We All Can’t Fall in Love and Get A Green Card Right!
We’ve all heard of people getting their green cards through marriage to a U.S. citizen. There’s even a comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It’s pretty funny. The government threatens Sandra Bullock’s character with deportation to Canada due to a violation of her work visa. She convinces her assistant, Ryan Reynolds’ character to marry her to obtain her green card. Then the government suspects them of marriage fraud. The couple makes an effort to genuinely get to know each other to be able to overcome the suspicion of fraud and to successfully get the green card. As these typical romantic comedies play out, the couple falls in love and live happily ever after. She gets the green card and the guy, all at the same time. Unfortunately, this fictional romance doesn’t translate so neatly into reality.
We all can’t find a genuine love interest and fall in love just in time to get a green card.The good news is there are other ways to live and work in the U.S. permanently, which may be more in line with your goals as a talented and ambitious person. If you are hardworking, educated, professionally experienced, accomplished, or a leader in your field, there are other ways to apply for a green card. Here is a list of the top 6 ways to get a green card with your raw talent and ambition.
H-1B visa to green card transfer
The H-1B visa is a great way to try out- life in the U.S. before making the decision to pursue a green card. It is a temporary work visa for specialized professionals, with a time limit of six years. It is also a dual intent visa, which means you do not have to prove that you intend to return to your native country. To obtain the H-1B visa, you’ll need to meet specific qualifying criteria. You’ll need to have a degree which enables you to perform specialized work that can only be performed by someone with such a degree. We often hear of the tech industry’s efforts to recruit computer scientist and software engineers to perform such specialized work. However, the H-1B is not limited to the tech industry. If the employer can show that your degree is important to the performance of certain work, you have the necessary qualifications and there is no qualified U.S. person who can perform the job, you have a shot at getting this work visa.
The process requires two steps. The employer must go through a lottery process and then petition for you as an H-1B applicant. Once you’ve obtained H-1B status, you’ll need to discuss sponsorship for your green card with your employer.
Timing is everything in this process. It is important you maintain your legal status during this time. The employer must file the application for your permanent residence a certain amount of time before your H-1B status expires. The employer will likely apply for you to receive your permanent resident status under the EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant status. I discuss the specific requirements of each status further in this article.
Once, the USCIS approves the petition, you’ll be able to request extensions of your H-1B status in one year increments until the USCIS is ready to complete the green card process. If you are already married with children who are under 21 years old and unmarried, your family can also gain a green card along with you, which is a great benefit. The H-1B process can have its downsides. Processing times for certain countries such as India can run as long as 10 years. Also, since your employer will be sponsoring you, you’ll have to be sure you can commit to the employer during the green card process.
O-1 temporary visa to EB-1 green card
The O-1 visa is a great way to try life in the U.S. before making the decision to pursue a green card. It is a temporary work visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in science, education, business, athletics, in the arts or the motion picture industry. If you have extraordinary ability that fits within the O-1 visa category, you may also be able to show that you have the extraordinary ability required for the EB-1 employment based green card. To obtain the O-1 visa, you or your employer will need to prove you meet the qualifying criteria.
Once you’ve obtained the O-1 visa status, You can then decide whether you should move forward with the EB-1 green card application. The green card process is lengthy but since it is also a dual intent visa, you can renew and maintain your legal status while the USCIS processes your EB-1 application. I discuss the specific requirements of the EB-1 green card application further in this article.
If you are already married with children who are under 21 years old and unmarried, your family can also gain a green card along with you, which is a great benefit. One upside of the extraordinary ability EB-1 is you can self petition (no need for an employer to do it) and there is no labor certification requirement!
L -1A or L-1B visa to green card transfer
Like the H-1B visa, the L-1 visa permits you to work in the United States for a limited period of time. The upside is the L-1 to green card process is a lot less painless than the H-1B to green card process. The notable difference here is there is no labor certification requirement (YAY!). The processing time is shorter (YAY!). The requirements are easier to meet (YAY!).
There are two types of L-1 visas. The L-1A visa is for managers and executives of a foreign company who have been transferred to do business in the United States. The L-1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge who have been transferred to the United States to do business here. The employer must submit the petition for the green card. In doing so, the employer must show you meet certain requirements which include:
- Proof that you’ve been employed with the same company outside of the U.S. for at least one year in the last three years;
- Proof you hold the position of a manager, executive, or a person with specialized knowledge;
- Proof the foreign employer and the U.S. employer have a qualifying relationship;
- Proof the US employer has been in business for at least one year; and
- Both the US and foreign employer will continue to do business through the green card process.
If you are currently working as an L-1A or L-1B employee, the requirements for the green card should not be too difficult to show. Also, if you are married with children, your family can also apply with you. If your employer is willing to file a petition on your behalf and all your stars align, go for it!
Your employer can always apply for you to transfer your status from the H-1B or L-1 status to an employment based green card. However, if your employer cannot sponsor you first as an H-1B or an L1 employee or you don’t want to start with a temporary visa, then perhaps applying directly for the EB-1 immigrant visa is for you.
If you have extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or you are an outstanding professor or researcher, you may qualify for a green card. If you have extraordinary ability, you can even file the application yourself without an employer! That’s a sweet deal. As an outstanding professor or researcher, the employer must still petition for you. There is no labor certification requirement at all but you’ll have to show well documented evidence of your ability and accomplishments to support the application. Such documentation includes evidence of awards, prizes, accolades and articles about your work. Given the benefit of no labor certification and the ability to self-petition, this is an option worth exploring.
EB-2 and the National Interest Waiver
Like the EB-1 immigrant visa, the EB-2 green card allows the employer to apply directly for the employment based green card, instead of sponsoring temporary workers. The EB-2 immigrant visa allows you to obtain a green card with an advanced degree or with exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business. If you apply with an advance degree or exceptional ability, your employer will need to petition along with the labor certification. However, you may avoid the time consuming and complex labor certification process if you qualify for a National Interest Waiver. The other advantage of a National Interest Waiver is you can apply yourself without an employer. Usually you’ll have to make a convincing argument that your exceptional ability is in the best interest of the United States. For example, physicians successfully make an argument that their work benefits the U.S. healthcare system. There is currently a shortage of physicians in the U.S., so it doesn’t take much to show the national benefit. However, the national interest waiver is not limited to physicians. There is really no specific definition or criteria for who can receive a national interest waiver. If you are doing important work that will benefit the U.S., it is worth exploring this option.
Your employer can skip the temporary work visas and apply for this type of employment based green card on your behalf. You’ll qualify for this if you can show your skill or your professional degree is required to perform the work of the U.S. employer. If you apply as an unskilled worker, you must show that you are capable of such work and such work is not seasonal or temporary. All categories under the EB-3 immigrant visa require the employer to show that there are no qualified US persons who can do the work. This is why the labor certification is an important requirement in this process. Unfortunately, the labor certification is the part that can be the most time consuming. This is a great option if the EB-1 and EB-2 visas don’t apply to you. As with the other employment green card categories, your spouse and children who are unmarried and under the age of twenty-one can apply with you.
This is often referred to as the investor’s green card. The EB-5 is for those who have the entrepreneurial spirit. The price tag on this is higher than the other ways to obtain employment based green cards. Nevertheless, it is still an option if you have sufficient means. It requires the minimum investment of $900,000 in a business in the under-employed areas (TEAs) or $1.8 million for other qualifying investments in the United States. The requirements regarding qualifying investments is very specific and can become complex. It is very important to follow the requirements to avoid trouble or complications in both the investment and the green card application process.
So there you have it. You can make the U.S. your permanent home just based on your education, you talent, your ambition and your hard work. Don’t get me wrong, the particular process along with your personal circumstances can make the processing time longer or the application to be more complex. Approach your application with caution and be sure to get legal advice and guidance. Cheers!