receive upon arrival must require your specific skills or expertise. The sponsor company that you will be working for must file an H-1B petition on your behalf, and prove that they have attempted to find a qualified US citizen who can fill the position before hiring someone on an H-1B visa.
Upon entry into the US on an H-1B visa, you are allowed to stay in the country for up to six years. Although you may be able to find other types of visas that allow you to stay longer in the US, an H-1B visa is one of the most common visa options among foreign workers due to its flexibility and relatively short processing time.
An H1-B visa allows a foreign worker to obtain a social security number, apply for a driver’s license, open a bank account, rent or buy a car, and rent or own a house.
What is a Green Card?
A green card is a document that allows you to stay and work in the United States indefinitely. People who have been granted a green card are allowed to change jobs, start their own company, travel as they wish within and outside of the US (with some exceptions), seek permanent resident status for family members living abroad, and apply for citizenship.
It is important to note that green card holders can lose their permanent resident status if they have been outside of the country for more than six months, or if their actions make them “deportable .” The latter includes committing a crime that warrants jail time. Green card holders are also not allowed to vote in US elections.
Types of Green Cards
There are many different types of green cards. The two most common types, however, are the “family-based green cards” and “employment-based green cards.”
Family-based green cards are given based on a person’s familial ties to US citizens or lawful permanent residents. The primary applicant must have an immediate relative who is either a citizen of the United States or has lived in the country for at least five years. The process of acquiring a family-based green card is a tedious one and can take several months to years.
On the other hand, employment-based green cards are given to foreign workers who either work in specialized fields or meet the requirements for a job offer by an employer who is willing to sponsor their application. The process of applying for and obtaining this type of green card can take several months to years as well.
Employment-based green cards are further divided into three categories, EB-1 (first preference), EB-2 (second preference), and EB-3 (third preference).
First Preference (EB-1) – Individuals who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field can apply for an EB-1 green card. Multinational managers and executives as well as professors and researchers also qualify for this type of green card.
Second Preference (EB-2) – Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in certain fields of business may qualify for second preference status under the employment-based immigrant visa program.
Third Preference (EB-3) – All other skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers may be eligible for an EB-3 green card. They must have at least two years of experience to qualify for this type of green card. Employers must also prove that they have attempted to find qualified US citizens for the job before hiring a foreign worker.
The Process of Applying for an Employment-Based Green Card
Transitioning from an employment-based visa to a green card is a long and complicated process. It can take several months to years before you can change your status but the first step always begins with a conversation with your employer.
Some employers include a clause in their employment offer to foreign workers that they will consider filing a green card application for them should the worker qualify. If your contract does not include such a clause, you may open up negotiations with your employer about the possibility of them sponsoring you for a green card.
If you and your employer decide that they are willing to apply for an employment-based green card, the process begins by filing a PERM Labor Certification application. PERM stands for “Program Electronic Review Management” system, which is the platform used by the Department of Labor to process applications for employment-based green cards. This application requires extensive documentation and paperwork to prove that you are qualified for an EB-green card, as well as to show your employer’s willingness to sponsor you through this arduous process.
After your PERM Labor Certification application has been approved by the US Department of Labor, you and your employer can then begin filing Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) to petition for an employment-based immigrant visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires a lot of paperwork to support your case, including documents related to the recruitment process that you went through, as well as proof that there are no qualified US citizens who can do the job. You must also submit an extensive list of supporting evidence showing why you should be granted permanent residency status in the United States.
The final step of a green card application process requires you to file Form I485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) which will allow you to change your status from an employment-based visa to a green card holder.
The process of changing your status from an employment-based visa to a green card can take several months or even years. On average, it usually takes anywhere from six months to a year and a half. This is because of the extensive paperwork that you must submit as well as the processing time for your application for permanent residency.
The Cost of Filing for an Employment-Based Green Card
There are several costs associated with applying for an employment-based green card. While your employer may shoulder some of these expenses, you should still expect to pay some amount out of your own pocket.
The legal and filing fees for a PERM Labor Certification usually cost between $2000-$5000 and are usually paid for by the employer. However, the $580 filing fee for Form I-140 and the $1070 fee for form I-485 are usually paid for by the worker.
The entire process of obtaining a green card can be lengthy and costly but many employment-based immigrants have successfully completed their application with help from specialized attorneys like Isa Law. With their guidance, you too will be able to successfully navigate this complicated process.
Green Card to Citizenship
Once you have obtained your green card, you can apply for US citizenship after five years of being a permanent resident in America.
If you wish to apply for US citizenship, it is another lengthy process that will require a lot of paperwork and filing fees. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires extensive documentation to prove your eligibility for citizenship, as well as proof that you have lived in the United States continuously throughout those five years.
The entire process from beginning to end can take several years, but it is worth the effort if you wish to remain in America for an indefinite amount of time and gain access to all the benefits that come with being a US citizen.
Hire an Experienced Immigration Attorney to Handle Your Green Card Application
If you are considering applying for an employment-based green card, it is highly advised that you seek the help of a specialized immigration attorney. The process of obtaining a green card can be extremely complicated and confusing, so hiring someone with experience in this field will enable you to have a better chance of successfully getting a green card.