The H1B visa is a popular immigration option for skilled workers seeking to live and work in the US. But can an individual with an H1B visa, typically reserved for foreign workers, achieve that goal?

The short answer is yes. H1B visa is a dual-intent visa, meaning that those on the visa can pursue lawful permanent residence status in the US, otherwise known as green card status. This is different from tourist or student visas, which do not allow for residence in the US.

Keep reading to learn more about moving from an H1B visa to a green card.

What is an H1B Visa?

An H1B Visa is a work visa issued by the United States that allows foreign workers to live and work in America temporarily. It is one of the most sought-after visas, especially among software engineers and other IT professionals, because it gives these specialized workers the perks of working in a developed country while still being able to return home.

An H1B Visa also can be used in conjunction with other immigrant visas, such as Green Card or permanent residence, allowing foreign workers to transition from temporary to permanent residency if they choose. With an ever-growing global economy and workforce, the H1B Visa program has become increasingly important for employers looking to fill specialized roles with valuable talent.

H1B to Green Card Process

The H1B to citizenship process is when a foreign worker can transition from their temporary visa status (H1B) to permanent residence status in the United States (Green Card). 

An I-485 petition must be submitted by any foreign worker to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in order for the worker to maintain his or her lawful immigration status while their Green Card is being processed.  Of course, this is after the service has already approved the worker’s I-140. In rare instances, the I-140 and I-485 may be filed and submitted at the same time.

In order to qualify under an employment-based green card, there has to be an employer who will employ the worker in a position. This employer may be a different employer or the worker’s H1B employer.  The employer should then get a Program Electronic Review Management Labor Certification (PERM). This certification can be obtained after a recruiting effort is conducted to ensure that the foreign worker will not be filling a position that a U.S. worker is available to fill. At that time ETA 9089 form can be filed. The foreign worker’s wage should be the same as the prevailing wage.  Once the PERM is approved the employer should file an I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Worker. When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service then receives the petition a priority date will be provided.  The final step can only be taken when the priority date is current.  An adjustment (of status) can be applied through filing of the I-485 form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service once the priority date is current.  Finally when the I-485 is approved a green card is given to the foreign worker.

H1B visa Ban 

President Biden let the ban on H-1B visa lapse, reversing a major immigration action taken by his predecessor Donald Trump. The ban, which was set to expire on March 31, 2021, prevented companies from filing new H-1B visas or extensions of the visa that allowed foreign workers to work in the United States temporarily. With Biden's executive order, companies can file for those visas again, allowing workers to come and stay in the US.

This decision has been welcomed by businesses relying on H-1B visas to hire skilled foreign workers for their companies and tech workers whose jobs were affected by the ban. It also signals a change in direction from Trump's "America First" immigration policies, which sought to restrict immigration to the United States.

When Does My H1B Status Expire?

Expiration of a foreign worker’s H1B status occurs on the date listed on the I-94 Arrival/Departure documentation. The I-94 card is received by the foreign worker at the time they entered and were inspected upon entry into the United States.  This card would have been provided to them by the port of entry officer who conducted the inspection. In addition, this expiration date may be found on the H1B approval document given to the foreign worker when they changed status. Finally, this expiration may also be found in the database of Customs and Border Protection where an electronic form of the I=94 resides.  There is a ten-day grace period granted to a foreign worker to make preparations to return to their home country or to find a way to extend their H1B status.

Regaining H1B Status After Expiration

Foreign workers who want to regain their H-1B status after it expires must apply for a visa. This process involves filing a new I-129 petition with USCIS, providing proof of employment, and updating other pertinent information. Once approved, foreign nationals can return to the United States and begin working again on H-1B status. This is usually after a year of leaving the US. In addition, foreign workers may also be eligible to apply for a change of status if they are currently in the United States and their visa has expired. For example, they may submit Form I-765 when applying for a marriage Green card. This way, they can still work even if their H-1B visa expires while applying for their marriage-based Green Card

H1B Issues you may encounter

The H-1B visa application is a complicated process is complex, and there are many potential issues you may encounter, such as:

  1. Not being able to change jobs easily: The H-1B visa is tied to one employer, and if you move to a new job, you must file a petition with USCIS for an amended visa.
  2. Not being able to leave the country for a long time: The H-1B visa does not allow for frequent trips outside the US.
  3. Deportation: H-1B holders who violate the terms of their H-1B visa may be subject to deportation.
  4. Complying with Specialty Occupation Guidelines: H-1Bs are reserved for specialty occupations like engineers, accountants, software developers, teachers, biologists, chemists, architects, and marketing specialists. If an applicant's position doesn't qualify as an H-1B specialty occupation, they may waste valuable time and resources on an application that ultimately can't be approved. 

An immigration lawyer can provide advice about which issues to be mindful of when applying for an H-1B visa and can assist with the application process. They can also help H-1B holders resolve any problems that arise while they are in the United States.

Can H1B Visa Holders Apply for Green Cards?

Yes, an H-1B visa holder can make a green card application. This process is called "adjustment of status." It involves filing an I-485 form with the USCIS and supporting documents showing the foreign worker meets all of the eligibility requirements to become a green card holder. This includes:

The process can take several months to complete, but once approved, the foreign worker will become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

How to Switch from H-1B to Green Card

There are a few ways to switch from an H-1B visa status to a green card. The most common is through the employment-based green card process, which requires filing an I-485 form with USCIS and providing evidence of green card employment in the US. This process can take several months and may require additional documentation or interviews. Other ways to switch from H-1B to green card status include self-petitioning, family-based sponsorship, and the diversity visa lottery program.

An immigration attorney can advise on which process best suits the individual's situation and can help with filing the necessary immigration paperwork and forms.

Why apply for a US Green Card? 

Being a citizen of the United States offers numerous benefits, including:

These are just some of the benefits that come with obtaining a Green Card. A person who has received a Green Card will also enjoy all the rights and privileges of any other US citizen, including the right to vote and the right to a US passport.

How Long Does It Take to Switch from an H-1B to a Marriage Green Card?

The time it takes to switch from an H-1B visa to a marriage green card will depend on the individual's situation and where you live in the US. But generally, it takes about 12 to 22 months.

As an H-1B visa holder, it's recommended to maintain a legal immigration status when applying for a marriage green card. Form I-765 allows one to continue working even if their visa expires while applying for their marriage-based green card. This permit takes about 150 days or longer to be processed.

How long does a Green Card last?

A Green Card is valid for ten years from the date of issue and must be renewed when it expires. The renewal process is straightforward and requires submitting the necessary forms to USCIS, attaching supporting documents, and paying the required fees. In some cases, a medical examination or interview may be required.

While failing to renew a green card won't lead to deportation, it will prevent an individual from being able to do things like apply for citizenship or leave and re-enter the US. It will also make it hard to get any benefits.

US Green Card requirements

To apply for a green card, applicants must meet specific eligibility requirements. These include:

H1B to Green Card Fees 

Like with almost all visa and immigration-related applications, there are fees associated with the H-1B to Green Card process. In 2020, the USCIS an increment in these fees, and are now as follows:

These fees include the following:

Most individuals who transition from an H-1B to a green card will have to hire legal help at some point. The amount one pays for legal fees will depend on the attorney they employ and the specifics of their case. It can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 or more in legal fees. This can seem expensive, but it could save time, money, and stress in the long run. Legal aid lawyers who work for the government can help those who can't afford this. However, it can take longer to get an appointment with them.

How Much Will Sponsoring an H1-B Visa Cost an Employer?

An H-1B Visa (or H-1B transfer) will cost you around $5000 (including government fees). Immigration lawyer fees should costs $2000 to $3000, while filing fees are around $3000. An employer must have enough money in the bank necessary to pay the H1B employee’s salary for a reasonable period of time. The analysis is on a case by case basis.

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