Friday, October 8, 2010

Seattle Immigration Lawyer | Intro to Getting a Green Card Through Employment

This will be the first of several blog posts covering employment-based immigrant visas—the route to a green card through employment. Only 140,000 immigrant visas are made available per year for immigrants, along with their spouses and children, who wish to immigrate based on their job skills. On top of that, there is a quota that limits every country to seven percent of the available green cards every year. (There is no quota for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.) And, several categories (known as “preferences”) of employment-based immigrant visa petitions require that the sponsoring employer file a labor certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) before filing a visa petition. As I will discuss later, some preferences require an employer sponsor while others permit the immigrant to self-petition.

Make no mistake, acquiring permanent residency through a job is a long process—in fact, it often takes years. If your goal is to obtain a green card through your job or offer of employment, there is rarely anything to be gained from waiting to begin the process. An experienced immigration attorney can advise you or your employer, based on your specific circumstances, as to which visa petition to file, where to file (in the U.S. or abroad), on the labor certification process (if applicable), and in designing an immigration strategy to keep you in lawful status throughout the long process, so you remain eligible for a green card.

If the visa preference you are applying under requires labor certification, then this is the first step. Assuming the certification is granted by DOL, the next step is to file the immigrant visa petition with USCIS. Once USCIS approves the immigrant visa petition, the Department of State still must issue an immigrant visa number to you in order for you to qualify to apply to adjust your status to permanent resident. Sometimes it takes years from when USCIS approves your visa petition to when you are issued an immigrant visa number. Recall that, by law, the number of immigrant visas for each country is restricted—thus if your country of origin is one in which there are a lot of other people applying for U.S. immigrant visas then you will be waiting longer. An immigration attorney can advise you on the delays to expect and in formulating a visa strategy.

Also, for some preferences, the availability of an immigrant visa number depends on the priority date. In this context, the priority date is determined by your country of birth and the preference you are applying under. Once your priority date is current, there is no waiting period. For cases where labor certification is required, your priority date is set by that process. For the EB-1/National Interest Waiver preference, the priority date is when the I-140 immigrant worker visa petition was received by USCIS. To check whether your priority date is current, look at the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by the State Department.

Stay tuned for my next few Seattle Immigration Lawyer Blog posts, which will look at labor certification and the different employment visa preferences.

1 comment:

  1. Such a informative blog. Thanks for sharing the information.