I hope you have read my post, “Fast Way to Get U.S. Permanent Residency Status – Getting Started” , before exploring the below details. If not, I highly recommend you to read that first. In this post, I concentrate on the things you should know and do assuming that you already have the labor approval. The two main and the final parts discussed here are filing the forms I-140 and I-485. Of course, as my previous post, I would not go into details of how these two process work rather I let you know the things that you can do to speed up the process and minimize the auditing.
I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition:
Make sure while you are waiting for the labor approval, to gather all the documentation needed for I-140. Do not wait till the labor is approved. By now, you may have sent all the documents by you to the attorney. However, you will need to get the documents from your employer to attorney as well. The employer documents include the company audited tax returns, income statements, balance sheet, etc to show that the employer financially viable to pay you the pre-chosen prevailing wage. The focus here is to show enough money and get the documents to the attorney so that the attorney has everything ready to file the I-140 as soon as the labor is approved. Therefore, verify, communicate and follow up!
I-485 Permanent Residence Application:
As you all should know, this application only can be filed if your priority date is current. In my case, it was current for EB-2 for my country. Also, you can file both I-140 and I-485 together at the same time if the priority date is current just as I did. The advantage may be parallel processing which may save time.
One main documentation need here is the medical exams. Your attorney will let you know how to find a doctor and the instructions on this. All you have to do is make an appointment with the doctor on the USCIS list per the instructions and go through the medical examination. This should be a straight forward process and usually, doctors know what to do. However, do not take the chance; always make sure the doctor follows the USCIS instructions. Also, if you have not done already, you will need to send ALL the pages of your current and old passports to the attorney – USCIS will need to see your up-to-date travel information. In addition, your employer will need to send an attorney a signed letter confirming the job offer is still open to you and that the salary is at least as much as originally offered on the Labor Certification. Now, all of these documents have a time consideration. Therefore, you will have to wait till the I-140 or the Labor (in case of joint filing I-140 and I-485) is approved in order to collect these documents. If everything goes right, you should be able to get these done under a week. Therefore, again, it is important to follow up with the attorney and employer. Once the documents are out to attorney, push him or her to file the application as soon as possible. Do not forget the accuracy of the items on the applications though.
With the I-485, attorneys usually file the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Travel Document (AP) because it is included in the USCIS filling fees. Either of these documents is valid for one year from the date of the approval and can be renewable as long as your I-485 is pending. It is important to know, once these are approved, and if you decided to go out of the U.S., you will lose your current visa status unless you have a multi-purpose visa like H1B. Of course, you can use the AP and return to U.S. and work with the EAD. However, then, you will have the “pending Permanent Resident Status”. Also, make sure the AP form has “multiple” entries before you file, so you can go in and out of the country without any limitations.
Once the attorney files the I-485, it is a waiting game again. However, it is definitely exciting than the labor or the I-140 approval as you can look forward to some action items. First is the finger printing appointment. You will receive this notice well within a month since you file. If you cannot make the appointment, work with the attorney to reschedule. What will happen here is basically your fingerprints are taken at a USCIS location. Make sure your information is correct in their system, and to receive the notice with a date stamp – this is the evidence to show that you have gone to the appointment. Your fingerprints are sent online to FBI to investigate your criminal background. Second, you will receive the approved EAD and AP within three months of filing if there are no complications. Finally, you will receive the notice from USCIS of your change of status to permanent residency and followed by the “Green Card” to conclude the tedious and long process.
As far as the timelines, I really do not know to give you even an estimate as it varies so much. Just to give you an idea in any case from my experience, since joint filing I-140 and I-485, I received the permanent residency status in eight months.
The two key things I have focused here are the accuracy and the time. By knowing exactly what is needed and providing the correct details, you will minimize the chance of auditing your applications. As far as the government processing, you do not have any control. However, you should have the control over you, employer and attorney to make the process faster. I have two words to leave with you. Follow Up. Follow Up. Follow Up!