When it comes to applying for a green card, timing is everything. It takes a long time to obtain the necessary approvals and file the relevant paperwork, especially when it comes to employment-based applications. The entire process can take months and even years, depending on the applicant’s specific circumstances. This is the main reason why it is important to make sure you have a full understanding of your eligibility and the updated processing times before submitting your application. In addition to managing your expectations, this can help you avoid filing an I-140 petition that gets stuck in limbo.
Generally speaking, the primary factors that can affect the processing time of your I-140 petition are the preparation of your documentation and how quickly USCIS can process applications. The COVID-19 pandemic has also introduced significant delays due to increased workloads so you have to be more patient and expect longer processing times.
One of the top immigration law firms in Miami, FL, Isa Law, is pleased to share useful information on employment-based green card filing times and other factors that can affect the process.
Preparing Your Form I-140
The timing for your I-140 petition largely depends on the type of employment you are applying for. Some categories require labor certifications, while others do not.
If your I-140 petition is filed under workers of extraordinary ability and outstanding university professors or researchers, you will have to provide all the necessary evidence along with the filing to speed up the process. These may include letters of reference, academic degrees and diplomas, awards, contracts with clients/employers in the U.S., and even articles written by you or publications for which your work was cited by other authors.
There is no definite timeline for your I-140 petition as it can be processed based on the level of documentation you provide. If you are a person with extraordinary ability or an outstanding university professor or researcher, your I-140 petition should be processed within a couple of months, as long as you submit all the relevant documents needed.
Meanwhile, if your I-140 petition is filed under a category that does require a labor certification, the duration of time you have to wait depends on the labor certification process itself. Your employer will be required to do a test market search to establish if other qualified U.S. workers may be available for the position that you have been offered.
If your employer’s test market search comes up with no results, your employer will have to submit an Application for Permanent Employment Certification to the Department of Labor (DOL). It is important to understand that this process can take anywhere from a few months up to six months, depending on DOL’s processing times.
It is also worth mentioning that if your application is audited, the entire process can take between six to twelve months, and your employer can only proceed with your I-140 petition once the DOL approves the Permanent Employment Certification.
USCIS Processing Times
After your employer has submitted the I-140 petition, it is definitely a good idea to check the USCIS processing times. This will give you an estimate on how long before your application can be reviewed by a USCIS officer and possibly reach final approval. The latest processing times are usually updated by the USCIS on its website.
If you wish to speed up the process, know that most I-140 petitions are eligible for premium processing. This will allow your I-140 to be reviewed within 15 days so long as you file it with the necessary fees. However, if your application is not eligible for premium processing, expect to wait several months before USCIS will process and adjudicate it. There are also times when the USCIS suspends this premium processing service so it is wise to regularly check its website for updates.
Your I-140 petition may also be delayed if the USCIS sends you an RFE (Request for Evidence) or if they determine that more evidence is needed to show eligibility. If this happens, you will be given at least 87 days to submit the necessary evidence to support your application. If you fail to respond, the USCIS can deny your I-140 petition or even place it on hold until all the evidence is submitted.
As mentioned earlier, there is no set timeline for employment-based green card petitions so this will vary depending on each applicant’s circumstances and eligibility. It is therefore helpful to consult a green card attorney or an immigration lawyer to guide you through the process and ensure that your I-140 petition is filed at the right time.
Important Reminders for H1-B Visa Holders
If you are holding an H1-B visa, there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for your employment-based green card application.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you prepare all the necessary supporting documents for your I-140 petition at least a year and a half before your H-1B visa expires. This will give you time to spare in the event that your application is selected for an RFE or if it faces other processing issues.
Next, you need to make sure that your I-140 petition or labor certification application is filed at least a year before your sixth anniversary in the United States under the H-1B visa. This will ensure that you are able to maintain your H-1B visa status until your green card application is approved.
Meanwhile, you may need to file a petition requesting an extension of stay if you are currently on H-1B status and your I-140 petition is still pending. This will give you more time under the H-1B visa until your application is approved or denied by USCIS. The extension of your H-1B visa depends on the status of your pending I-140 petition so be sure to ask an expert green card lawyer or immigration attorney to guide you through this process.
Furthermore, it is important to note that your employer can request for the H-1B visa extension even if they are not the same employer who filed your labor certification or I-140 petition. This can give you peace of mind knowing that you can still push through with your application even if your previous employer decides to move on or if you are no longer working for them.
Last but not the least, if your priority date becomes current, you can speed up the application process by concurrently filing an I-485 application (adjustment of status). More information about this process can be found on the USCIS website.
Seek Legal Help from an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today
While the employment-based green card application is tedious, it can certainly be done if your employer files an I-140 petition on your behalf. As mentioned earlier though, timing plays a big role in determining whether or not your I-140 will get approved so make sure to do everything right from the start by consulting an expert green card law firm like Isa Law.
Isa Law is a top Miami immigration attorney with extensive experience in employment-based green card applications. For years, we have helped numerous clients from different nationalities and backgrounds to successfully obtain a green card and a brighter future in the United States.
To set up a free consultation appointment with a top immigration lawyer in Miami, FL, feel free to contact Isa Law at (305) 938-0676 today.