All About Processing Time for an Immigrant Worker’s Green Card

U.S. employers who are seeking to hire and offer sponsorship to an Immigrant Worker must diligently and carefully follow several steps and procedures to help their employee obtain an employment based, U.S. green card. The employer must also patiently wait on a timeline for the application to be completed and approved as processing time may take several months to years in order to be finalized.

GavelEvery case is different and the actual processing timeframe for offering sponsorship to an immigrant worker can vary. In fact there can be many reasons for delays but each is dependent on the factual information of the case.

General Review of Predictable Timeline

It would take roughly 2 years for an immigrant worker to acquire a U.S. green card. However, in many instances the foreigner can simply start working but on a temporary work visa (H1-B or O-1) as he waits for his employment green card.

The normal green card procedure involves 3 Steps that must be completed:

  • Successfully filing a permanent labor certification (PERM) on behalf of foreign national. Timeline for this can take any where from 6 months to many years to finalize.
  • Receiving an approval for the I-140 U.S. visa petition on behalf of immigrant worker. This step may take 4 months. There is an expediting process that can shorten this procedure to 15 business days but it does cost an additional fee.
  • Acquiring approval of a foreigner’s green card through a Form I-485 application presuming the applicant is already living in the U.S. on temporary visa or filing a green card application at a U.S Consulate is another option. Completing this step can take 6 months or more. There is no expediting process available for this step.

Processing Times for Each PERM Step

  • U.S. employer must clarify duties, requirements and responsibilities of the potential job position. While these elements are very important to complete they may take several weeks. It is highly recommendable that the employer hires a professional immigration attorney to help with the paperwork.
  • Secondly, the employer must provide a prevailing wage request to the Department of Labor. This can be done online with the department’s website. The employer will then receive a prevailing wage determination for the job position available. It may take from 5 to 7 weeks to receive a PWD however, this timeframe can change.
  • If the employer does not like the PWD issued by the DOL the employer can request a redetermination. This additional step may lengthen the application process.
  • After receiving a prevailing wage determination, the employer can begin recruitment for the prospective job position.

Processing Time for I-140 Visa Petition

Once PERM is approved the employer can go ahead and file Form I-140 visa petition with the USCIS. The petition should include the approved PERM signed by U.S. employer and immigrant worker, along with proof of the employer’s potential to pay foreigner’s wages and documents that can attest the foreign national is qualified to meet the requirements of the job available, example worker’s educational degrees and achievements.

The U.S. employer must be aware that the PERM is only useable for a period of time and if it expires the application may need to be redone. In previous years the USCIS notified applicants that I-140 decisions could take anywhere from 4 to 7 months but now it can be much longer to become finalized. While premium processing may shorten the processing time by only 15 business days, there is an additional fee that needs to be paid.

If the I-140 visa petition is approved the immigrant worker’s priority date then becomes current, then the foreign national can file a Form I-485 U.S. green card application with the USCIS granted that the immigrant worker is in the United States of America. The U.S. employer cannot file for the foreign worker. If Foreigner is living abroad the approval of the I-140 will prompt the National Visa Center to forward the green card visa petition to the suitable U.S. Consulate for more examination.

Since 2012 the USCIS has estimated a 7 months timeframe for I-485 applications, however this processing time is dependent on the applicant’s priority date being current. Something to be mindful of, is if there is a retrogression of priority date, USCIS will keep the application until the priority date becomes current again. Countries that have been affected by this retrogression of priority date are: China, India, Mexico and the Philippines. Many applicants have been obligated to wait longer for unpredictable periods of time.

Besides the stipulated processing times, both employers and immigrant workers must think carefully of the cost of employer sponsorship. The U.S. immigration law orders that the U.S. employer pay ALL costs linked to the PERM process along with the advertisements and many other legal rates. Breaching such law may result in serious penalties and sanctions.

Although there are many steps to complete, requirements to meet and fees to pay the NVC, the USCIS, the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Consulates all have full authority to decide the fate of your U.S. visa application.

Call an Experienced Immigration Law Attorney

To avoid making any mistakes and getting delays, it is a great idea to consult with a skilled immigration lawyer to help you all the way. The Gambacorta Law Office has a great team that is willing to assist you immediately. Feel free to contact us at 847-443-9303. Our offices are located in Arizona and Illinois.