Permanent Residence Process and Priority Dates

In order to obtain employment based permanent residence, in most cases, there are three steps. The following is an outline of the process. If you have follow up questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 305-895-0300.

Step 1, PERM Labor Certification (if applicable):

The employer performs a “test” of the local labor market by running ads in specific print newspapers and online. Our office assists by drafting the job description, requirements and obtaining the prevailing wage determination from the local State Workforce Agency (DOL). We then place the ads for recruitment and resumes from potential applicants are submitted directly to the employer for review. The recruitment process takes approximately sixty days plus any time for the employer to review resumes received and issue the recruitment report to our office. If a qualified US worker is not found, we then prepare the forms and file the PERM application online with the Department of Labor. Normal processing time frame for action on a pending case is 6-9 months.

Step 2, Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker:

Once your PERM Labor Certification is approved, we are able to file step 2 of the permanent residence process by filing Form I-140 with US Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS”). At this stage, we must submit evidence to USCIS that the foreign national qualifies for the advertised position by providing copies of diplomas, transcripts and experience letters from former employers. For employers with fewer than 100 employees, we are also required to show that the employer has the ability to pay the offered wage at the time the PERM Labor Certification was filed. This can be shown via audited financial statements and corporate tax returns.

For an additional fee USCIS fee of $1,000, USCIS will issue a decision on Form I-140, for most types of cases within 15 days. Otherwise, normal processing time frames vary between 6 to 12 months. For monthly updates on USCIS processing time frames, please see the following link: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/ptimes.jsp

Step 3, Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence OR Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa at the US Consulate Abroad:

If the employee is inside the United States, we often advise the client to file Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence with USCIS. If the employee is located outside the United States and does not have US work authorization, such as an H, L or TN status, then s/he is required to finalize the permanent residence process from abroad and applying for an immigrant visa at their local US Consulate.

Under current law, we cannot file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa until the U.S. Department of States permits us to do so. The Department of State issues a document called the "Visa Bulletin" on a monthly basis. This bulletin informs us who may file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing. When there is too much demand for immigrant visa numbers, we experience what is called a "retrogression" in the numbers. This basically means that an invisible line is formed and only those with a labor certification filed before a certain date (the priority date) can file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing.

The priority date is set as the date your PERM Labor Certification application is filed with the Department of Labor. Priority dates can move several months ahead in only thirty days. We have also seen the priority date move several months backwards. Because we do not know when your priority date will be current (no one knows), it is hard to estimate when your green card will be approved. A good guess would be that it will take approximately one year to complete steps 1 and 2 and perhaps 1-3 years+ to complete the last step depending on which category you are placed.

Via Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence:

Once your priority date is current, we may assist by preparing and filing the many forms for the I-485 on behalf of the employee. Approximately 90 days after filing, the employee will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card), which will permit him/her to work in the US while the I-485 is pending. Approximately 90-120 days after filing, the employee will receive Advance Parole Travel Authorization from USCIS. This permits the employee to travel internationally while the I-485 is pending.

Once filed, you can check USCIS processing time frames on line. Processing time frames vary from month to month and you can check online each month to see what USCIS is processing. Go to:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/Processtimes.jsp?SeviceCenter=TSC

Scroll down to I-485, Employment Based Adjustment Applications
Check back in at this web site each month to see the updated report. You will see that sometimes the dates move forward significantly and sometimes they do not change and remain static.

We base our processing time frames on educated guesses derived from the monthly status reports issued on the link above and also based on the approvals we see coming into our office. Sometimes USCIS might say they are taking 6 months to process a case but we see approvals for that same type of case coming in sooner or taking longer.

NOTE: Whenever we provide a "processing time frame" it is an educated guess. No one can promise exactly when USCIS will reach a decision on a case.

For approval of Permanent Residence, we need to see three things happen:

  1. Approval of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker;
     

  2. Completion of the employee’s background check. This is an internal government process and the only role you play in this is having your fingerprints and photos taken (biometrics). Biometrics are valid for only 15 months. If it takes USCIS longer than 15 months to process your I-485, USCIS will reschedule you for fingerprinting / biometrics.
     

  3. Once USCIS has completed 1&2 and are ready to approve the case, the employee’s priority date must also be current. You can check the visa bulletin at the following link each month to confirm. Your priority date is the date your labor certification was filed. Contact us if you are not sure of your priority date and category OR if you are not sure how to read the visa bulletin.

    www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html

Once approved, USCIS will mail a Permanent Resident card to the employee’s home address.

Via an Immigrant Visa from a US Consulate Abroad:

Once Form I-140 is approved and the priority date is current (see above), the employee will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa at a US Consulate abroad. We work with National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH to provide the US Consulate with all the information needed in order to schedule the interview in the employee’s home country. It takes approximately 4-6 months for National Visa Center to complete its processing before an interview will be scheduled. Once issued, the visa permits the employee to enter the US as a Permanent Resident and the Permanent Resident Card is mailed to the employees US home address.

My I-485 has been filed, how much longer will I have to wait for my green card?

You can check USCIS processing time frames on line.  Processing time frames vary from month to month and you can check online each month to see what USCIS is processing. Go to:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/ptimes.jsp?

Scroll down to I-485, Employment Based Adjustment Applications. Check back in at this web site each month to see the updated report. You will see that sometimes the dates move forward significantly and sometimes they do not change and remain static.

We also base our processing time frames on educated guesses derived from the monthly status reports issued on the link above and also based on the approvals we see coming in to our offices. Sometimes USCIS might say they are taking 6 months to process a case but we see approvals for that same type of case coming in sooner or taking longer.

NOTE: Whenever we provide a "processing time frame" it is an educated guess. No one can promise exactly when a decision will be reached on your case by USCIS.

In order for your I-485 approval to happen, we need to see three things happen:

  1. Your I-140 approval.
     

  2. Your background check must be complete. This is an internal government process and the only role you play in this is having your fingerprints and photos taken.
     

  3. Once USCIS has completed 1&2 and are ready to approve your case, your priority date must also be current. You can check the visa bulletin at the following link each month to confirm. Your priority date is the date your labor certification was filed. Contact us if you are not sure of your priority date and category OR if you are not sure how to read the visa bulletin.

    www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html

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