Green Card Process Timeline

Foreign workers in the United States should be aware of the green card process timeline. It can be time consuming to obtain a green card, so the employer must adhere to specific guidelines and deadlines to hire or keep a foreign worker on the payroll.

Overview of the Process Timeline

Typically, it will require two years for a foreign worker to get an EV permanent residence visa, often referred to as a green card. Immigration law provides that a foreign worker can begin working while waiting for the green card with a temporary work visa, such as the H-1B visa or the O-1 visa.

Getting a green card will take three steps.

  1. Complete a permanent labor certification (PERM) for the foreign worker. This can take from six months to a few years.
  2. Get the approval of I-140 visa petition for the foreign worker. This can take approximately four months. However, it is possible to expedite the process that can reduce that to 15 days.
  3. Secure the foreign worker’s green card through I-485 visa petition, as long as the applicant is working on a temporary visa within the United States. This step can take six months. There is no way to expedite this step.

How Long the PERM Process Will Likely Take

PERM stands for Program for Electronic Review Management. Going through the certification process is a requirement for most foreign workers to get a green card. Domestic employers must make advertisements for the job availability for the foreign worker. The employer will need to prove to the Department of Labor that there are American workers were able and can qualify to take the position.

As a first step in the process, the employer must define the all aspects of the position for the foreign worker. This can take several weeks to complete. The duties and responsibilities have an imperative role in the scope of the immigration strategy. In particular, the initial discussion to the finalization of the job description process can take up to three months to finish. It can be even longer for large companies.

The second step in the PERM process is submitting the prevailing wage request. This will need to go to the Department of Labor. The employer can also use other methods, such as conducting a survey, to get this information.

Employers must give the Department of Labor with all information about the job. This includes the duties, location, and job requirements. Depending on the job position, the Department of Labor will provide the prevailing wage determination as well as the salary range that the foreign worker must be.

As of early 2017, it can take 100 days for the prevailing wage determination to be issued for the positing.  If the employer does not agree with the wage provided, they may request a second determination. They also have the option to change the job information and request a new wage. The wage determination request can delay the PERM process due to the time it takes the DOL to reply. Recruitment for the position will start once the employer gets an ideal PWD. This will consist of placing advertisements as well as interviewing other candidates for the position.

The recruitment process includes posting the job with the state workforce agency. This must continue for 30 days. Additional ads, including two newspaper ads and three additional forms will need to run along with the state workforce posting.

There is a mandatory wait time of 30 days once the last advertisement ends. The application may only be filed after this waiting period has expired. In addition, advertisements may not be older than 180 days when the application is filed. It is best that employers post the ads all at once.

Once PERM is approved, the employer can proceed with the I-140 petition. If the DOL asks for more evidence or if it is denied, it can result in a delayed process. I-140 petition will need to include the original approved PERM application as well as proof of the employer’s ability to pay the worker’s salary. Proof of the foreign worker’s qualification for the position is also required.

The timing information for 1-140 petition processing can be found by the public. As of 2016, USCIS can take four to eight months to finalize a decision. To increase the processing time of the petition and reduce the decision-making to 15 business days, premium processing is available for an additional fee.

USCIS Nebraska and Texas Service Centers are primarily responsible for processing the I-140 petitions. The estimated time for processing can be found on the USCIS website.

If you need help with obtaining a green card, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. We work with the top 5 percent of lawyers to our site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from prestigious law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.