If you are planning on switching from your H1B Visa to a Green Card… Congratulations! Maybe you’ve got your immigrant Visa to practice working in the States and things have worked in your favor and your dream is finally coming true.
The H1B visa is one of the most famous work visas in the U.S. Valid for six years, the H1B visa indicates that the holder has received education and training and performs a highly sought-after job. Once the six years are up, many H1B holders want to stay and work in the U.S. Read on to find out everything you need to know to begin transitioning from an H1B visa to a green card and permanent residency in the U.S.
What is a Green Card?
A Green Card is an employment-based immigration visa that allows migrants to become permanent residents in the U.S.:
- If you have a family member in the U.S., then you can apply for a permanent residence
- You can apply for a Green Card through employment
The U.S. government divides the work method of getting a Green Card into five categories:
This one goes to multinational executives and managers or those who have excelled in sports, arts, science, education, and business. This is the most prized H1B visa but only a few qualify for it. Each country gets 2,802 of these visas, plus any not used for E-B4 or E-B5. You can expect your visa to be processed quite quickly if you do qualify.
This is for professionals with extraordinary abilities or advanced degrees. Every country gets 2,802 visas and any EB-1 visas that were not used. To qualify for an EB-2 visa, you must:
- Be able to show extraordinary ability in business, art, or science
- Have an advanced degree like MA or a PhD
You can also qualify for an E-B2 visa if you are a physician and willing to use your skills in an underserved portion of the US.
While the requirements for an EB-3 visa are not as difficult as EB-1 or EB-2, there is a large backlog of applicants. To qualify you can have a bachelor’s degree, be a skilled worker whose job requires a minimum of 2 years of training or be an unskilled worker. This one is reserved for skilled workers with at least two years of expertise in their field or people who hold master's degrees not included in the EB-2.
Each year, every country gets 695 visas for people who have:
- Either worked or is working for the U.S. government abroad
- Are religious workers
- Served as translators for the U.S. military
The 3000 or fewer visas are reserved for those in the “investor” class. To qualify for the E-B5 category you must put a minimum of $900,000 into a U.S. business that has at least ten employees
How many Green Cards are available?
The U.S. government allows a limited number of Green Cards to be issued annually, and their availability primarily depends on the preference level for each immigration category.
For example, family-sponsored visas have the highest preference, and 226,000 visas are allocated annually.
Green cards based on employment are only issued 140,000 globally.
Who is eligible to apply for Green Cards?
There are several categories for Green Card eligibility. If you're an international graduate working in the U.S. on an H1B visa, you'll most likely apply for a Green Card based on employment.
Within this category, there are three sub-categories:
- Immigrant worker
- Physician National Interest Waiver
- Immigrant investor
Most employment applicants fall under one of the three preference tiers of the Immigrant worker sub-category. Some other categories include:
- Through family
- Through employment
- As a special immigrant
- Through refugee or asylum status
- For human trafficking or crime victims
- For victims of abuse
- Through registry (if you have stayed in the U.S. since before 1972)
Can H1B Visa Holders Apply for Green Cards?
Yes, all H1B visa holders can apply for a Green Card after the H1B visa expires, primarily because the H1B visa is a dual-transit one. This means that those who hold it are eligible for permanent residency by applying for a green card. Going from H1B to a green card is complex, and the procedure will take some planning.
Let's go over exactly what you need to start
H1B Visa to Green Card Process Steps
The H1B to Green Card process is relatively straightforward, but it is advisable to begin it as soon as possible. We have listed the three primary steps to process Green Card and what needs to be done for each one:
- Apply for PERM labor certification
- Submit Form I-140
- Submit Form I-148
Step 1: Apply for the PERM Labor Certification
Your employer must apply for the PERM (Permanent Labor) Labor certification in your name.
In this form, your employer will:
- Set your wage
- Prove no qualified U.S. candidates suit the position
- Fill out an ETA 9809 form
Step 2: Submit the I-140 Form
Once you are done with the PERM certification, and it is approved, file the I-140 form, also known as the Immigration Petition for Alien Worker. Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your application, you will be given a priority date.
Step 3: Submit the I-148 Form
The I-148, or the adjustment of status form, is the final step where you have to file the I-148 to your local USCIS office to continue. After approval, the customs office will stamp your passport, indicating your new status as a Green Cardholder.
Green Card validity
Most Green Cards are valid for ten years. Therefore, once you receive your Green Card, you need to renew or replace it every ten years, and there is no limit to the number of times you can get it renewed. However, if you've been granted conditional permanent resident status, you'll have to restart your Green Card every two years.
H1B to Green Card Processing Times
The time it takes to go from an H1B visa to a green card can vary widely. Therefore, it is essential to do your research beforehand to give you a sense of how long it will take so you don't run into the expiration date of your current visa.
- The PERM Certification takes anywhere between 6-18 months
- The Form I-140 depends on how soon your priority date will be current. If it does not happen for several years, USCIS may push your petition back
- Depending on your country of origin, the wait for your priority date to become current varies widely, from almost no wait time to nine years. Take a look at the most recent visa bulletin to see
- The processing time for the I-485 varies depending on the server it is sent to. You can get a sense of the wait times here
H1B to Green Card fees
Like any other visa and immigration-related application, moving from an H1B visa to a green card has a fee. These fees are paid in part by an H1B visa holder's employer and by the visa holder himself.
- $2000 to $5000 to file a PERM certification
- The employer pays for these fees
- $580 to file the I-140 form
- $1,070 to file the I-485 form
- These fees may be paid by the employer or employee
The bottom line, the transition cost from an H1B visa could cost up to $10,000, with $2000 or more of the financial burden falling onto the employee, depending on the situation.
Start your Green Card process today
Your chances of getting a Green Card from an H1B visa depend on your job, skills, qualifications, education, and even your country of origin. But keeping these points aside, the process can take up a significant amount of time. If you intend or think about living permanently in the U.S., it's good to talk to your employer or a good immigration lawyer as soon as possible.
The bottom line is that if you are planning to apply for a Green Card in the U.S, sign up for a Zolve Credit Card and Zolve Bank Account, and start building your credit footprint in the country from Day 1.