Getting a green card through employer sponsorship is a complex process, but can be a great opportunity for qualified foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States. This guide provides an overview of the employer-sponsored green card process in 2024, eligibility requirements, steps to apply, timeline, costs, and tips for successfully navigating the system.
Overview of the Employer-Sponsored Green Card
An employer-sponsored green card allows a U.S. employer to permanently hire a foreign national worker. It provides the worker lawful permanent resident status with unrestricted authorization to live and work in the U.S.The most common types of employer-sponsored green cards are:
- EB-1 for priority workers with extraordinary abilities, outstanding researchers, or multinational managers. No PERM labor certification required.
- EB-2 for professionals holding advanced degrees or having exceptional abilities. PERM labor certification required.
- EB-3 for bachelor’s degree holders, skilled workers, and unskilled workers. PERM labor certification required.
In most cases, the employer must prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available and willing to take the job at the prevailing wage level in that occupation and area of intended employment. This is done through a PERM labor certification.The employer must also show they have the ability to pay the foreign worker’s salary and that the job offer is a permanent, full-time position.
Who Is Eligible for an Employer-Sponsored Green Card?
The eligibility criteria depends on the green card category:
To qualify for EB-1:
- Extraordinary ability – Meet 3 of 10 criteria showing national/international acclaim for achievements. Examples: received nationally/internationally recognized prizes/awards, memberships in associations requiring outstanding achievements, published material in professional publications.
- Outstanding professors/researchers – 3 years experience in teaching or research, international recognition for outstanding achievements in a academic field.
- Multinational managers/executives – Employed outside the U.S. in the 3 years preceding the petition for at least 1 year by the same employer (or subsidiary/affiliate) in a managerial or executive capacity. Coming to the U.S. to work in a primarily managerial or executive position.
To qualify for EB-2:
- Advanced degree professionals – U.S. master’s degree or higher or foreign equivalent degree in a profession. Exceptional ability can substitute for a master’s degree.
- Exceptional ability professionals – Bachelor’s degree plus evidence showing exceptional ability in sciences, arts, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements.
In both cases, an approved PERM labor certification for the offered job is also required.
To qualify for EB-3:
- Skilled workers – 2 years training or work experience, often a bachelor’s degree.
- Professionals – U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent.
- Unskilled workers – Less than 2 years training or experience, always in shortage occupations.
An approved PERM labor certification for the offered job is also required.
Steps to Apply for an Employer-Sponsored Green Card
Applying for an employment-based green card involves the following steps:
- PERM Labor Certification (EB-2/EB-3 only) – The employer files an ETA Form 9089 labor certification application with the Department of Labor to prove no qualified U.S. workers are available for the job. Certification approval can take 6-12 months.
- I-140 Immigrant Petition – The employer files USCIS Form I-140 to classify the foreign worker according to eligibility category and establish they can pay the offered wage. Approval takes 6-12 months.
- Priority Date – The I-140 filing date establishes the visa priority date for green card quota backlog purposes. EB-3 applicants face 5+ year waits at present.
- I-485 Green Card Application – Once the priority date is current, the foreign worker files I-485 to adjust status from temporary visa to permanent resident. The worker and derivatives also complete medical exams and biometrics screening. Processing takes 6-12 months.
- EAD/AP Combo Card – The I-485 applicant can concurrently file I-765 for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and I-131 for an Advance Parole (AP) travel document while I-485 is pending. The EAD/AP combo card is approved within 90 days.
Throughout the process, the foreign worker maintains valid nonimmigrant status until I-485 approval and receipt of the physical green card. H-1B extensions and other visas may be required during transition.
Timeline for Getting a Green Card Through Employment
- PERM labor certification – 6 to 18 months
- I-140 petition – 6 to 12 months
- I-485 green card application – 6 to 12 months+ depending on backlogs
So the total estimated time is 2 to 5+ years for employer-sponsored green card processing. The priority date backlogs cause the most delays, especially for applicants from India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines.USCIS processing times can vary widely by service centers, visa categories, and country chargeability. Applicants should plan for 12-18 months at each step, with possible PERM audits, RFEs, NOIDs, and other complications.
Costs of Applying for an Employer-Sponsored Green Card
Employer-sponsored green card costs include:
- PERM labor certification – employer expense of $2,500+ in legal fees and advertising
- I-140 petition – employer expense of $2,000 in legal and USCIS fees
- I-485 green card application – employee expense of $1,225 USCIS fee plus $500+ for medical exams
- EAD/AP combo card – employee expense of $765 USCIS fee
- Attorney fees – $5,000+ for legal representation
So employees can expect to spend $3,000-5,000+ depending on if they have an attorney. Employers have $5,000+ in internal labor certification and petition costs.
Tips for Getting an Employer-Sponsored Green Card
- Start the green card process early, even if priority dates cause delays. Visa bulletin movement is unpredictable.
- Ensure the offered position, salary, and skills match the PERM/I-140 criteria. Inconsistencies cause denials. RFEs introduce further delays.
- Maintain valid nonimmigrant status with visa extensions or changes before and after I-485 is filed. Lapses can invalidate applications.
- Proactively prep for RFEs requesting updated letters, itineraries, tax records, degree evaluations, and other evidence.
- If the employer withdraws support, try to change jobs and port the priority date to a new employer’s green card case.
- Concurrently file EAD/AP for backup if job loss or other disruptions occur. The combo card provides continued work and travel authorization.
- Stay up to date on policy changes from USCIS and check processing times each month to estimate timelines.
- Consider premium processing for I-140 or I-485 if available for your visa category. Faster processing guarantees help avoid disruptions.
Employer sponsorship for U.S. permanent residence can be complicated, but offers many foreign nationals a path to living permanently in the United States with their families. Careful preparation and diligence in responding to each step ensures applications remain active and approved.
The employer-based green card process involves showing no qualified U.S. workers are available for the offered permanent job opportunity.
Employees must meet eligibility criteria based on skills, education, and work experience.It can take 2 to 5+ years for applications to be approved based on backlogs. Maintaining valid immigration status and diligently responding to requests for evidence helps avoid disruptions.
With careful planning and expert guidance, foreign nationals can successfully immigrate to the U.S. through employer sponsorship as part of the 140,000 green cards allocated each year.
- How to Immigrate to US in 2024 |Visa sponsorship | 5 Fastest way to get Green Card: This article explains the different visa categories and requirements for immigrating to the US through employer sponsorship, investment, family ties, or refugee/asylum status.
- February 2024 Visa Bulletin Predictions: Big Changes Expected by USCIS This New Year: This article discusses the anticipated changes in the visa bulletin for February 2024, which determines the priority dates and visa availability for green card applicants in various categories and countries.