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. For more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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, Department of Labor (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 U.S. 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 8-12 months if the case is not selected for audit.

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 U.S. 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 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 U.S. work authorization, such as an H, L or TN status, then s/he is required to finalize the permanent residence process from abroad and apply for an immigrant visa at their local U.S. Consulate.

Under current law, we cannot file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa until the U.S. Department of State 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 a high 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 are updated by the Department of State every thirty days and can move several months ahead or several months backwards each time they are updated. 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. Within two weeks of filing both you and your attorney should receive receipt notices from USCIS. Once you have the thirteen letter and number combination receipt notice number, you can check the status of your case online at this link:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do

Under current law, we cannot file Form I-485 or begin Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa until the U.S. Department of State 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 a high 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 I-130 application is filed with USCIS. Priority dates are updated by the Department of State every thirty days and can move several months ahead or several months backwards each time they are updated. 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. Depending on your visa preference category, we can provide an estimate for the number of years you can expect your case to remain pending.

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. Within two weeks of filing both you and your attorney should receive receipt notices from USCIS. Once you have the thirteen letter and number combination receipt notice number, you can check the status of your case online at this link:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do

You can even create a user account and sign up for text messages from USCIS. As soon as any movement happens on your case, they will send you a text message and an email with the details. To create an account and receipt emails and or text message updates, you can click on this link:

Approximately 90 days after filing, the employee will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card), which will permit him/her to work in the U.S. 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 timeframes online. 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/processTimesDisplayInit.do

Click on the service center where your case is pending, then scroll down to I-485, Employment Based Adjustment Applications. If you are not sure where your case was filed, use this table to help figure it out:

If the number letter combination in the upper left hand corner of your USCIS receipt notice starts with:

  • WAC - then your case is pending with California Service Center;
  • EAC - then your case is pending with Vermont Service Center;
  • SRC - then your case is pending with Texas Service Center;
  • LIN - then your case is pending with Nebraska Service Center;
  • MSC - then your case is pending with the National Benefits Center.
  • 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 timeframes 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 U.S. PERMANENT RESIDENCE, WE NEED TO SEE THREE THINGS HAPPEN…

  • Approval of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker;
  • 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. They might also reschedule you for biometrics if they are not happy with the quality of the photo or the prints taken. Just be patient, and make sure you ALWAYS appear for biometrics. Failing to appear for a biometrics appointment CAN result in denial of your application based on what USCIS calls abandonment. This is another reason to make sure you always keep your home address up to date. Click on this link to review our page on how to properly update your home address.
  • 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 PERM labor certification was filed, or if you were in a category that permitted you to skip PERM Labor Certification, it is the date your Form I-140 was filed with USCIS. 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. We are happy to answer your questions.
  • http://travel.state.gov/visa/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 U.S. 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 U.S. Consulate abroad. We work with National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH to provide the U.S. 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 the National Visa Center to complete its processing before an interview will be scheduled. Once issued, the visa permits the employee to enter the U.S. as a Permanent Resident and the Permanent Resident Card is mailed to the employees U.S. home address.

Legal Services