Under the United States immigration laws, a U.S. employer may sponsor an employee for his or her permanent residency (green card) which will allow the employee to lawfully live and work permanently in the U.S., as long as the position and the employee satisfy certain requirements.

There are five different types of employment-based immigrant visas available to a foreign national: EB1, EB2, EB3, EB4, and EB5. If you are an employer looking to sponsor one of your employees for his or her green card, more than likely you would file the application under the EB2 or EB3 category.

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What are the steps to sponsor a green card for your employee?

If you are a U.S. employer and would like to sponsor an employee for permanent residency, you have to go through many steps which involve several federal agencies including United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

There are three stages that an employer must go through when seeking to sponsor an employee for a green card: the PERM stage, the I-140 visa petition stage, and the adjustment of status (or, consular processing) stage.

# 1. The PERM stage: Before an employer can hire a foreign national for a position, they must prove to the government that there are no qualified, willing, and able U.S. citizens to fill that position. To do this, an employer is required to do something called a labor market test proving to the Department of Labor (DOL) that the foreign worker will not displace or disadvantage U.S. workers and the U.S. labor market. If the DOL determines that the hiring will not adversely affect U.S. workers, they will certify the position giving the employer a green light to file a petition for the foreign national.

All EB2 and EB3 applications must go through a PERM process and the position certified by the Department of Labor (DOL) unless it is waived.

The PERM stage consists of four steps:

First, you must put together a job description, including the job title, duties, and minimum requirements for the job.

Second, the employer must file a prevailing wage request with the National Prevailing Wage Center, by submitting Form 9141 online on DOL’s FLAG system. The prevailing wage is the minimum salary the employer must pay the applicant, and is determined by calculating the average salary for a similar position in the area of employment.

Third, you must test the job market by conducting a recruitment process for the position. This process is exactly what it sounds like, you must advertise the job position, start accepting the application, and interview qualified applicants. For example, if you are recruiting for a professional position under EB3, you must advertise the position with the state workforce agency for 30 days, advertise twice with a local newspaper on a Sunday edition, and post the Notice of Filing (NOF) at the employment location.

The notice includes the PERM position, employer name, job description, geographical area of employment, and prevailing wage rate. In addition to the three mandatory job advertisements, you are required to conduct 3 additional job advertisements from the other 10 available options.

Finally, after a 30-day mandatory wait period since the recruitment process where no willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers were found, you now can file the PERM application, Form 9098 online. You may submit the application on the DOL website by creating and setting up an online account. The application will ask some basic questions like the name of the employer, job title, duties, requirements, and various recruitment methods used by the company.

#2. The I-140 visa petition stage: After the PERM has been approved for the position, you must then file a petition to sponsor the employee’s green card. The USICS requires an employer (petitioner) to file the petition accompanied by the labor certification within 180 days of the PERM approval. The I-140 petition is an application filed by the employer with the USCIS on behalf of the employee that asks for information such as:

  • Biographic information about the petitioner and the applicant,
  • Applicant’s immigration status, last date of entry, etc.
  • Information about the employer such as its name, location, creation date, employee number, income, etc.
  • Employers’ ability to pay the prevailing wage for the position.

#3. Adjustment of status (or consular processing) stage: After the employee has correctly submitted the I-140 Petition and it has been approved by the USCIS, now it’s time to apply for the actual green card. This can be done, depending on whether the employee is physically present in the U.S., in one of two ways. If the employee whom the petitioner is sponsoring is physically present inside the U.S. and he or she is eligible to adjust status, he or she may apply for the green card by filing Form I-485.

If the employee is ineligible to adjust their status from inside the country because of unlawful presence or unauthorized work, he or she will have to travel their home country and apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate there.

What are the job requirements to sponsor an employee for a green card?

If you are sponsoring an employee for his or her green card through an employment-based petition, it’s likely that the application is filed under the second (EB2) or third (EB3) preference category.

Out of all the worldwide visas afforded 28.6% plus the unused first preference is designated for the second (EB2) category, which is awarded to foreign nationals who are professionals with an advance degree or with exceptional ability. In order to qualify under the EB2 category, the job must require an advanced degree or its foreign equivalent. Such requirements may be satisfied by showing that you have a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with 5 years of work experience. Or, you must have an exceptional ability in the fields of science, arts, education, etc. which is sought after by U.S. employers, and that such ability will provide substantial economical, educational, or cultural contributions to the U.S.

Similarly, out of all the worldwide visas afforded, 28.6% plus the unused first and second preference visas are designated to the third (EB3) category, which is awarded to professionals, skilled workers, or other workers. To qualify under this category as a professional, the job must require a bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and the person must be a member of the profession. Likewise, to qualify as a skilled worker the job must require at least 2 years of training or work experience. If the job requires less than 2 years of training and work experience, it can still qualify for an EB2 visa, as other workers.

How long does it take to sponsor an employee for a green card?

It’s difficult to say precisely how long the entire process takes to sponsor a green card for an employee because the process involves multiple steps and several applications which must be filed with the DOL and USCIS. At the end of the day, the total processing time will depend on the USCIS and DOL resources, backlogs, facts specific to your case, and the completeness of the application.

The total processing time will vary based on several factors, but in most cases:

  • It takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days for the DOL to make a wage determination,
  • It takes, at the earliest 60 days to complete the recruitment process,
  • It takes anywhere from six to twelve months for DOL to issue a labor certification (Form 9089),
  • It takes anywhere from 17 to 24 months for the USCIS to approve the immigrant visa petition, I-140, you may pay extra to expedite this process,
  • If the priority date is current and the visa is available, it takes anywhere from 16 months to several years to adjust the status, by filing Form I-485,
  • If the priority date is current and the visa is available, it takes anywhere from 9 to 12 months to complete consular processing. Please note that you either adjust your status from inside the U.S. or go through consular processing, not both.

Since the DOL and USCIS time frames are constantly changing, the precise processing time will vary at any given time. However, based on the average processing timeframes stated above, the entire process from start to finish may take at the earliest from 27 months to much longer wait times. Please note that this is only an estimate based on current DOL and USCIS processing times, and the actual processing time on your case may vary based on many factors.

How much does it cost to sponsor an employee for a green card?

The DOL does not charge any fees to file the prevailing wage determination (Form I-9141) or for the permanent employment certification (Form 9089). However, there are other PERM-related costs plus the filing fee for the immigration petition (I-140) and adjustment of status (I-485).

  • Prevailing wage determination (Form I-9141): no fees,
  • Permanent employment certification (Form 9089): no fees,
  • Immigrant visa petition (Form I-140): $700,
  • Adjustment of status (Form I-485): $1225
  • For the entire process, attorney fees can range from $5000 to much higher depending on the specifics of your case,
  • The advertisement fee can range from $1000 to much higher depending on the type of ad and the market size.

What does it take to sponsor an employee for a green card?

Sponsoring an employee for a permanent residency (green card) is a lengthy process, it involves multiple steps, dealings with several federal agencies, submitting many forms, and paying filing fees and recruitment expenses. To successfully complete the entire process, you must make sure that the job position satisfies EB2 or EB3 requirements, that you are willing and able to pay the prevailing wage, the recruitment process is completed as required, and that the petition is filed correctly.

Just like many other immigration applications, this one takes a long time, however, if you follow the steps correctly and file your paperwork in time, you can get it done successfully.

Can I hire an Immigration Attorney to do all this for me?

You are not required to hire an attorney to represent you in front of the DOL and the USCIS by filling out, completing, and submitting the forms and responding to any request for evidence (RFE). However, sponsoring an employee for a green card is a long process and it may take several years before the entire process is completed. You may not want to risk making preventable errors or omissions which may result in the denial of your application or even longer processing time.

An immigration attorney can assess your situation, make proper recommendations and propose an appropriate course of action based on a specific set of facts – thereby minimizing preventable errors or omissions and greatly increasing the likelihood of a favorable result.

OKC Immigration Attorney: Oklahoma Immigration Lawyer

Niroula Law is an immigration law firm based in OKC, we would love to help you with your applications, guide you through the entire process, and ensure that you are provided with regular updates regarding your case. If you are thinking about sponsoring an employee for a green card and would like us to help you with the process, please contact us by calling (405) 456-9250 or by filling out the Contact Us Form.