Complete Guide to the H1B to Green Card Process

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on November 23, 2022
At a Glance: In the US, H1B visa holders may apply to have their status adjusted to a green card. To apply for an adjustment of status to a green card, H1B visa holders must apply for a PERM Labor Certificate, submit an I-140, and submit an I-485.

The H1B visa is one of the most popular work visas in the US.

Given to people for a maximum of 6 years, the H1B indicates that the holder has received education and training and performs a highly sought-after job. After their six years is up, many H1B holders want to stay and work in the US.

Read on to find out everything you need to know to begin the process of transitioning from an H1B visa to a green card and permanent residency in the United States or check out our video H1B to Green Card Steps!

Can H1B Visa Holders Apply for Green Cards?

Yes. The H1B visa is a dual-intent visa, which means that those who hold it are eligible for permanent residency by applying for a green card. If you are interested in staying in the US, you should start the process of applying for your green card sooner rather than later. There are difficulties with applying for a green card once your H1B visa has expired.

Types of Employment-Based Green Cards

Each year, as many as 140,000 people apply for an employment-based green card. Each country (no matter what its size or population) gets 7 percent of this quota—in other words, 9,800 people. In turn, that 9,800 is divided up into several categories, each with its own number of potential visas. Below we list the types of visas and who qualifies for them.

E-B1 or Priority Workers

The E-B1 or priority worker category is probably the most prized H1B visa. Unfortunately, few qualify for it, as it requires that you be exceptional in your field. Workers who qualify for the E-B1 category include managers or executives of companies, professors, or researchers who are at the top of their field, as well as those who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in business, arts, science, or athletics.

Each country gets 2,802 of these visas, plus any not used for E-B4 or E-B5. If you do qualify, you can expect your visa to be processed quite quickly.

E-B2 or Professionals with Exceptional Ability or Advanced Degrees

Each country gets 2,802 E-B2 visas, plus any E-B1 visas that weren’t used. While the requirements for the E-B2 category are not quite as demanding as those for E-B1, they are still quite stringent. To qualify for an E-B2 visa, you must:

  • Be able to show extraordinary ability in business, science or art.
  • Have an advanced degree like an MA or Ph.D.

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.

E-B3 or Skilled/Professional Workers

Finally, a country gets 2,802 E-B3 visas, plus those not used in the above categories. The requirements for the E-B3 category are not as high as E-B1 or E-B2, but 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.

E-B4 or Special Immigrants

Each year each country also gets 695 visas for people who have done the following:

  • Are working or have worked for the US government abroad.
  • Are religious workers.
  • Served as translators for the US military.

E-B5 or Investors

Finally, 3,000 or fewer visas are reserved for those in the “investor” class. To qualify for the E-B5 category you must demonstrate that you will create at least 10 full-time jobs in the US, as well as invest from $500,000 to $1,000,000 in the economy.

H1B Visa to Green Card Process Steps (2019)

The H1B to green card process is straightforward, but you’ll want to begin the process as soon as you can. Below we’ve listed the three main green card process steps to apply for your green card, and what should be done in each one:

  • Apply for PERM Labor Certification
  • Submit Form I-140
  • Submit Form I-485

Read on to learn about each step.

Step 1: Apply for PERM Labor Certification

The first step is for your employer to apply for a Permanent Labor (PERM) certification. Achieving a PERM certification will require that your employer establish the prevailing wage for your position and set your salary to this amount. They will also have to go through a recruitment process, to prove that there are no qualified US candidates for your position. Finally, an ETA 9809 form will have to be filled out.

For the recruitment process, there are three basic requirements: two Sunday newspaper job postings and a posting with the state workforce agency, as well as three additional advertisements.

Step 2: Submit Form I-140

Once you have gotten your PERM certification approved, you should file form I-140 or Immigration Petition for Alien Worker. As soon as USCIS receives your petition, you get a priority date. You won’t be able to start the next step of the process until your priority date is current.

Step 3: Submit Form I-485

Once your priority date has arrived, you can then move on to the next step of the process. The next step is to file Form I-485 to USCIS, an adjustment of status.

This is the final step. Once I-485 is approved, you will receive a stamp on your passport, denoting your change of status from H1B to a green card holder. A little later, you will receive your physical green card in the mail.

Consequences of Delaying the H1B to Green Card Process

Some people wait until their H1B visa is expired or nearly expired before beginning to apply for their green card. This is a mistake. The problem is with form I-485, which asks to “adjust your status” from being on an H1B visa to permanent resident. But if your H1B is already expired, technically you aren’t really adjusting your status—you no longer have the status you’re asking to adjust! For this reason, USCIS will usually turn down your request.

The H1B to green card process has multiple steps that have to be completed correctly and in order. It’s best to start your application as soon as you can.

When Does H1B Status Expire?

When you entered the US, you should have gotten an I-94 from the port of entry officer you talked to during the inspection. You can find out the date your status expires by looking at the date listed on this card.

If you changed your status to H1B after your arrival in the US, the date will also be listed on your USCIS approval documents. You can also go to the Customs and Border Protection database to request an electronic copy of your I-94.

Regaining H1B Status After Expiration

For those visa holders with an expired H1B visa, there are several options for regaining your H1B status. Under section 214.1(c)(4) regulation 8 C.F.R., USCIS may allow you to extend your status if you meet the following criteria:

  • Extraordinary circumstances prevented the applicant or petitioner from filing the extension
  • The application has not violated their nonimmigrant status (is not the subject of removal or deportation)

You can learn more about these options by visiting the USCIS website.

H1B to Green Card Processing Times

The time it takes to go from an H1B visa to a green card can vary widely. It’s important to do your research ahead of time, to give you a sense of how long it is going to take so you don’t run into the expiration date of your current visa. Below is a breakdown of the time for each green card processing step:

  • The PERM certification can take anywhere between 6 and 18 months.
  • The time for your I-140 to be approved depends on how soon your priority date will be current. If it will 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 up 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 with nearly all visa and immigration-related applications, moving from an H1B visa to a green card has a cost. These fees are paid in part by an H1B visa holder’s employer, but also in part by the visa holder himself. Below is a breakdown of the fees required to make the transition from an H1B visa to a green card.

Legal Fees

  • $2000 to $5000 to file a PERM certification
  • These fees are paid for by the employer

Application 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

Generally speaking, the cost of applying to transition to green card 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 ability to attain a green card from an H1B visa can depend on the job you do, your skills, qualifications, education, and even your country of origin. But regardless of these factors, the process can take a significant amount of time. If you are intending or thinking about living permanently in the US, it’s a good idea to talk to your employer or a good immigration lawyer as soon as possible.

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