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How to transition from an H-1B visa to a Green Card

interstride logo by Interstride
May 21, 2021

If you are looking to transition your status within the US from an H1B visa to a Green Card, you likely already know what the H-1B Visa is. If not, knowing the goal of the H-1B is an important part of the transition process.

What is the H-1B visa

The H-1B Visa is a popular work permit program for international students who have completed their higher education in the United States and plan to work within the country. The program allows employers to hire international talent, as long as the applicants hold a university degree and have a well-defined skill area that an American employer can benefit from.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work permit that allows foreign workers to temporarily work in the US. It also allows applicants to live in the US for up to 6 years, and reenter as often as they like while the H-1B is active.

Why is the H-1B so popular? Relative to the standard Permanent Resident Card application process, obtaining an H-1B is usually easier and faster. The Department of Labor also has rules for how foreign workers are paid. The rate of pay must be on par with what similarly qualified talent from the US would make.

Transitioning from the H-1B to a Green Card

For many foreign workers in the US, there comes a time when transitioning to a more permanent Green Card becomes necessary. Fortunately, making the transition from an H-1B visa to a Green Card is relatively simple.

There are several steps that Permanent Resident Card applicants must follow for a successful H-1B visa to Green Card transition to take place. As long as each of the steps falls into place as needed, the Green Card will be granted and a permanent residence within the U.S. will become a reality.

Step 1 – Find employer

An employer is essential for the H-1B to Permanent Resident Card process. It is not possible to get an employment-based Green Card without gaining sponsorship from an employer.

In many cases, the same employer that sponsored the H-1B visa can also provide sponsorship for a Green Card. There are cases, however, when employers do not meet the suitability requirements to become sponsors for foreign hires.

Additionally, the job/position/role requirements for H-1B and Green Card status differ. It is important to check whether your current position is acceptable for the Green Card requirements.

Step 2 – PERM labor certification

Once an employer has agreed to the Green Card sponsorship process, the PERM Labor Certification is the employer’s first step to get the ball rolling.

Through the PERM Labor Certification process Green Card applicants learn their future wage and position within their chosen company. The wage requirements for the Green Card are similar the H-1B’s wage requirements. Without making these determinations, the Green Card process cannot continue.

Step 3 – File form I-140

After the PERM Labor Certification has been filed and approved, the employer should file Form I-140.

The I-140 does a few different things, but most importantly, it proves to the USCIS that an applicant’s employer can, indeed, provide the benefits specified in the PERM Labor Certification. AS part of the application process, an employer must show proof of financial stability.

When the I-140 has been submitted, there is a bit of a waiting game that begins. A priority date is given, and an applicant must wait until that date becomes active. Once the priority date becomes current, the applicant can file the final form – the I-485.

Step 4 – File form I-485

Form I-485 is the final step in the process of getting a Permanent Resident Card and switching an applicant’s status from non-immigrant to immigrant. In fact, the I-485 is the ‘Green Card’ form. Once approved, permanent residence is granted.

H-1B to Green Card timeline

The H-1B to Green Card timeline is straightforward and there is an average rate at which Permanent Resident Cards are granted through the process. As many applicants have differing circumstances, however, there are some variables that can either quicken or slow the process.

In general, applicants should expect their H-1B to Green Card application process to take up to 6 months under normal conditions. That timeline can extend well beyond the 6-month expected Green Card application process for several reasons.

Avoid waiting to begin the Green Card process

It is wise not to wait too long before initiating the H-1B to Green Card application process. There are several reasons for getting the application started as soon as you can, but here are a few of the most common considerations that applicants are often faced with:

  • Potential issues with paperwork causing the Green Card application process to slow down.
  • Application audits can add a considerable amount of time to the application approval timeline. While audits are somewhat uncommon, they do occur, and it is wise to allow for these when deciding when to apply.
  • Applying too late. The process for transitioning from H-1B status to a Green Card can take up to 6 months. If an applicant’s H-1B has expired, the transition from the H-1B can no longer take place.
  • Mistakes on the government side. While it is not that common, many immigration lawyers point out that mistakes can happen on the .gov side. These types of mistakes can result in denials of applications. When an application is denied at no fault of the applicant or sponsoring employer, the applicant can file an appeal. An immigration lawyer can file the necessary documents.

Considerations when filing for permanent residence

Making the switch from a temporary, non-immigrant visa to a permanent residence can be extremely exciting. Despite that excitement, always be sure to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s when it comes to filling out paperwork and providing the required information.

The process of switching from an H-1B visa to a Permanent Resident Card is not difficult. However, missing any of the essential steps or filing information that is either partial or false can result in a denial of the application.

For that reason, always provide all information that is requested. Begin the application process for your Green Card as early as possible. Seek legal help if you believe that something is amiss.

Related questions

How long does it take to get a Green Card from H-1B?

It can take up to 6 months to get a Green Card from an H-1B visa. The process can take up to a year if any issues arise during the approval process. It is a good idea to begin the H-1B to Green Card application process as soon as you have made the decision to remain in the United States.

Can an H-1B holder get a Green Card?

Yes. An H-1B holder can get a Green Card. The process to go from H-1B to a Green Card focuses on modifying an applicant’s immigration status. As long as the H-1B visa is valid, the holder of that visa may apply to change the status of immigration.