With conflicting information online, when do I speak with my employer about obtaining my “green card“?
Well, it depends…
While every student’s case differs, on campus, we often recommend speaking with your employer about applying for a green card after you have H-1B nonimmigrant visa status. H-1B visa status differs from J-1 or F-1 in two ways: 1) H-1B allows you to work for up to six years, and 2) it permits dual intent. Dual intent essentially means that an I-140 Immigrant petition should not complicate your future visa applications while traveling abroad.
Your employer will usually file the I-140 immigrant petition on your behalf, ideally by your 4th year in H-1B status. Your work as an H-1B employee, your education, and where you were born are factors to consider in deciding your best option for seeking U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) status through employment. Your H-1B employer may have specific company policies, too.
Find out what resources you have at work. Many H-1B employers will have people on staff to give you legal advice on immigration. Ask good questions and listen.
Some employment-based LPR filing strategies require a job market test through the U.S. Department of Labor. If you are a university teacher, you may have an option called ‘Special Handling’ that might increase your changes of being given a green card. In order to do this, however, take action quickly; you have to file with the Department of Labor within 18 months of the offer letter date.
You can consider self-filing an I-140 Immigrant petition, but consider first if you can complete the process and file an I-485 application without too long a wait; check out current and prior U.S. visa bulletins to get a better sense of how long your application will take to process. For instance, employment-based first preference (“EB-1”) petitions like an Outstanding Professor or an Extraordinary Ability have currently available visas, as shown by a “C” on the visa bulletin, which makes them a preferred filing strategy for those who qualify. Many do not, especially right after graduation – but again, it depends… so best of luck!