Getting an employment-based green card is a multiple step process and it generally takes several years to get it. Here is a brief introduction of the process.
Step 1: Perm
Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) is the system used for obtaining labor certification and is the first step for certain foreign nationals in obtaining an employment-based immigrant visa (“green card”). This is also known as PERM labor certification (LC). The labor certification is a determination that there is a shortage of American workers who are willing and able to by the DOL perform the offered job. That is accomplished by the employer advertising the position in the newspaper and other media.
Before filing an application, the employer must conduct specified recruitment activities.
Step 2: Immigrant Worker Petition
After the labor certification is approved by the DOL, an Immigrant Petition related to the labor certification should be filed with the USCIS before the expiration of the labor certification. The certification has a validity period of 180-days and expires if not submitted to USCIS within this period. This phase currently takes about three to five months.
At this stage, the employer will need to demonstrate the company’s ability to pay the prevailing wage, which may require submission of company’s financial statement or tax returns.
USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) Premium Processing option is also available for this phase for an extra $1,225 in filing fees. Premium Processing cases are reviewed by CIS within 15 working days.
Step 3: Consular Processing Abroad or “Adjustment of Status”
The last and final step in the permanent resident process is an application filed by the foreign national. The foreign national’s immediate dependents (spouse and children) may also join the foreign national employee at this step in the process and file their own applications as the employee’s dependents.
Each case is given a priority date based upon when it is first filed with USCIS. This priority date is the foreign national’s “place in line” for an immigrant visa for someone from their birth country as they become available. If the foreign national employee’s priority date is current, the adjustment of status application may be filed with USCIS concurrently with the I-140 Petition. If the priority date is not yet current due to quota backlogs, then it may be several months or years before the individual may file the last phase in the permanent resident process. The attorney will track priority dates and prepare this filing.
The USCIS currently charges a $700 filing fee per I-140 Petition.
STATUS WHILE IMMIGRANT PETITION IS PENDING
During this entire process, the sponsored employee and his/her family, residing in the U.S., should maintain their valid nonimmigrant (temporary) status. However, the applicant (as well as his/her dependents) are eligible to apply for work authorization upon filing for adjustment of status in the U.S.