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8 Things to Know About the I-140 Immigrant Petition Process

The I-140 immigrant petition can help you get an employment-based visa. Learn everything about the application, including paperwork, fees, and eligibility.

Filing an I-140 immigrant petition is the first step on the path toward becoming a permanent resident of the United States. With employer sponsorship, you can prove to US immigration you’ve got a job that suits your qualifications and contributes to the country’s economy.

The I-140 application process can be challenging. You’ve not only got to navigate complex immigration laws but coordinate closely with your sponsor. That’s why we’ve put together a detailed guide to each stage of the process, plus information about supporting documents and fees.

I-140 Immigrant Petition

Who files the I-140?

Your U.S. employer is responsible for filing the I-140 form and paying the associated fees. However, you must provide supporting documents and ensure your details are up-to-date and accurate. You also need to stay in touch with your sponsor in case the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asks for additional information.

If you’d prefer to sponsor yourself, you could see if you’re eligible for the EB-1A and EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) green cards. These visas don’t require a job offer or labor certification, but they have other, more stringent requirements.

Understanding your eligibility

USCIS splits employment-based (EB) visas into five categories called ‘preferences.’ The higher the preference, the stricter the I-140 petition requirements. However, you can also expect fewer visa backlogs and faster processing times.

Here’s an overview of the criteria for each preference category:

  • EB-1: Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability or outstanding professors and researchers. The bar is high so applicants could be Nobel Prize or Fields Medal winners
  • EB-2: Advanced degree holders or those with exceptional ability in Art, Science, and Business. For example, those with Master’s degrees or CEOs of international companies
  • EB-3: Professionals, skilled workers, or other workers filling U.S. labor shortages. This category includes those with Bachelor’s degrees, specialized training, and manual workers
  • EB-4: Special immigrants such as religious workers, U.S. employees abroad, and retired workers from international organizations

The fifth category is the EB-5 for business investors looking to place $1.8 million (USD) or more into U.S. enterprises. However, these applicants require an I-526, not an I-140.

Including your dependents

Your immediate family members don’t have to file for employment-based immigration visas. Spouses and minor children under the age of 21 can apply for their green cards separately with the I-485 form. They must complete extra paperwork for an employment authorization document (EAD) and advanced parole to work and travel within the United States.

While it’s rare, be aware that USCIS may reject your family members’ application even if they approve yours.Getting a labor certification

Except for EB-1 visas, employers must prove there aren’t enough willing and qualified U.S. citizens to fill your position. They have to undergo a process called permanent labor certification or PERM.

Have your sponsor download the ETA form 9089 from the Department of Labor (DOL) site. They’ll have to fill in details about you, their business, and the position you’re filling. The DOL will use this information to verify the company and the job offer, alongside checking your suitability for the role.

Employers also have to provide a detailed history of all the hiring efforts they made before they offered you the position. This involves giving evidence such as job adverts, referral emails, and recruitment website listings.

Getting certified can take up to two years. During this time, the DOL will try to find qualified U.S. citizens to take your job. Most applicants are successful, though—Forbes analyzed the DOL’s foreign labor data to find the current approval rate is around 6 to 8%.

Preparing the paperwork

While only the sponsor has to file forms, you must both provide supporting documents. Here’s what you should prepare for the I-140 application.

Essential document checklist for employers

  • Approved labor certification: This is the evidence that no U.S. citizens are eligible for the role
  • Evidence of ability to pay: Your employer must prove they can pay you the proffered wages with copies of their company’s financial statements
  • Job offer: Some employment-based visa categories, such as professors and multinational executives, require a formal letter

Essential document checklist for applicants

  • Passport: You should provide a valid document of your photo travel ID
  • Proof of qualifications: Include copies of degree certificates, licenses, and academic transcripts to show you’re qualified to do the work
  • Proof of outstanding abilities: If applicable, you’ll need to present copies of any awards or certificates you’ve received to prove your exceptional skill in a field
  • Evidence of employment: Many petition types ask you to include formal letters from previous employers with a job description and any training you received

Paying the filing fees

The I-140 filing fee is $700, and the applicant is responsible for paying this, not the sponsor. Note this payment is non-refundable. You can pay the filing fee by check or card transfer.

USCIS processing

After your employer has filed the I-140, you should receive a receipt number from USCIS. You can use this number to track your status on the case studies page.

If you haven’t provided adequate paperwork, USCIS may send you a request for extra information. They’ll tell you the details they need and the deadline for submission. That’s why it’s best to stay in regular contact with your employer to swap information and update the immigration officials quickly.

All that’s left to do once you’ve given all the necessary information is wait for approval. I-140 processing times can vary and often depend on your visa category. You can check the estimated waiting time in months on the USCIS website.

Premium processing

If you want to expedite the process, some applicants are eligible for I-140 premium processing services. You must submit form I-907 and pay an extra filing fee of $2,500. Make a separate payment, or USCIS may reject your entire application as combining the fees confuses their tracking system.

With premium processing, your application should take two to six weeks. If it takes longer than 45 days, USCIS should refund the fee.

Once US immigration reaches a verdict, they’ll issue a notice via email and the US postal service. They’ll send the I-140 form approval to the filing address, which should be your sponsor.

If you’ve been approved, you’ll get your I-140 priority date for the next steps in the Green Card process. Otherwise, you can consult with an immigration attorney to discuss the possibility of reopening or reapplying.

Next steps

Once USCIS has approved your I-140, you can apply for your Green Card to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Your next steps depend on where you’re applying from.

You can apply for an adjustment of status if you’re living in the U.S. Taking this step involves completing an I-485 application and undergoing a series of medical and criminal background checks.

If you’re staying in another country, you can apply for permanent residency through consular processing. USCIS will transfer your application to the National Visa Center (NVC) which will collect your application alongside any required documentation, invoice you, and schedule an interview.

In both cases, you’ll have to wait for your priority date to become current. You can check whether you can proceed by checking the I-140 visa bulletin. Read our article on reading the visa bulletin to figure out when your visa category becomes available.

Lay the groundwork for your Green Card

With a job offer from a U.S. employer, you can consider an employment-based visa. Your first move is to file the I-140 immigration petition to prove you’re the best person for the role.

While the application can be time-consuming and complex, there are ways to simplify the process. LegalPad by Deel can help you prepare for every step and avoid road bumps.

Contact the LegalPad team to discover more about how we support the range of EB visas.

About the author:

Jemima Owen-Jones

Jemima helps international startups and their teams navigate the work visa process so they can get approved fast and focus on what they do best.