US green card overview
US green card overview

There are 3 phases to the green card process:

Phase 1 : PERM

Phase one consists of filing the Labor Certification (PERM) application with the Department of Labor (“DOL”). It typically takes 4 to 6 months to conduct the mandatory pre-filing steps. After filing, the PERM is usually adjudicated within a few months, unless the DOL requests additional evidence (“audit”). In case of an audit, a PERM may be delayed for several months or even years. Most times audit lasts for about 18 – 24 months. The reasons for a DOL audit are varied and may be random, so it is difficult to ascertain at the time of filing whether your PERM application will be subjected to an audit. DOL processing times have experienced significant fluctuations, so it is important to rely on the latest DOL published information to estimate processing times.

Phase 2 : I-140

The I-140 petition is prepared once the PERM is approved and must be filed within 180 days of PERM approval. Once filed, I-140s are processed by the USCIS, either at the Nebraska or Texas Service Centers, depending on the location of your employment offer. USCIS processing times vary significantly. In some cases, the I-140 petition may be filed under Premium Processing Service. Over the last several months and years, premium processing has been suspended due to large volumes obtained by USCIS. Generally, the US government does their due diligence on an application in the PERM stage, so I – 140 is more like a formality. Normal processing time, for I – 140 is 2 – 3 months. If premium processing is open, then you can get a result in 15 days. Once you have your I-140 approved, you can apply for I – 485 if priority date is current. In case that is not true, you will have to wait till the time priority date becomes current.

Processing time:

There are several factors that affect the I-140 processing time. The first one is the service center caseload. If the service center that is processing your petition is overloaded, it will take longer for them to adjudicate your case.

Another factor is the type of green card you are petitioning for. For example, if you are an Indian applying in the EB-3 category, you will likely have to wait several years before the priority date becomes available. If your priority date will not be current for some time, the USCIS may hold off on processing your petition until your priority date gets closer to the given final action date. Although this is not as frequent as the service center load, it is another factor that influences I-140 processing time.

Also, you need to take your PERM processing time. It is important to note that PERM processing cannot be expedited. You can skip PERM processing if you are applying in EB-1 A category – but this applies to a very small subset of people and their applications.

Phase3 : I-485

Phase three consists of filing Form I-485, the Adjustment of Status (“AOS”) application with the USCIS. Note that although the I-140 can be filed as soon as the PERM is approved, the I-485 cannot be filed until the priority date is current.

Once I – 485 is approved, you will be all set to obtain your green card along with your family members.

Check out our post on different employment based immigrant visa categories.

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