contact@immigrationgroup.com

EB2 Processing Time For Employment-Based Green Card Applications

Glen D. Wasserstein, Managing Partner of ILG, specializes in immigration law, focusing on E-2 Investor Visas, L-1 visas, H-1B visas, and federal litigation. With a background in international relations, he founded ILG in 1996 and has addressed human trafficking at the United Nations Convention on Crime.

Table of Contents

Each year, over 40,000 EB2 visas are issued to foreign nationals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities, emphasizing the importance of this pathway to U.S. permanent residency. The EB2 visa process involves several critical stages, including labor certification, I-140 immigrant petition filing, and potentially consular processing or adjustment of status.

The processing time can vary significantly, influenced by factors such as the priority date, national interest waiver eligibility, and whether premium processing service is utilized.

This guide provides a strategic overview of how to navigate these steps efficiently, including insights into the PERM certification process and tips for expediting your application. Understanding these elements is crucial for applicants aiming to optimize their employment-based immigration journey.

EB2 Processing Time (Step-by-Step)

The EB2 visa process is a key pathway for a foreign worker possessing advanced degrees or exceptional abilities, aiming for permanent residency in the United States. The processing time for an EB2 visa can vary significantly based on several factors, but here are some general timelines for each major step:

1. Labor Certification (PERM Process)

The initial stage involves obtaining a PERM labor certification. This requires the employer to demonstrate that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the job, which involves a rigorous recruitment process. The duration of this step varies, typically ranging from a few months to over a year, depending on whether it involves audits or additional verification.

The PERM labor certification process typically takes about 6 to 10 months under normal circumstances. However, this timeframe can be extended if the application is selected for an audit or requires additional verification, which could push the total processing time to over a year.

2. Filing of Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition)

Once the labor certification is approved, the employer or foreign national (in cases of a national interest waiver) files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. This stage assesses the qualifications of the candidate as meeting the standards of an EB2 classification, either based on advanced degrees, exceptional ability, or a national interest waiver.

Processing times here can be expedited with premium processing service, reducing wait times from several months to just 15 calendar days.

3. Priority Date and Visa Bulletin

The priority date, which is the date when the labor certification application was filed or the I-140 was submitted if no labor certification is required, plays a crucial role. Applicants must wait for their priority date to become current according to the Visa Bulletin before they can proceed to the next step, which can vary significantly based on the country of origin and current immigration trends.

4. Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or Consular Processing

Applicants residing within the U.S. may file Form I-485 for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident once their priority date is current. Those outside the U.S. undergo consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate. This step involves personal interviews, background checks, and medical examinations.

The processing time for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or Consular Processing can vary widely based on several factors, including the applicant’s home country, the specific U.S. consulate or embassy’s workload, and the details of the individual case. Here’s a general breakdown:

  1. Adjustment of Status (Form I-485): Typically, this process takes about 8 to 14 months. However, some cases can be faster or slower depending on the USCIS service center handling the application and the complexity of the background checks or any issues that arise during the application review.
  2. Consular Processing: This varies more significantly because it depends on the specific U.S. consulate or embassy. Generally, from the time of filing the initial visa application with the National Visa Center (NVC) to the scheduling of the interview, the process can take from 6 to 12 months. Once the interview is conducted, if there are no further administrative processing requirements, the visa is usually issued within a few weeks.

5. Final Decision

Once all steps of the Adjustment of Status process are completed—including biometrics, interview, and any required additional evidence—USCIS typically makes a decision within a few weeks to a few months. The total time from submission to decision often ranges from 8 to 14 months, but the final decision phase itself, assuming no complications or need for additional information, usually takes about 1 to 3 months.

Throughout these stages, various factors such as the employment-based immigration category, substantial merit, and national importance (in cases of a national interest waiver), and the specific circumstances of the foreign national can influence the average processing time. It’s advisable for applicants to consult with an immigration attorney to navigate complexities and expedite their applications wherever possible.

PERM Audits and Potential Delays

Audits in the PERM labor certification process are triggered by various factors that may raise concerns during the review by the Department of Labor (DOL). Common reasons include inconsistencies in the application data, incomplete recruitment process documentation, or the occupation’s high layoff rates within the industry. Additionally, cases that involve foreign workers with exceptional abilities or advanced degrees might attract audits to verify the legitimacy of their qualifications and the employer’s need for a foreign equivalent.

Impact of Audits on Processing Times

An audit can significantly extend the processing time of a PERM labor certification. Normally, the PERM process might take about 6 to 10 months, but with an audit, this can extend to over a year. The additional scrutiny requires employers to submit substantial evidence and detailed documentation to substantiate the claims made in the initial application. This not only delays the decision on the PERM application but can also impact the subsequent stages of the EB 2 visa application process, including the filing of the immigrant petition and adjustment of status.

Tips for Avoiding and Managing Audits

1. Ensure Accuracy and Completeness: To minimize the chances of an audit, it is crucial for employers to ensure that all information provided in the PERM application is accurate and thoroughly documented, especially concerning recruitment efforts and the prevailing wage determination.

2. Detailed Documentation: Keep detailed records of the recruitment process, including job advertisements, responses from potential candidates, and reasons for non-selection. This documentation should demonstrate a genuine effort to recruit U.S. workers and justify the hiring of a foreign national.

3. Consult with an Immigration Attorney: Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help navigate the complexities of PERM certification and immigration law. An attorney can provide guidance on compliance, the assembly of requisite documentation, and effective responses to DOL queries during an audit.

4. Prepare for Possible Audit: Since audits can be random or triggered by specific factors, employers should prepare all PERM applications as if they will be audited. This proactive approach can reduce wait times and stress if an audit does occur.

By understanding and preparing for the intricacies of the PERM audit process, employers can better manage potential delays and streamline the pathway to obtaining an EB 2 visa for their prospective foreign national employees. This careful preparation directly contributes to more efficient processing times and a smoother transition towards permanent residency.

Expediting the EB2 Processing Time

Expediting the EB2 visa process involves several strategies that can significantly reduce the standard processing times associated with each step, from labor certification to obtaining permanent residency. Here are some effective ways to speed up the EB2 visa process:

1. Premium Processing Service: Applicants can use the USCIS premium processing service for the I-140 immigrant petition, which reduces the processing time to about 15 calendar days. This service is particularly valuable for those with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities under the EB2 category.

2. National Interest Waiver (NIW): Applicants may bypass the PERM labor certification step by applying for a national interest waiver, which is available to those who can demonstrate that their employment in the U.S. would greatly benefit the nation. This can shave months off the EB2 processing time.

3. Accurate and Complete Initial Documentation: Ensuring that all forms are filled out accurately and all necessary documentation is included can prevent delays due to requests for additional evidence. This includes the proper demonstration of an advanced degree or exceptional ability and a thorough prevailing wage determination.

4. Regular Monitoring and Early Adjustment of Status Filing: Keeping track of the visa bulletin for priority dates and being prepared to file the adjustment of status (Form I-485) as soon as the priority date becomes current can also expedite the overall process.

5. Legal Representation: Hiring an experienced immigration attorney can provide guidance through the complexities of immigration law and the EB2 process, potentially avoiding common pitfalls that cause delays.

By implementing these strategies, applicants can navigate the EB2 visa application process more efficiently, reducing wait times and increasing the likelihood of a favorable and swift outcome.

Conclusion

In conclusion, securing an EB2 visa involves multiple complex steps, from obtaining a permanent labor certification to finally adjusting visa status and achieving green card approval. Each phase, from assessing foreign equivalent academic credentials to navigating the U.S. job market and managing application processing, is critical for foreign professionals aiming to work permanently in the U.S. Prospective applicants must be meticulous, whether it’s utilizing perm forms, understanding wait times through regular processing, or self-petitioning.

Given the complexities of the EB2 visa process, especially for foreign workers and skilled workers conducting specialized research or changing jobs, it’s essential to stay updated on immigration law. Hiring an experienced eb2 visa lawyer from the Immigration Law Group can help ensure compliance with eligibility requirements, streamline interactions with citizenship and immigration services, and ultimately enhance the chances of obtaining green cards efficiently and effectively.

In addition, our New Orleans immigration lawyers provide personalized and professional legal assistance for all your immigration needs.