Sunday, May 10, 2009
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!
Getting permanent residency status in the US has been a tedious and a long process for applicants, employers and attorneys. As you know, there are so many requirements, and the processing timelines are not properly defined or otherwise, delayed often.
My whole permanent residency process took one year and eight months from applying for Labor Certification Application (PERM) to receiving the “Green Card” to my hands. I would say it is reasonably fast compared to other similar cases. Of course, I did my homework and potentially qualified for the EB2 category prior to that by completing an accredited master’s degree. However, the overall time can be less or more depend on various reasons.
My focus here primarily on obtaining permanent residency status through employer for professional service. More specifically, in this post, I will concentrate on pre-preparation and PERM labor certification activities. Check my post “Top Way to Get U.S. Permanent Residency Status – Post Labor Approval” to see the things you should know after the labor approval. I will give you some valuable tips on how you can strengths the efficiency of the process and minimize delays from your side. I would not describe the standard process here rather I will explain the little things you should know and can do to speed up the process and be accurate. Here are my recommendations:
Be confident that your employer knows the depth of this process and willing to stand by you till the end. Be aware that your employer needs to advertise your job in several locations, provide you a job that potentially US citizens would not apply, give you a salary that fulfill minimum labor rates, provide financial evidence (audited tax records, income statements, etc.) to show the salary can be paid, and generate numerous letters plus supporting documents.
Study the entire process per your applying category and know the step-by-step stages involved including you, attorney and employer. You can get these details from your attorney and available websites. Two tips for choosing an attorney:
- Do not choose the overconfident attorney who says this can be easily done in a year rather go with the one who says it takes about 2-5 years and gives you the true picture of this process
- Pay attention to the initial step-by-step process given by the attorney; more thorough details mean that the attorney knows what he or she is talking about.
For EB-2, EB-3 categories make sure your degree is from an accredited university. Also, your degree and the potential job have to be in a similar or related discipline. As for EB-2, if your only focus is getting the Green Card, I would recommend an online master’s degree from an accredited university which you may be able to complete within a year.
Know your priority date. This will give you a slight idea of how long you will have to wait in order to apply for change of status (form I-485). You can check the priority date from the monthly Visa Bulletin on the Department of State website. Until the I-485 is approved, make a point to see the Visa Bulletin often as the dates can be changed frequently.
Labor Certification Application (PERM):
In this first phase of the permanent residency status process, your employer has to do lot of work. This includes obtaining the prevailing wage determination from state, advertising the job (two advertisements in a newspaper, three other additional recruitment steps – website ad, job search ad, job fair, on campus recruitment, etc –any three), post and publish a job notice in employer location, and place a job order with the state employment office. Therefore, to speed up this process, always follow up with the employer and attorney, and help on the documentation. Keys here are to construct the right job title and the description, so that the advertise job requires your unique specialty. Note that listing many specialties does not help because then you will need to explain why each specialty is required performing the job duties. Hence, limit to one or more unique specialty on your job description.
Before the submission of the labor certification, make sure the attorney has all the information needed, and they are accurate. You should collect all the required documentation by you well before the advertising process, so that you can follow up with employer advertising and documentations. It took me almost six months to complete the advertising process and submit the labor certification. You can minimize this time by communicating with attorney and the employer. Make things moving. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. This is for you not for them.
Once the labor certification is submitted, it is basically a waiting game. Word of advice here though. If you have a choice of where to file, find out the faster processing location (This is true to the I-140 and I-485 processing location as well). There are many online sources available to find this out. This is attorney’s job, but do your home work and make sure the attorney is on the right track. It took me three months to get the labor approval. There were no audits.
As for the advertising activities and getting the labor approval, it took me exactly a year. To minimize delays, always stay on top of everything from the accuracy of the documentation to frequent communication with employer and attorney to make things moving. Do not just wait for them to do the job. Sensibly push them to get things done. In a larger organization, I know this will be an issue. However, keep as much as control in this process to minimize delays.