H-1B to Green Card: Guide and FAQ

  Do you want to change your immigration status from H-1B visa to Green Card? If yes, then you should know that the process is quite complicated. There are several steps involved in the process and you need to follow them carefully.  

H-1B to Green Card process

H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to hire foreign professionals to work in the US. 

An H-1B visa holder can stay up to 6 years in the United States, and get extensions for another 3 years. In order to be eligible for an H-1B Visa you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution.

The H-1B Visa has a huge demand as there is a limited supply of 85,000 visas every year, which means that every year there are more than one million applicants worldwide. There is always a waitlist of several months before you can get your hands on one of these visas.

If you are lucky enough to be selected in the lottery for an H-1B Visa, then you might be wondering about your next step: changing your status from H-1B to Green Card holder.

The process of changing from H-1B to Green Card can be long and complicated. The following is a step by step guide that will help you through the process.

  • Step 1: Find your H-1B cap year.
  • Step 2: Determine your eligibility for a green card.
  • Step 3: File your I-140 petition with USCIS.
  • Step 4: Submit evidence supporting your I-140 petition.
  • Step 5: Attend the green card interview.
  • Step 6: Get your new card!

What is an H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa program is a category of nonimmigrant visas that allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulate the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B visa program allows for three main types of temporary employment:

1. Entry Level Work

These are jobs that require at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in the specific specialty field.

2. Advanced Degree Work

Jobs requiring an advanced degree, such as a master’s or PhD, or its equivalent in experience in the field.

3. Specialized Knowledge

These are jobs that require specialized knowledge(skilled workers), with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in experience needed to perform the duties of the position.

 

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card is a United States Permanent Resident Card. In other words, it’s your ticket to live and work in the US on a permanent basis. The Green Card is also commonly referred to as a US Alien Registration Card or Resident Alien Card.

Types of Green Cards

If you’re interested in obtaining a green card, there are three main options available to you. These are:

Family of Green Card Holders (Permanent Residents) are usually awarded to those who already have a family member in the U.S. Country who is a citizen and would like to immigrate.

It takes a long time to get a family-based Green Card. In many cases, you must wait outside the U.S. Country while your application is processed, which can take months or years.

The annual Green Card lottery is an opportunity for 55,000 lucky people to become permanent residents of the United States. 

Applicants who enter the lottery can apply for as many as 20 million available cards, but only a lucky few will win one of the coveted permanent resident status cards.

Employment-based Green Card categories

The U.S. government offers employment-based Green Cards in three different groups, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3.

First preference – EB-1

If you are a researcher, professor, or manager of a multinational corporation, and you have extraordinary abilities and experience, then you may be eligible for an employment-based Green Card.

Second preference – EB-2

A second preference category is reserved for foreign nationals who hold advanced degrees and show exceptional ability, or those with at least five years of progressive work experience in that field.

Third preference – EB-3

All Other occupations that fall into this category are those of skilled worker and professional. A skilled worker must show at least two years of job experience in the occupation, while the employer must prove that American workers cannot do the job.

To be eligible for the EB-3 category, you must have a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign-equivalent. Also, if you have unskilled worker experience, you may qualify for this category if you can prove that U.S. workers cannot do the job and that it is not temporary.

Transitioning from the H-1B visa to a Green Card

The employer begins the process of transition from an H-1B visa to a Green Card. In almost every case, HR sponsors the employee for the Green Card with their sponsoring company or client. 

A recent study conducted by Envoy Global shows that companies like to offer Green Cards to foreign workers in order to help them stay in the U.S. permanently.

Approximately 66 percent of noncitizen Permanent Workers were informed that employers were offering Green Cards. Also roughly the same number indicate that they would consider doing this. 

That means a lot of H-1B workers have had their Green Card application processed within a few months of getting to the U.S.  In other companies, it is a norm to file an application for the Green Card on behalf of their employees.

Read Also: K-3 visa process – How long does the application take?

Discussing the future with an employer

There are only some employers who commit to offer an H-1B sponsorship at the start of the contract. In these cases, foreign workers may need to wait a few years before they’re able to speak of possibilities again with their already employed employers. 

Discussing this issue a few months time may not be completely impossible but it certainly has it’s sour points.  It is best that noncitizen workers should have known ahead of time if their employer was willing to sponsor their Green Card.

PERM Labor Certification

A PERM Labor Certification is a job offer from a U.S. employer to the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL certifies that there are no U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the position at the prevailing wage rate. This certification is required before an employer can file a visa petition on behalf of its foreign national employee with the USCIS Service Centers.

  • To be eligible for PERM labor certification, an employer must:
  • Have a permanent, full-time job opportunity available in the U.S.
  • Be able to pay at least the prevailing wage rate to its workers and state that they will pay this wage rate to the foreign worker upon hire.

Be able to prove that it has recruitment efforts through advertising and contacting former employees who are no longer employed by the company as well as other state agencies on behalf of U.S. workers and not find any qualified or interested U.S. workers for the job opportunity being offered to a foreign worker through PERM labor certification process.

Form I-140: Immigrant petition for alien worker

The Form I-140 is used to file an immigrant petition for alien worker. It is used by employers or foreign entities who wish to hire foreign workers. This form along with the supporting documents are provided to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for review.

A Form I-140 is made available through USCIS after the employer or foreign entity has filed the required forms and supporting documents with USCIS, who then forwards the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once at NVC, the case will be reviewed and forwarded to a consulate for processing.

You may be eligible for an adjustment of status if you have received an approved Form I-140 and you are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Form I-140 Requirements:

Form I-140 has several requirements that must be met before it can be submitted:

  • A valid labor certification is required before an employer can file this form with USCIS.
  • The application must include supporting documentation such as employer’s financial information.
  • The applicant must satisfy all eligibility requirements.
  • The applicant must sign and date Form I-140 on or before April 30th of the fiscal year in which they are applying.

Form I-485: Adjustment of status

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is the form a foreign national files with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for permanent residence in the United States.

The Form I-485 name refers to the fact that it enables a foreign national to “adjust status” from an “immigrant” to a “lawful permanent resident” of the United States. It is one of the most important forms for foreign nationals living in the United States who are seeking legal residency.

You will need to gather certain documents and information in order to submit your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

If you are a family sponsor, you will also need to collect the same documents for each member of your family. You should gather all of the following documents:

  • Your passport (or other photo ID) and those for everyone in your household.
  • Copies of every page of your passport (or other photo ID).
  • Proof of your entry into the United States with a visa, if applicable.
  • Evidence that you have continuously resided in the United States since you last entered on a visa or other authorized admission.
  • Personal history, including date and place of birth, marital status, employment history, military service, and any criminal record or convictions.
  • Educational background including schools attended and degrees earned.

Green Card application fees

The fees for transitioning from an H-1B visa to a Green Card are significant. The employer will pay part of the cost, but noncitizens will have to pay a portion as well.

Legal fees for an application to become a permanent resident of the United States might include:

The application process can cost $2,000–$5,000. The employer typically pays the $580 filing fee for Form I-140, and the worker typically pays the $1,070 filing fee for Form I-485. Immigrants may also opt to hire an attorney.

Potential delays in Green Card processing

The green card process is not instant. Depending on the country of origin, the length of time it takes to go through this process can vary. At times, it can take up to ten years or more for some people to be granted this highly prized document that grants them permanent residence in the United States.

Pending Green Card application: Can I keep working?

The immigration application process is a complex and difficult process that usually takes years to complete. It is important to keep working on your immigration application in order to prevent complications that delay the application process.

What happens to H-4 visa holders?

H-4 visa holders may continue to live in the U.S. legally, provided their H-1B worker holds legal status.

If you are a noncitizen and have an H-1B visa that has been extended beyond the six-year limit due to a pending Green Card application, you may also file to extend H-4 status for your spouse and children.

If the applicant gets their Green Card, they may petition for their spouse and unmarried children to become permanent residents of the U.S.

The process for Green Card holders to sponsor immediate family is detailed on the USCIS website. There may be priorities for processing these applications.

Green Card to citizenship

It is possible to become a U.S. citizen after spending a total of 10 years in the country, with the help of a green card. If you are not eligible for green card, then you can apply for a green card through the H-1B visa category. If you have been living in the United States for over one year and have filed for adjustment of status, then you can get a green card after fulfilling the requirements.

Conclusion

This article will cover everything you need to know about the H-1B to green card process. We will also provide you with tips on how to prepare yourself for the interview. If you have any questions, please comment below and we will try our best to answer them.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

Questions: How Long Does It Take To Get Green Card From H1B?

Answer: The process of obtaining Green Card from H-1B visa takes a long time. The average processing time is approximately 6 months. This is the average processing time, but the actual processing time can vary depending on the complexity of the case.

Processing times can also be affected by how much paperwork you need to submit and how many documents you need to attach with your application.

Question: How Can I Change My H1B Status To Permanent Resident?

Answer: The H1B status is a non-immigrant visa that allows the holder to work in the United States for a limited period of time.

To change your H1B status to permanent resident, you must file Form I-485 and Form I-539 with USCIS. You can also choose to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) which will allow you to work legally in the US.

You can file this application with USCIS at any time after filing Form I-485, even if you have not yet applied for adjustment of status or received an EAD.

Question: How Long Does It Take To Get A US Green Card For An H 1B Visa Holder?

Answer: The US Green Card is the final step to becoming a US citizen. This document is only available to those who have worked in the US for at least one year and have paid taxes. The time period to get a Green Card varies depending on the type of visa you have.

Question: Does Google File For Green Cards For All H-1B Hires?

Answer: From fiscal year 2018 to 2020, Google Inc. filed 27306 labor condition applications for H1B visa and 8687 labor certifications for green card, while ranking fifth among all visa sponsors.

In fiscal year 2018, the company was in the top 5 in terms of the number of Labor Condition Applications for H1B visa, a complement which surged from the year before.

Google, on the other hand, does not file for your green card until after six months of your work tenure with them, and they make it clear:

“After one year, you will be eligible to apply for a permanent resident card, commonly called a “green card”. If you have a green card, you will be eligible to apply for a U.S. passport.

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