Green Cards

Two Step Approach to Green Cards

Immigrating to the US with a green card straight away is a difficult process for most people. All of the employment based green card categories are subject to a Government quota. The highest category EB1 (for extra-ordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers and multi-national managers and executives), has never been completely filled, meaning that there is no waiting period once you can qualify.

The second category – EB2 is generally reserved for people with job offers from US companies where the job requires an advanced degree, and the foreign worker being sponsored has the equivalent of such a degree. Since there has also typically been no waiting period in EB2, one can claim the green card relatively quickly once you can qualify for this category.

The majority of people seeking permanent residence in the US are average working people, either professionals or “skilled workers” – defined as someone who will fill a job in the US that requires at least 2 years of experience. This category is known as EB3, and has historically been “oversubscribed” with more applicants in the queue than there are green cards to be granted. So we have a waiting period to qualify for the green card; typically about 3 to 5 years but can be much longer. Most people cannot simply immigrate in one fell swoop but must have a “2 step” approach.

The 2 step approach would be first securing some sort of non-immigrant visa to come to the US. I look at this as building a bridge that needs to be at least 3 to 5 years long to cover the waiting period in the EB3 category. The visas that most people end up with are typically: the H-1B visa for professional employment which can be granted for up to 6 years; the L-1 visa for specialized knowledge employment with an international company which can be granted for up to 5 years; the E-2 visa or the E-1 visa which are based on a treaty between the US and the UK and have no maximum stay in the US. There are several other less common visas that can be sought – details of which would be given during a personal consultation, if appropriate to your situation.

What is critical to recognize in this unwieldy process is that you do not need be employed by the sponsoring company whilst waiting in line for a green card. The law allows for a “prospective” job offer and only requires that the foreign worker intends to accept the offer of employment when he is granted a green card, and the US company intends to offer the job when the foreign national is granted the green card. Once the green card is granted, that is when you are required to report for work with the sponsoring employer.

Thus, this system allows one to start the green card process through a company in the US while you are in the UK or while you are in the US in some other legal status. However, if you are in the US, you must maintain a proper legal status throughout the process in order to be able to have the privilege of finishing the green card in the US simply through the mail. If you fall out of status and/or overstay your permission to be in the US, then you could have enormous problems since once you overstay by more than 180 days and then leave, you will be barred from returning to the US for anywhere from 3 to 10 years.

In short, as long as one has patience and a willing employer who will wait for the right foreign worker, no job is inappropriate for a green card. And if you can keep yourself in the US while you are able to make good job connections, then immigrating to the States is still a possibility.

To discuss your options and develop a personal immigration strategy, please contact Donna Scarlatelli to arrange a consultation in person or by phone or via Skype.