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Rebecca I. Pathak
Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residence (the “Green Card”) in the United States is an exciting yet complicated process. First, you must assess whether you are eligible to proceed with a Family-Based Adjustment of Status or with an Employment-Based Adjustment of Status process. Timing restrictions and financial qualifications are critical in determining the path that is best for you.
Family-Based Green Card Process
Immediate Relatives of United States Citizens are eligible to obtain their Green Card most expeditiously, since the United States Department of State’s Visa Bulletin dictates that a Visa Number is always immediately available to them. You are an Immediate Relative of a United States Citizen if your spouse, parent (if you are unmarried and under the age of 21) or your son or daughter (who must be over the age of 21) is a United States Citizen.
If you qualify as an Immediate Relative of a United States Citizen, then you are eligible to file a Combined Processing package with USCIS. A Combined Processing package will include the following forms:
- Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney for Petitioner and Beneficiary, if you are represented by legal counsel,
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative,
- Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status,
- Form G-325A, Biographic Information for Petitioner and Beneficiary (Petitioner requires this form in duplicate, Beneficiary requires this form in quadruplicate, printed on the 4 colored papers reflective of the various agencies who will be notified of Beneficiary’s adjusted status),
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization,
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (WARNING: Only submit this form to USCIS if Beneficiary is eligible to travel internationally during the pendency of his or her Adjustment of Status application. International travel, even while using an Advance Parole Travel Document, can cause the ten (10) year bar to attach to a foreign-national who is not eligible to travel),
- Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney for Sponsor, Co-Sponsor and Co-Sponsor’s Spouse, if required and if you are represented by legal counsel,
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support for Petitioner as the primary Sponsor,
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support for Co-Sponsor, if required, and
- Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.
In addition to the proper completion of the forms, make sure to include the correct filing fees and photos. As of December 23, 2016, USCIS has increased their filing fee for Form I-130 to $535.00 and the I-485, I-765 and I-131 forms are now $1,225.00, which is the $1,140.00 filing fee plus the $85.00 biometric fee. Forms I-485, I-765 and I-131 also require two (2) passport-style photos with Beneficiary’s legal name, date of birth or Alien Registration number written on the back of each photo submitted.
The documentation and evidence submitted in support of the forms are critical to justify approval of your Green Card case. All foreign-language documents must include a verbatim English Language translation along with a Certificate of Translation. In addition, you will want to make sure your Green Card package includes the following documents:
- Proof of Petitioner’s U.S. Citizenship,
- Proof of Beneficiary’s lawful admission to the United States and maintenance of non-immigrant status throughout the entire period of time present in the United States,
- All prior Employment Authorization Documents issued by USCIS to Beneficiary,
- Proof of relationship between Petitioner and Beneficiary (marriage certificate or birth certificate),
- In the event your Green Card case is through marriage to a United States Citizen and Petitioner or Beneficiary have been married before, you must provide certified Divorce Decrees for all prior marriages,
- Evidence of a joint life between Petitioner and Beneficiary, including photos of your courtship, wedding and life together, if your Green Card case is through marriage to a United States Citizen,
- Affidavit of Support for Sponsor and Co-Sponsor must include three (3 ) years Federal Income Tax Returns, three (3) most recent paystubs and an Employment Verification letter confirming the Sponsor’s and Co-Sponsor’s title, salary and ongoing employment. You also must include proof of the Co-Sponsor’s lawful status in the United States and, in the event the Co-Sponsor is married, proof of the marriage and proof of the Co-Sponsor Spouse’s lawful status in the United States. In order to qualify as a Sponsor or Co-Sponsor, you will want to make sure to consult with the Federal Poverty Guidelines issued annually so you can be sure the Sponsor or Co-Sponsor earns 125% above the poverty line for the number of combined dependents on Sponsor or Co-Sponsor’s taxes with the number of Beneficiaries and Dependents sponsored. View United States Federal Poverty Guidelines pertaining to the Affidavit of Support eligibility for the Green Card Process.
- Sealed Medical Exam Results from a USCIS endorsed Civil Surgeon. Here is a full list of Civil Surgeons endorsed by USCIS to support your Green Card case.
As you research, prepare the forms and gather the documents to support your Green Card case, you will want to consult with an experienced U.S. Immigration Attorney if you encounter difficulties or questions along the way. In addition, special circumstances such as determining §245(i) for individuals who did not enter the United States legally, but who have a Petition filed on their behalf on or before April 30, 2001, individuals who have suffered a criminal conviction or convictions in the past, K-1 fiancée and U Visa adjustments or individuals who have received a deportation notice or have undergone an Immigration Court Removal or Deportation proceeding are advised to consult with an experienced U.S. Immigration Attorney before proceeding with a Green Card case.
Please note: any discrepancies or omissions made on the forms or supporting evidence submitted will initiate USCIS to either reject the package entirely or generate a Request For Evidence. Take care to be certain that the forms are completed completely and you do not include conflicting or inaccurate information on the forms submitted to USCIS in support of your Green Card case. Inaccuracies contained in the forms or information provided to USCIS will result in delays and possible rejection of your Green Card case.
Approximately two (2) to three (3) weeks after submission of the Combined Processing Green Card package to USCIS, you will receive a number of Receipt Notices containing your unique Receipt Numbers. It is critical you review the information contained on the Receipt Notices to be sure it is all correct. In addition, make sure to review the Priority Date, Received Date and Notice Date on Form I-797, Receipt Notices, to confirm accuracy.
In another two (2) to three (3) weeks, you will receive a Biometrics Appointment Notice at the USCIS Application Support Center closest to your home address. During the date and time assigned for your Biometrics Appointment, make sure to retain the red-stamped notice given to you by the Immigration Officer who captures your biometrics information.
Ninety (90) days after submission of your Combined Processing Green Card package to USCIS, you should receive a combined Employment Authorization Document and Travel Document (a “Combination Card”), if the package was properly submitted to USCIS, and if you are eligible to receive this temporary proof of your ability to work lawfully in the United States and travel internationally during the pendency of your Green Card case. If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence on your Green Card case, then your Combination Card or Employment Authorization Document will be delayed.
Six (6) to twelve (12) months after submission of your Combined Processing Green Card package to USCIS, USCIS will schedule an interview at the USCIS Field Office servicing your local area. To find the Field Office closest to your home address where your Green Card interview will take place, access the Field Office Locator. USCIS typically initiates an in-person interview at the local Field Office, only for marriage cases, although USCIS sometimes requires an in-person interview for other Immediate Relative petitions.
Obtaining experienced legal representation during your Green Card interview at USCIS can mean the difference between receiving the “Welcome to the United States of America” or the “Additional Information is Required” letter.
Even if your family relationship does not qualify for the “Immediate Relative” category, there are a number of other Family-Based Green Card categories you should explore. See the United States Department of State’s Visa Bulletin to determine whether your family relationship will qualify and the waiting times associated with each visa category and each country limitations.
Contact Pathak Law today if you would like to consult with experienced legal counsel regarding your eligibility for a Family-Based Green Card.
Employment-Based Green Card Process
An elite few foreign-born nationals offer the United States a unique combination of higher education, extraordinary talents and abilities, executive business experience or their permanent presence in the United States is in the country’s national interest. The 1st and some of the 2nd Employment-Based Visa Categories (EB-1 and EB-2) are reserved for such highly qualified individuals. Find out more about The United States Department of State Visa Bulletin containing the Employment-Based visa categories. It is not necessary for these highly coveted individuals to comply with the Labor Certification process through the United States Department of Labor.
If you qualify as an EB-1 or EB-2 self-petitioner, then you are eligible to file a Combined Processing package with USCIS. For a variety of strategic reasons, many self-petitioners decide to file the Petition separate from the Green Card application. Please note: Form I-140 may be eligible for the Premium Processing service offered by USCIS, check the USCIS website chart to determine your eligibility for this special processing service.
A Combined Processing package will include the following forms:
- Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney, if you are represented by legal counsel,
- Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, if you are eligible and if you are willing to pay the additional Premium Processing filing fee,
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker,
- Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, only required if Self-Petitioner is in the U.S.,
- Form G-325A, Biographic Information for Self-Petitioner (Self-Petitioner requires this form in quadruplicate, printed on the 4 colored papers reflective of the various agencies who will be notified of Self-Petitioner’s adjusted status), only required if Self-Petitioner is in the U.S.,
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, only required if Self-Petitioner is in the U.S., and
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, if eligible and only required if Self-Petitioner is in the U.S.
In addition to the proper completion of the forms, Self-Petitioner should be sure to include the correct filing fees and photos. As of December 23, 2016, USCIS has increased their filing fee for Form I-140 to $700.00 and the I-485, I-765 and I-131 forms are now $1,225.00, which is the $1,140.00 filing fee plus the $85.00 biometric fee. If Self-Petitioner would like to request USCIS’s Premium Processing service, Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service with an additional $1,225.00 filing fee must be included. Forms I-485, I-765 and I-131 also require two (2) passport-style photos with Self-Petitioner’s legal name, date of birth or Alien Registration number written on the back of each photo submitted.
The documentation and evidence submitted in support of the forms are critical to justify approval of your Employment-Based Self-Petitioning Green Card case. All foreign-language documents must include a verbatim English Language translation along with a Certificate of Translation. In addition, you will want to make sure your Green Card package includes the following documents:
- Your Birth Certificate,
- Your Passport
- Proof of Self-Petitioner’s lawful admission to the United States and maintenance of non-immigrant status throughout the entire period of time present in the United States. This is only a requirement if Self-Petitioner is in the United States,
- All prior U.S. Visas, I-797 Approval Notices and Employment Authorization Documents issued by USCIS to Beneficiary, and
- Proof of your qualification in the Self-Petitioning category desired, including a number of critical support letters from individuals in your field willing to attest to your employment ability.
If Self-Petitioner remains outside the United States, then upon I-140 approval, you will undergo the Immigrant Visa process at the United States Embassy closest to your home abroad.
Many United States Employers are unable to fulfill their workforce needs through the pool of available U.S. workers. When U.S. Employers must hire foreign talent, a three step process is required to prove that no U.S. workers are available and qualified to fill the employer’s need.
The first step in the Employment-Based Green Card process is undergoing the Labor Certification process, called the Program Electronic Record Management (“PERM”) with the United States Department of Labor. Find more Information about the U.S. Department of Labor’s PERM process.
During this process, the employer must advertise and actively recruit U.S. workers for the available position. In the event the employer finds no U.S. workers who are available and qualified for the position, the U.S. employer is permitted to proceed with pursuing the Employment-Based Green Card process for the foreign national. Once the Labor Certification is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, the employer may proceed with the I-140, Petition for Alien Worker and, if the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin shows the Employment-Based Green Card category is Current, the employer may submit a Combined Processed Adjustment of Status Green Card package to USCIS.
Employers and individuals are advised to consult competent U.S. Immigration legal counsel to assess the optimal Employment-Based immigration category applicable to achieve the desired result. Pathak Law is standing by to schedule your immigration consultation with experienced legal counsel who is prepared to guide you throughout your Employment-Based Green Card case.