Nonimmigrant work visas are a temporary immigration solution. Green card sponsorship is the next step to attracting, retaining, and supporting foreign-born talent. With a green card, your employees become lawful permanent residents in the United States. That means no more time-consuming visa applications or strict visa regulations.
As a U.S. company, you can sponsor green cards for both current and prospective employees. Depending on the foreign worker's qualifications, there are several paths to a green card, each with nuances. This guide will cover everything you need to know before sponsoring an employee green card. If you still have questions, our immigration team would happily discuss them with you during a free consultation.
What is an employer-sponsored green card?
A green card, also called a permanent resident card, enables foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. without a visa. U.S. employers can sponsor green cards for employees. As an employer sponsor, U.S. companies support the immigration process and typically employ the foreign national throughout the green card process.
What are the benefits of sponsoring an employee green card?
As an employer sponsor, you reap several benefits, such as:
- Attract top talent: Green card sponsorship is a life-changing company benefit to help you stand out against other employers.
- Retain current employees: Work visas are temporary. The most common work visa, H-1B, is valid for a maximum of six years. Retain your best employees by offering them a permanent immigration solution that incentivizes them to stay with the company long term.
- Cut cost and save time: Most work visas must be renewed every few years. Renewals can be time-consuming and expensive. Once a U.S. permanent resident, your employees will never need a visa again.
- Support employee family members: When you sponsor an employee work visa, you also enable their spouse and children (unmarried and under 21 years) to gain permanent resident status.
How to Sponsor an Employee Green Card
Overview of the green card sponsorship process from inside the U.S.
The green card process is straightforward, but it might be more complex than you're expecting.
For employment-based immigration, the process is as follows.
Step 1: Determine employee eligibility and select a visa category
There are several employment-based visa categories, each with unique requirements and different timelines. Before proceeding, make sure that your employee qualifies.
Each category is nuanced, so click the links to read further:
- EB-1A: For individuals at the top of their field; eligible for self-petitioning; no PERM
- EB-1B: For professors and researchers; no PERM
- EB-1C: For multinational managers and executives; no PERM
- EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW): For individuals with work of "national importance; eligible for self-petitioning; no PERM
- EB-2 PERM: For individuals with an advanced degree or extraordinary ability; PERM required
- EB-3: For skilled, professional, or other workers; PERM required
- EB-4: For special immigrants; no PERM
- EB-5: For immigrant investors; no PERM
Step 2: Permanent Labor Certification Application (if applicable)
The Program for Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certification process is necessary for EB-2 PERM and EB-3 petitions. You can jump to step 3 if applying for a different visa category.
To complete the PERM process, you must submit an application to the Department of Labor (DOL) to demonstrate that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the job. From start to finish, this step can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months.
Step 3: File Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
Next, you must submit an immigrant visa petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition includes legal forms, immigration documents, and evidence showing your employee meets the unique requirements for the applicable visa category.
Step 4: Adjustment of status application process
Once the employee's priority date is current on the visa bulletin, you can file the adjustment of status application. The employee's priority date is set on the PERM filing date or I-140 petition filing date (if no PERM was filed).
Once USCIS approves the adjustment of status application, the employee will receive their green card in the mail. When they have the physical green card, they can begin living and working in the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Sponsoring Green Cards: FAQs
What is the difference between employment-based green cards and family-based green cards?
There is no difference between an employment-based or family-based green card, but the process of obtaining a green card is different. For instance, most employment-based green cards require an employer sponsor, whereas family-based green cards require a family member to sponsor the application. If you qualify for both types of green cards, speak with an immigration attorney to determine the best option.
Are there any employment-based green cards that do not require employer sponsorship?
The EB-1A and EB-2 NIW can be self-sponsored. Keep in mind that these are still employment-based petitions and typically require applicants to have plans to work in the U.S. Learn more about the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW in a free permanent residency workshop.
What is the difference between an immigrant visa petition and a green card application?
An immigrant visa petition essentially gets you a "spot in line" to file your green card application. The green card application, also called adjustment of status or permanent residency application, is typically filed after obtaining an immigrant visa approval from USCIS. Read more about this topic.
What are typical processing times for adjustment of status applications?
Work with a full-service immigration team
Green card sponsorship is easy when you work with the right legal services provider. We handle everything from high-level immigration strategies to complicated legal forms.