The H1B visa is the most popular nonimmigrant work visa in the United States. H1B visas are valid for up to six years; after six years, the employee is required to return to his or her home country. The U.S. allows a 10-day grace period after an H1B visa expires to allow employees to make arrangements to return home or extend their stay.
What is the H1B to Green Card Process?
Many H1B visa holders hope to become permanent residents of the United States. This can be done by obtaining a U.S. Green Card; since the H1B visa is dual-integral, this means that the holder of this visa is eligible to apply for permanent residency.
The process of obtaining a US green card from an H1B visa is known as H1B to Green Card or Employment Based Green Card. In addition, there are other types of green cards as follows.
- Family Based Green Card
- Political Asylum Based Green Card
- Adoption Based Green Card
- Refugee Based Green Card
- Diversity-based Green Card
For employment-based green cards, obtaining a green card can take months or years. There are several steps involved and the agency requires a large amount of documentation. Due to the potential complexity of the process, most agencies recommend hiring an experienced attorney. An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the documents and deadlines required for a smooth transition.
The most important fact to remember is that the process for an Employment Based Green Card must be initiated by an employer in the United States. An employee or other individual cannot initiate the green card application process.
For this reason, you must find a U.S. employer who is willing to hire and sponsor you before you can begin the green card process.
H1B to Green Card Process
Here are the steps in the process from H1B to Green Card:
- Apply for a PERM work permit.
- File Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker).
- File Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status).
Step 1: Get PERM Labor Certification
In 2005, the U.S. implemented PERM to make it easier for applicants to obtain an Employment Based Green Card. The PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) system is linked to the DOL (Department of Labor). The PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) system works in conjunction with the DOL (Department of Labor). Since it is an electronic process, not only is the time to complete the application reduced, but the paperwork is eliminated.
To begin the process of obtaining a green card for an employee, an employer must apply for PERM certification with the DOL. This involves the following steps
- Register with the DOL
- Obtain approval for the prevailing wage determination process
- Implement the hiring process
- Submitting an ETA Form 9089
Registering with DOL
Register with the DOL (U.S. Department of Commerce).
Employers who wish to sponsor a foreign worker to obtain a green card from an H1B visa must register with the DOL. After filling out the online form, the DOL will email you a user ID, password, and PIN number.
The DOL has created a guide for online registration that employers can follow.
Getting approval for Prevailing Wage Determination
The DOL also requires employers to pay foreign workers prevailing wages. This means paying the full wage set by the government, and no less. Employers can obtain a current wage certification from the State Employment Service Administration (SESA) or the State Workforce Agency (SWA).
Once the certificate is obtained, it can be filed with the DOL. The certificate must be valid at the time of filing.
Conducting Recruitment Processes
After obtaining a prevailing wage determination certificate, the employer must prove to the DOL that they could not find a qualified U.S. citizen for the position. Therefore, they need to hire a foreign worker and want to sponsor that worker to obtain a green card.
To prove that the U.S. citizen does not meet the requirements, the employer must take the following steps
- Place two newspaper ads for three consecutive days. The ad must be placed in a newspaper published in the area where the work is to be performed.
- In lieu of a newspaper ad, you may place your ad in a national newspaper.
- In addition, other recruitment processes should be conducted, such as.
- Place an ad on your website
- Conduct a recruitment drive on campus
- Attend job fairs
- Place a radio or television advertisement, and so on.
- Each ad must include the name of the position, a detailed description, requirements, and the name of the employer.
After conducting any of these recruitment activities, the employer must submit a report to the DOL certifying that the U.S. citizen was not suitable for the position. The report must describe all of the employer’s efforts to find a U.S. worker and the results of those efforts. It must also state the reasons why the U.S. person who applied for the job was not hired. In addition, if the employer previously terminated a foreign worker, it must demonstrate that it first considered the terminated worker before hiring a new H1B employee and sponsoring a green card.
The DOL has the right to oversee the hiring process and monitor all activities. Employers are required to keep files on the hiring process for five years, in case of a DOL audit.
File ETA Form 9089
After determining prevailing wage and hiring, employers must file ETA Form 9089. This form is an application for employment certification. This form can be submitted by mail or electronically.
With this form, the employer must certify that all requirements have been met and that the position is suitable for the foreign worker to move from an H1B to a green card.
Obtaining PERM decision
After a DOL representative reviews all documentation, a decision is made to approve or deny the PERM certification. In some cases, a review or additional documentation may be required to make a determination. Applicants can expect to receive a PERM determination within 45 to 60 days of application.
Step 2: File Form I-140
The next step in obtaining a green card from an H1B is to file Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). Upon receipt of PERM approval, Form I-140 certifies that the employee will be able to earn the wages advertised during the recruitment process and that the employee is eligible to work and live in the U.S. permanently. After PERM approval, the Form I-140 certifies that the employee will be able to earn the wages advertised during the recruitment process and is eligible to work and live permanently in the United States.
Once the employer files the Form I-140, a visa number is assigned, which is assigned a date. The priority date is an indication of when the application will be processed. You can file an I-485 at the same time as your I-140 as long as that date is current. This is referred to as concurrent filing.
Step3: File Form I-485
The final step to completing the H1B to Green Card process is for the employee to file for an adjustment of status. To do this, they must file an I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).
This application is sent to USCIS and if approved, the employee can work and reside in the United States as a lawful permanent resident. There are two ways to apply for a change of status.
If you are in the U.S., you only need to file an I-485 and no other paperwork is required. The only rule is that you must apply while you have a valid H1B visa. If your visa has expired, you must return to your home country. The only exception is if the employee has an approved I-140 that is not up to date. In this case, the employee will be granted an indefinite extension until the process is complete.
If the employee is outside the U.S., he or she must complete consular processing. Consular processing is when the employee applies for adjustment of status through the U.S. Embassy in their country of residence. These are the required steps for consular processing:
- After the employer files an application with USCIS and receives approval, USCIS sends the application to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- The NVC assigns a case number and sends it to the employer and the employee.
- Once the priority date is established, you will receive information from the NVC regarding payment of the appropriate fees.
- You will then be asked to complete an Affidavit of Support, known as Form I-864 (the cost is approximately $700).
- The NVC will also ask you to fill out a DS-3032 (Select Address and Agent); if you are applying for an H1B to Green Card electronically, you will need to fill out a DS-261 instead of a DS-3032.
- Once you have completed these forms, return them to the NVC for processing.
- The NVC will send you a Form IV (Immigrant Visa Applicant Instructions Package), which will cost you approximately $400.
- After all documents have been reviewed, the applicant will be called for an interview. A family member must be present at the interview, and the applicant must undergo a medical examination for the visa prior to the interview.
Once all steps are completed, USCIS will process the documents and notify the applicant of the decision, whether or not the applicant is in the United States. Once your application is approved, your passport will be stamped and you will receive a physical green card. You are now an H1B to US permanent resident with a green card.
Should I Get Health Insurance After I Receive My Green Card?
Yes, due to the high cost of medical care in the United States, it is recommended that you purchase health insurance. Click here to learn more about health insurance for green card holders.
Categories of Employment Based Green Cards
Approximately 140,000 people qualify for an employment-based green card each year. Each country, large or small, gets 7% of that quota (9,800 people). There are five categories of employees who can apply to transition from H1B to Green Card: There are five categories of employees who can apply to transition from H1B to Green Card, and each will receive 140,000 slots. The categories are as follows.
E-B1 or Priority Workers
The EB1 category is the one that most people want to apply for but few qualify; the E-B1 category is the one that most people want to apply for but few qualify.
- Distinguished professors and researchers
- Executives and managers
- Individuals with exceptional skills in business, arts, science, education, or sports
In addition to these visas, each country receives 2,802 visas not used for E-B4 and EB5.
E-B2 or Professionals with exceptional ability or advanced degrees
E-B2 applicants receive approximately 2,802 visas each year, plus any visas not used in E-B1. These include.
- Individuals with exceptional ability in the arts, business, or sciences
- Hold an advanced degree (master’s or doctorate)
- Physicians working in underserved areas of the United States
E-B3 or Skilled/Professional Workers
There are 2,802 additional visas in this category that are not used for E-B2.
- Those with a bachelor’s degree
- Skilled workers with at least two years of experience or training
- Unskilled workers
E-B4 or Special Immigrants
The E-B4 category is issued at a rate of 695 visas per year and is for individuals who are
- Individuals who work or previously worked abroad for the U.S. government
- Religious personnel
- Those who work for the U.S. military as translators
E-B5 or Investors
There are over 3,000 visas that fall into the E-B5 category. Those who fall into this category are investors who create at least 10 full-time jobs in the U.S. and invest between $500,000 and $1 million in the U.S. economy.
H1B to Green Card Fees
There are fees associated with applying for an employment-based green card. This includes fees payable by both the employer or sponsor and the employee. The following are some of the fees that may be incurred
- Attorney fees – Employers must pay between $2,000 and $5,000 in attorney fees to file a PERM certificate. Thousands of dollars are also required to file the I-140 and I-485. The fees for these two forms can be paid by the employer or the employee.
- Advertising Fees – Depends on the state and the medium in which the job is advertised. Rates can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. These fees must be paid by the employer.
- Application Fees – Each employee must pay $580 for the I-140 application fee and $1,070 for the I-485. These fees can be paid by either the employee or the employer.
In general, applying for a green card for an H1B visa can cost up to $10,000. However, once approved, you may live and work permanently in the United States.