3 Steps to Cutting Your Green Card Waiting Time in Half

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If you are interested in getting an employment based green card, you have several options available to you. However, depending on the green card that you choose, you may find yourself waiting a considerable amount of time before you can actually obtain legal permanent residency. While it’s not the easiest thing to do, there is a way to shorten this wait time. Here’s how.

Priority Dates

Before we get started, here is a quick rundown on how priority dates work, since that will be important later on. Your priority date is the day that the USCIS service center reports receiving your green card petition. Keep this date handy, because it determines when you can move forward with the immigration process.

You will need to regularly check the visa bulletin provided monthly by the Department of State. This bulletin shows what the “final action” dates are for each country according to the different kinds of green cards. When your priority date meets the final action date given in your category, you can go onto the next step for your green card.

It sounds easy enough, but the problem arises when you realize that the lower the preference level, the longer you have to wait. In fact, for the lowest level, some applicants need to wait over a decade.

So, how do you cut that waiting time down?

Let’s first take a look at the three main categories for employment-based immigration. They are:

  • EB-1 for those with extraordinary achievement, outstanding researchers and professors, as well as multinational executives and managers.
  • EB-2 for those who possess advanced degrees or have exceptional ability in their field.
  • EB-3 for skilled workers, bachelor's degree holders, and unskilled laborers.

Understanding the specific requirements for each green card is key to cutting your waiting time down. This is because the only way to shorten this period is to “port” your green card petition from a lower preference level to a higher one.

For example, Rachel has a pending petition for an EB-3 green card. According to the current final action dates, she will have to wait at least 3 years before she can adjust her status. If she were to “port” her petition to an EB-2 green card, her priority date would become current and she could adjust her status immediately.

Seems too good to be true, right? Well, there’s a catch. Here are the 3 steps that you need to take in order to make the switch.

Step 1: Starting From Square One

You don’t really port your petition, you actually need to go through the whole green card process over again. This means going through the PERM Labor Certification process over again if necessary and filing a new petition to take the place of the old one.

You may be asking yourself: If that’s the case, then how is “porting” different from simply filing a new petition? The difference lies in the priority date. If you take this route you may be able to keep the priority date of the first petition that you submitted, allowing you to adjust your status earlier than if your priority date was tied to the second petition.

Step 2: Making Sure You Qualify

The other issue with “porting” is that you need to qualify for the new green card. This may seem self-explanatory, but it is more complicated than it sounds. The requirements for the EB-2 and EB-3 green cards are far from easy to obtain.

In our previous example, in order to make the switch from EB-3 to EB-2, Rachel would need to show that she has either acquired an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) or she can now demonstrate exceptional ability in her field. Because Rachel is unlikely to suddenly have exceptional ability, we’ll assume that she got a master’s degree while she was waiting for her EB-3.

At this point, Rachel not only needs to prove that she has an advanced degree, she also needs to show that she has gotten a new position that requires her new degree. In fact, this may be the most important aspect of the porting process. The USCIS wants to see that you either got a new job or were promoted by your current employer.

Step 3: Filing a New Petition

If you and your attorney believe that your new job and your new qualifications meet the requirements for the new green card, your employer will need to file a new petition on your behalf. Keep in mind that this will need to be done by the employer that offers you the new position whether it’s your current employer or a new one.

Make sure that you indicate on your petition that you want to retain your priority date . This will allow you to adjust your status as soon as your original priority date is current. Doing this can make your date current immediately or otherwise significantly shorten your waiting time depending on your situation.

Conclusion

It’s no secret that one of the hardest parts about getting a green card is the long waiting times. If you have several years to go before your priority date is current, you may want to consider attempting to petition for a green card on a higher preference level. Speak with your immigration attorney to determine if this move is the best for your situation.


About The Author

Shilpa Malik, Esq. Shilpa Malik, Esq. worked as a Senior Attorney at prominent New York City based law firms where she practiced Immigration Law exclusively prior to founding her own law firm. She has handled a myriad of Immigration cases and issues including Family-Based cases, Employment Based cases, Consular Processing, CSPA, Removal Representation and Defense. Attorney Malik has participated in several community outreach programs and was an Advocate with the Immigrants Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.