Of all the employment-based green card categories, the second preference is by far the most popular one. Its reduced processing time makes the EB-2 green card an attractive and attainable prospect for thousands of foreign professionals who want to work toward lawful permanent residency in the U.S.
EB-2 Green Card Requirements
In order to qualify for the EB-2 preference category, you need to fall into one of the following groups:
- Foreign citizens who hold an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) or the equivalent degree from a foreign institution. Having a bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent) can also qualify you if you also have 5 years of relevant work experience in your field.
- Foreign professionals who can provide evidence that they possess exceptional abilities in their field through awards and demonstrable achievements. You can also submit evidence of the following:
- 10 years of work experience in your field
- a degree that corresponds to an exceptional field
- a substantial salary that shows your exceptional ability
- membership in widely-known organizations related to your field that require exceptional ability in order to be a member
It is important to note that two things are required if you qualify for either of the above-mentioned categories:
- A job offer from a U.S. employer for a position that requires your advanced degree or exceptional abilities.
- A PERM Labor Certification from the Department of Labor (DOL)
These two requirements are required for almost every employment-based green card category. The only exception to this rule for prospective EB-2 holders is if you obtain an NIW.
The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is the way in which foreigners seeking EB-2 status may self-petition without the need of a valid job offer or a PERM. In order to qualify for this waiver, you must prove that:
- you are coming to the U.S. to start an enterprise that will contribute to a positive impact on the nation’s culture and/or economy.
- you are uniquely qualified to begin and advance this enterprise through your relevant skills, education, experience, or success track record in a similar endeavor.
- the U.S. will stand to benefit from excusing you from the job offer and PERM requirements.
If you think that you may qualify to self-petition under these conditions and requirements, contact your EB-2 green card lawyer to learn what steps need to be taken.
What are the Steps in the Process?
The first step in the EB-2 green card process is for your employer to obtain a PERM Labor Certification (provided that you do not qualify for an NIW). This process involves making sure that you are not replacing any qualified U.S. workers who would be interested in the position.
This is done by placing advertisements and performing a thorough job recruitment according to the standards outlined on the Department of Labor website.
If the PERM is approved, then your employer must then file an I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Worker according to your qualifications. The two I-140 forms are:
- I-140D – Petition for Advanced Degree Professional
- I-140E – Petition for Professional Worker (exceptional ability)
Once the form has been received by the USCIS, you must wait for your priority date to be current with the final action dates given by the Department of State.
Once your priority date becomes current, your I-140 will most likely have already been approved or denied. If it was approved, you can do one of two things to gain lawful permanent resident status under an EB-2 green card.
- If you are already in the U.S. under nonimmigrant status, you can file an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to have your status adjusted from nonimmigrant to immigrant.
- If you are outside the U.S., you can travel to a designated U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country and apply for your EB-2 green card there.
What is the Processing Time?
The EB-2 green card processing time varies significantly with the final action and priority dates associated with each green card preference level. The USCIS maintains a list of all of its form processing times for the most recent fiscal year according to which version of the I-140 is required for your green card category.
The processing time for the PERM (if applicable) varies depending on whether or not your employer is audited. While targeted audits can be avoided by retaining an EB-2 green card lawyer to make sure the recruitment process is done correctly, the audits that the DOL performs randomly are unpredictable, unavoidable, and can drastically extend your green card processing time.
EB-2 Green Card Priority Dates
As you most likely know, when you file an I-140 petition with the USCIS and the petition is received, that date becomes your personal priority date. This date must be considered “current” in order for you to advance to the final step of the process: submitting an I-485 to change your status or applying for your visa.
Green cards, or immigrant visas, have an annual limit on how many will be processed by the Department of State (DOS). For a select few categories, such as the EB-1, that limit is rarely reached.
However, for most green card preference levels, more people have applied than there are visa numbers available. Because of this, these categories have a backlog that can create a wait time of anywhere from a few months to several decades. The factors that decide your green card processing time are:
- Your green card’s category (i.e. family-based, employment-based, investment-based)
- The preference level of your green card within that category, and
- Which nation is your country of origin.
The DOS releases a monthly immigrant Visa Bulletin that lists the final action dates for each country. Once the final action date in your section matches or passes your priority date, then your priority date is considered “current”, allowing you to progress to the last step in the EB-2 green card process.
As you can see from this screenshot taken in February 2017, the final action dates for almost every applicable country is current, meaning that a visa number will be available as soon as your I-140 has been approved.
However, for citizens of China and India, the priority dates go back several years. Chinese applicants must wait over 4 years before applying. Indian applicants, on the other hand, must wait almost 9 years. This is due to the large amount of Indian and Chinese professionals that petition for EB-2 status.
How Much Does an EB-2 Cost?
Outside of the auxiliary costs associated with traveling, assembling documents, and hiring an EB-2 green card attorney, there are several mandatory fees that are applicable:
- Your employer must pay the $700 filing fee for the appropriate I-140 form
- As for the I-485 fee, you can refer to this chart from the USCIS:
Other Employment-Based Green Card Categories
Some other categories for employment-based green cards have different requirements and processing times, so they are worth considering if you qualify.
- EB-1: This category is reserved for people that exhibit superior ability in arts, sciences, or business. Exceptional professors, as well as corporate executives and managers, can also qualify. While all of the final action dates are current for this category, it is the most difficult green card to obtain.
- EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals with Bachelor’s degrees, and unskilled workers all fall into this category. Unfortunately, the processing times for this category can reach up to 15 years.
- EB-4: This green card is designed for people working for a religious organization.
- EB-5: The final category is meant for foreign investors or other professionals that aim to create new job opportunities in the U.S.
To find out which green card is best suited for your specific qualifications and situation, consult with your EB-2 green card lawyer to make sure you are making the best decision for your immigration case.
EB-3 to EB-2 Porting
Since the processing times are much shorter for the EB-2 than they are for the EB-3, you may want to consider making the switch. This can only be done, however, if you secure a different position through promotion or by obtaining a new employer. This new job must be much more complex than the first and it must fulfill all of the requirements for an EB-2 green card.
The process for this usually invloves having your employer file for a new PERM Labor Certification for your new position as well as filing a new I-140 petition under EB2 status.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Our immigration lawyers have been helping people work toward their green cards for years. Our long track record of success and years of extensive experience allow us to help you avoid some of the common obstacles involved with getting a green card that could cost you significant time and money.
If you would like to retain an EB-2 green card lawyer, you can contact us to schedule your consultation today.