If you are an immigrant who is here in the United States on a temporary work visa, in most cases, you may not apply for permanent residence in the U.S.
However, the H-1B temporary nonimmigrant work visa is an exception.
How do H-1B temporary employees apply for lawful permanent residence, and what is the role of the employer who originally acquired the visa?
But first, a brief explanation of the H-1B visa. U.S.-based businesses use H-1B visas to hire scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers, and other international workers with highly specialized skills and knowledge.
Every year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H-1B visa petitions from U.S.-based employers during a short filing period that begins on April 1st.
At the present time, 85,000 H-1B visas are made available to U.S.-based employers every year, and the demand for those visas far exceeds the supply.
Of the 85,000 H-1B visas offered annually, 20,000 are reserved for immigrants who hold advanced degrees from U.S.-based institutions.
WHEN DO H-1B VISAS EXPIRE?
The remaining 65,000 H-1B visas go to employers hiring international workers who possess (at least) a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
The H-1B visa is good for three years and may be renewed once for a maximum of six years. H-1B visas are quite difficult – but not impossible – for employers to acquire.
In fact, scores of employers across the United States are right now determining their H-1B visa needs for the filing period which will begin on April 1, 2018.
If you are a U.S.-based employer and you need to acquire H-1B visas for international employees, you must understand that the competition among employers for these visas is intense.
There are no guarantees, but a skilled immigration attorney can help an employer avoid any misunderstandings or mistakes might keep a company from obtaining the H-1B visas it needs.
A good immigration lawyer can also help an employer complete and file the Form ETA 9089 as well as the Form I-140 – explained below – and can put an employer in the best possible position to acquire H-1B visas.
IF YOU ARE SEEKING A GREEN CARD, CAN AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER HELP?
For the international employee/visa holder, your application for an H-1B work visa permits you to indicate your intention to seek lawful permanent resident status as one of the reasons you are requesting an H-1B visa and entry into the United States.
An immigration attorney in Michigan or Ohio can guide you through the application process and help you understand the terms and conditions of a temporary H-1B work visa.
When you arrive in the United States with an H-1B visa, you may begin the process of seeking permanent residence status. What’s the first step?
Your employer must apply for Permanent Labor Certification from the Department of Labor (DOL).
After the Permanent Labor Certification application (Form ETA 9089) is submitted, the procedure usually takes from 120 to 180 days.
A labor certification from the DOL verifies that there are not enough qualified and available U.S. workers for the position that is being filled by the international employee, and it additionally confirms that hiring an international employee will not negatively impact the working conditions or wages of U.S. workers in comparable positions.
WHAT IS FORM I-140?
After approval of Form ETA 9089, the employer must file Form I-140 (“Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker”).
Form I-140 establishes that the international employee qualifies for an immigrant visa based on employment and that the U.S.-based employer has the funds and assets necessary to pay the worker the wage confirmed in the labor certification process.
Most employers will need the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney through the labor certification process.
If you are the employee, however, and the company goes out of business while the labor certification is pending, you’ll either have to leave the U.S., immediately find another employer and transfer your H-1B work visa, or apply for a tourist visa to legally remain in the United States.
If you are a U.S.-based employer or an H-1B specialized international employee with concerns or questions about permanent labor certification, let a skilled immigration lawyer help.
For example, your attorney can review or help you fill out the Form ETA 9089 to ensure your compliance with the DOL’s many permanent labor certification regulations.
WHAT IS ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS?
“Adjustment of Status” is the process of applying for permanent resident status in the United States; it’s the final step of the H-1B visa-to-lawful permanent resident process.
To apply for Adjustment of Status, the H-1B visa holder must submit Form I-485 (“Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”).
Lawful permanent residents – “green card” holders – may live, work, and attend school in the United States and may travel abroad at will.
However, they may not vote or hold certain federal jobs, and when lawful permanent residents are convicted of crimes or otherwise abuse their status, they may be subject to deportation.
WHAT SHOULD THOSE WHO SEEK GREEN CARDS KEEP IN MIND?
If you are an international employee who is in the United States on an H-1B visa and you are ready to seek a green card, or if you are not ready but you want to learn more about lawful permanent resident status, speak personally with an immigration attorney, and take seriously these suggestions:
Don’t become a victim. No one legally sells visas, green cards, or other immigration documents. Steer clear of the con artists and always have the advice of a good immigration lawyer.
Fill out every form and document accurately and completely. Otherwise, your application could be delayed or even rejected.
A good immigration lawyer will see to its that your forms are complete and accurate and that all deadlines are met.
Make and keep copies of all immigration-related forms, documents, and other papers.
Whenever you send an immigration document through the U.S. Postal Service, send it by certified mail and ask for a return receipt that will confirm the delivery.
Whether you are the employer or the employee, a good immigration attorney will be able to answer your immigration-related questions and address your concerns.
And because acquiring an H-1B visa isn’t something that can be guaranteed, an experienced immigration lawyer also will explain your other visa options and help you obtain the visas – or the green card – that you need.