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Are you ready to switch your H1B visa to become a US Green Card holder? Your plan may have always been to stay in the U.S. all along, smoothly transitioning from H1B to Green Card. Or maybe you got your immigrant visa to get practice working in the States, and you're not ready to settle down in the U.S.
Whatever your reason, read on to learn what immigration law requires of the green card application process and what it takes to get Green Cards and permanent residency. You'll learn about the H1B, Green Card, and how to transition from one to another.
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What Is an H1B Visa?
The H1B Visa in the U.S. is a non-immigrant work visa. The visa allows companies to hire employees who have graduated from university to fill specialized positions.
You'll usually qualify for an H1B Visa if you have an education and training in any of the following areas:
- Among other things
The H1B Visa process is quicker than the Green Card method, making it the popular choice for employers looking to bring in long-term foreign employees. The H1B visa is unique in that individuals cannot apply for the classification but must have an employer nominate them. If approved, the individual will need an employment authorization document, also known as a work permit.
There's a caveat with H1B visas in that the government places an annual cap on them. Per year, 85,000 new H1B visas are made available. Among those, 65,000 are for those with a Bachelors's and 20,000 are for those with a more advanced degree.
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What Is a Green Card?
An employment based green card is an immigration visa. Employment based green cards allow a migrant to have lawful permanent resident status through a couple of methods:
- First, if you have family members already in the States, you can apply for permanent residence by completing the family sponsorship form.
- The second and more common method is to submit an immigrant petition for the green card through employment. If you have work experience in a specific area and want to apply for a job position in the US, you can apply.
The U.S. government divides the work method of getting a Green Card into five categories:
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Types of Green Card Holders
There are several types of green card holders, depending on your reason for coming to the US.
- Family-sponsored - If you have family already living in the US, you may meet the eligibility criteria to join them. This only works for immediate family members, such as spouses, parents, siblings, or children who are already US citizens or permanent residents.
- Employment-based green card - If you are hired by a US company while living in your home country, your employer can sponsor you to live in the US. With an employer-based green card, you must work for the employer that sponsored you until your contract expires. After satisfying the contract requirements, you can work elsewhere.
If you do are not sponsored by an employer, you can apply for the national interest waiver to become a permanent resident. Your job must benefit the US economy in some way to qualify.
- Returning resident - If you had a green card previously but left the US for a year or longer, you may apply for a returning resident green card. However, you must prove the reasons you were not in the US were beyond your control, such as a family emergency or cultural requirements.
- Green card lottery - Each year, the USCIS runs a 'green card lottery' pulling 55,000 noncitizen names' who can get green cards. There are as many as 20 million green card applicants for the lottery each year.
What Other Forms of Employment Visa are Available?
There are a variety of temporary foreign worker visas available in the United States. Among others, there are temporary agricultural and non-agricultural worker visas and the trainee or distinctive education visitor. You can also get an employment visa if you are an international athlete or an entertainer.
Green Card Categories
US companies can petition the Department of Labor to fill jobs with foreign workers using the following categories.
First Preference (EB-1)
Applicants that fall under the EB-1 category apply for a green card for employment reasons and who demonstrate the extraordinary ability to be an executive or manager. They have the highest priority workers and, to qualify, must prove they have exceptional ability, recognition in the industry as a researcher or professor, and the qualifications to handle the job.
Second Preference (Eb-2)
The second preference category is immigrants with advanced degrees (master's degree holders who studied medicine, science, or teaching) or exceptionally skilled workers.
To be considered to have an advanced degree, applicants must have a bachelor's degree plus five or more years of experience in the industry .
An applicant's experience can be in arts, business, or science, and their abilities must far surpass those with a general bachelor's degree in the same categories.
Third Preference (EB-3)
An EB-3 is for all other skilled workers with a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience in the industry. In addition, the company hiring foreign workers must prove there aren't any American workers to handle the job.
Fourth Preference (EB-4)
An EB-4 is for Special Immigrants or those with special skills, including working as a translator in the United States military, as religious workers, or working for a US government agency in the US or abroad.
Fifth Preference (EB-5)
The EB-5 category is for foreign nationals in the 'investor class' who will create at least ten employees and invest at least $500,000 in the US economy.
If I Already Have an H1B Visa, Can I Apply for a Green Card?
Yes, all H1B visa applicants are eligible to apply for a green card after their H1B expires because it is a dual-intent visa. If a work permit is of dual-intent, that means that you have the option to submit paperwork for a green card.
The process of going from H1B to a green card is a tad complex, and the procedure will take some planning. Let's go over exactly what you need before you start on the method known as the Adjustment of Steps.
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The H 1B to Green Card Application Process
The Adjustment of Steps process is specific, detailed, and will take time. You'll need to be patient to be successful and get your Green Card.
You'll go through three steps before being able to transfer.
Step 1: Apply for the PERM Labor Certification
The first step is for your employer must apply for the PERM (Permanent Labor) Labor certification in your name.
In this form, your employer will:
- Set your wage
- Prove no qualified U.S. candidates suit the position
- Fill out an ETA 9809 form
Step 2: Submit the I-140 Form
After the PERM certification is approved, file the I-140 form, also known as the Immigration Petition for Alien Worker. Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your application form, the office will give you a priority date.
Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until your term is current to perform the next step as a foreign national.
Step 3: Submit the I-148 Form
The I-148, or the adjustment of status form, is the final step. You'll have to file the I-148 to your local USCIS office to continue. After approval, the customs office will stamp your passport, indicating your new status as a Green Cardholder.
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H1B Green Card Process FAQs
When Does My H1B Visa Expire?
Your H1B visa's exploration date is six years after it is issued. At this time, you can either renew, apply for a green card, or return to your home country. Upon initial entry to the U.S., you received an I-94 document. The I-94 card will tell you the exact date that your H1B ends.
You can change the date of your H1B visa if you decide to stay with the same employer. The updated day will be on your USCIS approval documents. For an electronic copy of your I-94, go to the Customs and Border Protection database website.
How Long Will My Green Card Application Take?
Each step of the process will take a certain amount of time. Be prepared to spend anywhere between 6 months to 2 years for green card processing time from an H1B.
- The PERM Labor Certification takes 6 to 18 months.
- Your I-140 approval depends upon your priority date and your country of origin.
Though the green card timeline varies broadly, the US government has resources in place so you can get a rough estimate of your specific wait time and check green card status. If your green card looks like it will take a while, you can always renew your H1B.
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How Much Will My Green Card Application Cost?
If you are an H 1B Visa holder, your employer will pay for part of your green card fees. The legal fees, usually ranging anywhere from $2000 to $5000, are paid by the employer. The application fees, $580 for form I 140 and $1070 for the I-485, are either paid for by the employer or the employee.
In total, the actual green card application process costs around $10,000, with a portion of it falling onto your shoulders as an employee.
What Is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?
The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a lottery for 50,000 green cards for foreign nationals from underrepresented countries. The eligible countries change annually, and eligible countries receive 7% of the total visas issued that year.
Entering the lottery is free, but you must reapply each year. If you are chosen, your immediate family members are also selected, and you must pay the processing fee for the application.
The lottery occurs every year between October and November.
How Long Does It Take To Renew a Green Card?
Green card renewal can take 1 1/2 months to 12 months. You can view current processing times on the USCIS website.
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Understand the H1B to Green Card Process
The green card transfer process can be complicated and seem overwhelming, but you don't have to go through it alone. If you have any questions or concerns not addressed in this article, we can help you plan your transfer from an H1B visa to a green card.
At MYRA, we specialize in providing immigrants with the help they need and the knowledge required to complete each step of the Green Card process.
Contact us today to begin your journey from H1B visa holder to Green Card carrier.