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Immigration FAQ

Click on a section or question to see our answers to some frequently asked questions.

1.0) F-1 (Student Visa)

1.1) How do I apply for an F-1 visa?
1.2) What is SEVIS?
1.3) What is an I-20?
1.4) May I work while on an F-1 visa?
1.5) Can I change my status from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa?
1.6) What if I want to transfer schools?
1.7) What if I want to continue going to school after completing my original course of study?
1.8) How long can I remain in the United States on an F-1 visa?
1.9) Can I travel on an F-1 visa?

2.0) Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

2.1) What is CPT?
2.2) What are the eligibility requirements for CPT?
2.3) When can I start working?
2.4) How does CPT affect Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
2.5) Can I renew CPT?

3.0) Optional Practical Training (OPT) + STEM 17-month extension

3.1) What is OPT?
3.2) What are the eligibility requirements for OPT?
3.3) When can I apply for OPT?
3.4) Do I need employment authorization to begin working?
3.5) What is the difference between pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT?
3.6) Can I renew OPT?
3.7) Can I hold OPT and be unemployed?
3.8) What is STEM?
3.9) What is the benefit of STEM?

4.0) J-1 Exchange Visitor

4.1) What is a J-1 visa?
4.2) What are the categories for a J-1 visa?
4.3) What are the requirements for a J-1 visa?
4.4) How do I apply for a J-1 visa?
4.5) What is the 2-year foreign residence requirement?
4.6) Are all J-1 visa holders subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement?
4.7) Why are some J-1 visa holders subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement?
4.8) If I am subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement, can this requirement be satisfied if I live anywhere outside the U.S.?
4.9) If am subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement, can I obtain an H-1B or L-1 visa?

5.0) H-1B (Professional/Specialty Occupation)

5.1) How can I qualify for an H-1B visa?
5.2) What is the quickest way to receive an H-1B visa?
5.3) What is the duration of an H-1B visa?
5.4) How does the H-1B cap affect me?
5.5) How can I extend my stay on an H-1B visa?
5.6) How does leaving the U.S. affect my 6 years of H-1B visa status?
5.7) Who may I work for while holding an H-1B visa? Can I change employers?
5.8) When can I begin working on an H-1B visa?
5.9) What happens if I become unemployed?
5.10) Can I work at various job sites?
5.11) If I entered the U.S. on H-1B visa status and switched to another classification, am I subject to the annual H-1B cap if I apply to switch back to H-1B status?
5.12) Is my spouse eligible to work while holding a dependent H-4 visa status?

6.0) H-1B1 (Singapore and Chile)

6.1) Am I subject to the H-1B cap?
6.2) What is the duration of an H-1B1 visa?
6.3) May I extend my status?

7.0) L-1 (Intracompany Transferee)

7.1) What is an L-1 visa?
7.2) What is the difference between an L-1A visa and an L-1B visa?
7.3) What is the duration of an L-1A visa? L-1B?
7.4) Is my spouse eligible to work while holding L-2 status?
7.5) What happens if I become unemployed?
7.6) Can my company file for permanent residence on my behalf?

8.0) O-1 (Extraordinary Ability)

8.1) What is an O-1 visa?
8.2) What are the requirements for an O-1?
8.3) What is the duration of an O-1 visa?
8.4) If I am subject to a 2-year foreign residence requirement due to a J-1 visa, am I eligible for an O-1 visa?
8.5) What is the consultation requirement?

9.0) TN (NAFTA)

9.1) Am I eligible for a TN visa?
9.2) What is the duration of the TN visa?
9.3) Must I go to the consulate to receive my TN visa?

10.0) E-3 (Australia)

10.1) Do I qualify for an E-3 visa?
10.2) Can I switch employers?
10.3) What is the duration of my status?
10.4) What happens if I become unemployed?

11.0) Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

11.1) What is the VWP?
11.2) Citizens of which countries are eligible?
11.3) What are the requirements?

12.0) Electronic System For Travel Authorization (ESTA)

12.1) What is ESTA?
12.2) Must I participate in ESTA?

13.0) B-1 (Business Visitors)

13.1) What type of business activities may a Business Visitor engage in?
13.2) What is the duration of my status?

14.0) B-2 (Visitor Visa for Pleasure)

14.1) What is the duration of my status?
14.2) May I extend my B-2 visa status?
14.3) Can I change my status to an F-1 visa?
14.4) Can I change my status to an H-1B visa?
14.5) What happens if my status expires while present in the U.S. and no request to extend my stay has been filed with USCIS?

15.0) Labor Certification/PERM

15.1) What is PERM?
15.2) What are the job requirements for the LC Application?
15.3) Can I keep my current nonimmigrant visa status once the PERM process has begun?
15.4) What is prevailing wage?
15.5) What is the purpose of recruitment?
15.6) Which types of recruitment activities are required?

16.0) Immigrant Visa Petition (I-140)

16.1) What is the purpose of Form I-140?
16.2) What is the processing time for Form I-140?
16.3) Once approved, what are the benefits of an approval?

17.0) Permanent Residence (I-485)

17.1) When can I file for Adjustment of Status?
17.2) Must I be physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing?
17.3) Can I travel outside the U.S.?
17.4) Am I authorized to work?
17.5) Can I keep my current nonimmigrant visa status while I have a pending I-485?
17.6) May I switch employers while my Permanent Residence Application is pending?
17.7) What is a Conditional Resident?

18.0) Employment Authorization/EAD (I-765)

18.1) What is Employment Authorization?
18.2) When can I apply for an EAD card?
18.3) What is the duration of an EAD card?

19.0) Advance Parole (AP)

19.1) What is Advance Parole?
19.2) When can I apply for AP?
19.3) What is the duration of AP?

20.0) Re-Entry Permits

20.1) What is a Re-Entry Permit?
20.2) Who needs a Re-Entry Permit?
20.3) What is the duration of the Re-Entry Permit?
20.4) What if I am a Conditional Permanent Resident?
20.5) How do I file for a Re-Entry Permit?
20.6) What is biometrics collection?

21.0) Naturalization

21.1) Who is eligible to apply for Naturalization?
21.2) When does a Permanent Resident become eligible?
21.3) What is the continuous residence requirement?
21.4) What is the physical presence requirement?
21.5) Other requirements


1.0) F-1 (Student visa) [Top]


1.1) How do I apply for an F-1 visa? [Top]

An applicant needs a SEVIS I-20 generated from the school where he/she has been admitted in the U.S. and schedules an appointment with a U.S. Consulate.


1.2) What is SEVIS? [Top]

SEVIS is an electronic system created to assist registered school sponsors to maintain current and accurate information relating to nonimmigrant student participants. The Department of State (DOS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), program sponsors and schools are able to access up to date information regarding a student or exchange visitor's stay through SEVIS.


1.3) What is an I-20? [Top]

The SEVIS School generated Form I-20 is a record containing a student's personal information, school enrollment and academic intent, as well as financial information.


1.4) May I work while on an F-1 visa? [Top]

Generally, an F-1 visa holder may only work part-time on-campus. However, additional employment authorization is possible. Some examples of this employment authorization include: Off-campus work which is educationally affiliated with the school, off-campus work not educationally affiliated but authorized due to severe economic hardship, curricular practical training and optional practical training.


1.5) Can I change my status from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa? [Top]

Yes, it is possible to change status from an F-1 to an H-1B.


1.6) What if I want to transfer schools? [Top]

An F-1 visa holder may transfer schools by following notification procedures pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act.


1.7) What if I want to continue going to school after completing my original course of study? [Top]

An F-1 visa holder may remain in the U.S. when transferring between schools and/or programs if the student will begin classes at the new school/program within 5 months of transferring out or of the program completion date noted on the I-20.


1.8) How long can I remain in the United States on an F-1 visa? [Top]

An F-1 visa holder is admitted for duration of status - the time necessary to complete the course of study noted on Form I-20, while a full-time student.


1.9) Can I travel on an F-1 visa? [Top]

An F-1 visa holder may return to the United States following a trip abroad by presenting a valid F-1 visa stamp in his/her passport as well as a recently endorsed I-20 by the Designated School Official at the School. A student who has been absent from the United States for more than 5 months may need a new F-1 visa stamp.


2.0 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) [Top]


2.1) What is CPT? [Top]

CPT is a practical training program which is an integral part of the academic curriculum being pursued by the F-1 visa holder.


2.2) What are the eligibility requirements for CPT? [Top]

CPT may be authorized to an F-1 visa holder who has been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year in a Service-approved school.


2.3) When can I start working? [Top]

An F-1 visa holder with CPT is authorized to work after receiving Form I-20 with an endorsement for CPT by the Designated School Official (DSO).


2.4) How does CPT affect Optional Practical Training (OPT)? [Top]

One year of full-time CPT renders a student ineligible to participate in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). However, one year of part-time CPT still allows the F-1 visa holder to be eligible for post-completion OPT.


2.5) Can I renew CPT? [Top]

CPT may be authorized for 12 months. If the F-1 student enrolls in a higher educational level, another 12 months of CPT is available.


3.0) Optional Practical Training (OPT) + STEM 17-month extension [Top]


3.1) What is OPT? [Top]

OPT is Optional Practical Training directly related to a student’s major field of study.


3.2) What are the eligibility requirements for OPT? [Top]

OPT may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been enrolled full-time in a Service-approved school for one full academic year.


3.3) When can I apply for OPT? [Top]

An application for OPT may be submitted 90 days prior to completion of enrollment for one year of academic studies, provided the OPT will not begin until completion of the full academic year.


3.4) Do I need employment authorization to begin working? [Top]

Yes. An application for OPT must be filed with USCIS for employment authorization and only upon receipt of the EAD card is the student authorized to work.


3.5) What is the difference between pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT? [Top]

Pre-completion OPT is available before completion of the academic program or graduation. Post-completion OPT is practical training after completion of study. Any time spent on pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the 12 months of post-completion OPT.


3.6) Can I renew OPT? [Top]

OPT is authorized for 12 months. If the F-1 student enrolls in a higher educational level, another 12 months of OPT is available.


3.7) Can I hold OPT and be unemployed? [Top]

While on OPT, F-1 status is dependent on employment, therefore a student may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment. If the student also holds STEM OPT, not more than 120 days of unemployment may accrue during the total OPT period of 29 months.


3.8) What is STEM? [Top]

STEM refers to students who have a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.


3.9) What is the benefit of STEM? [Top]

If a student has a degree in one of the STEM fields, the student is eligible to apply for an additional 17-month extension of post-completion OPT, for a total of 29 months of OPT.


4.0) J-1 Exchange Visitor [Top]


4.1) What is a J-1 visa? [Top]

A J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa created by Congress which allows for the mutual exchange of visitors between the U.S. and other countries.


4.2) What are the categories for a J-1 visa? [Top]

There are several categories for a J-1: Au pair; Camp Counselor; Student, college/university; Student, secondary; Government Visitor; International Visitor (reserved for U.S. Department of State use); Alien physician; Professor; Research Scholar; Short-term Scholar; Specialist; Summer work/travel; Teacher; and Trainee/Intern. Each category of exchange has specific requirements for eligibility.


4.3) What are the requirements for a J-1 visa? [Top]

The applicant must be able to demonstrate the following: he/she intends to remain in the U.S. for a specific, limited duration of time; is financially able to cover expenses while in the U.S.; and the existence of social, economic and other binding ties to the home country.


4.4) How do I apply for a J-1 visa? [Top]

An applicant must first obtain a DS-2019 from a sponsoring organization and then schedule an appointment with a U.S. Consulate.


4.5) What is the 2-year foreign residence requirement? [Top]

At the conclusion of a J-1 program, the J-1 visa holder is to return to his/her home country to live for at least two (2) years to satisfy this requirement.


4.6) Are all J-1 visa holders subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement? [Top]

No, not all J-1 visa holders are subject to a 2-year foreign residence requirement.


4.7) Why are some J-1 visa holders subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement? [Top]

A J-1 visa holder will be subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement because funding was received from either the U.S. or a foreign government or because the area of specialty is on the “skills list” established by the U.S. government and the foreign government.


4.8) If I am subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement, can this requirement be satisfied if I live anywhere outside the U.S.? [Top]

No, the requirement may only be satisfied by returning and living in the home country for 2 years.


4.9) If am subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement, can I obtain an H-1B or L-1 visa? [Top]

No.


5.0) H-1B (Professional/Specialty Occupation) [Top]


5.1) How can I qualify for an H-1B visa? [Top]

A sponsoring employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor (DOL) as well as an H-1B visa petition with the Immigration Service (USCIS) on behalf of the alien. The employer must also pay accompanying fees at the time of filing.


5.2) What is the quickest way to receive an H-1B visa? [Top]

Premium processing is an expedited process that may be requested upon payment of an additional filing fee of $1000. USCIS guarantees the petition will be reviewed within 15 calendar days of receipt or the $1000 fee will be refunded.


5.3) What is the duration of an H-1B visa? [Top]

An H-1B visa is valid for an initial period of 3 years and may be extended for a total of 6 years.


5.4) How does the H-1B cap affect me? [Top]

The government limits the number of aliens who may be issued an H-1B visa to 65,000 annually, along with 20,000 H-1B visas for U.S. graduates with a Master’s or higher degree.


5.5) How can I extend my stay on an H-1B visa? [Top]

An H-1B visa is generally valid for 3 years and may be extended for an additional 3-year period. In certain situations where the Permanent Residence process has been initiated, H-1B visas may be extended beyond the 6-year limitation.


5.6) How does leaving the U.S. affect my 6 years of H-1B visa status? [Top]

An H-1B visa is initially valid for 3 years, with a maximum stay of 6 years. Time spent outside the U.S. may be recaptured to extend the stay of an H-1B visa holder for the time spent abroad.


5.7) Who may I work for while holding an H-1B visa? Can I change employers? [Top]

An H-1B visa holder is only authorized to work for the employer who has sponsored the H-1B status. To change employers, the new employer must file an H-1B visa petition. Certain limitations apply, such as, the H-1B employee should continue to work for the sponsoring employer until an H-1B visa petition transfer has been filed by the new sponsoring employer.


5.8) When can I begin working on an H-1B visa? [Top]

Usually upon approval of the H-1B visa and status effective date.


5.9) What happens if I become unemployed? [Top]

An H-1B visa is based on employment with the sponsoring company. Once unemployed, H-1B visa status is not being maintained.


5.10) Can I work at various job sites? [Top]

Yes it is possible, provided the employer has an approved Labor Condition for each site and a schedule was provided to USCIS.


5.11) If I entered the U.S. on H-1B visa status and switched to another classification, am I subject to the annual H-1B cap if I apply to switch back to H-1B status? [Top]

You are not subject to the annual H-1B cap if you have been counted within the past 6 years against the numerical limitation of H-1B visas and not been absent from the United States for more than one year.


5.12) Is my spouse eligible to work while holding a dependent H-4 visa status? [Top]

No, H-4 visa status is not authorized to work in the United States.


6.0) H-1B1 (Singapore and Chile) [Top]


6.1) Am I subject to the H-1B cap? [Top]

An H-1B1 visa is limited to 6,800 visas annually. This allotment is reserved out of the 65,000 numerical cap placed on H-1B visas.


6.2) What is the duration of an H-1B1 visa? [Top]

An H-1B1 visa is valid for an initial period of one year, with renewals in one-year increments.


6.3) May I extend my status? [Top]

Yes, H-1B1 status must be renewed annually. However, every five years, the H-1B1 visa holder in the U.S. is counted against the 6,800 numerical cap.


7.0) L-1 (Intracompany Transferee) [Top]


7.1) What is an L-1 visa? [Top]

An L-1 visa is designated for a person being transferred between a foreign company to a U.S. company. To be eligible, the alien employee must have been employed physically abroad for at least one year in the immediately preceding three years and be coming to work in the U.S. for the same/affiliated company in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.


7.2) What is the difference between an L-1A visa and an L-1B visa? [Top]

An L-1A visa is for an alien employee coming to work in the U.S. in an executive/managerial capacity. An L-1B visa is for an employee possessing specialized knowledge.


7.3) What is the duration of an L-1A visa? L-1B? [Top]

An L-1A visa is usually granted for 3 years, with two renewals of 2 years each, totaling 7 years. An L-1B visa is usually granted for 3 years, with one renewal of 2 years, totaling 5 years.


7.4) Is my spouse eligible to work while holding L-2 status? [Top]

Yes, the L-2 spouse may be granted employment authorization. Proof of the employment authorization is an EAD Card issued by USCIS.


7.5) What happens if I become unemployed? [Top]

An L-1 visa is based on employment with the sponsoring company. Once unemployed, L-1 visa status is not being maintained.


7.6) Can my company file for permanent residence on my behalf? [Top]

Yes, the company may sponsor you.


8.0) O-1 (Extraordinary Ability) [Top]


8.1) What is an O-1 visa? [Top]

An O-1 visa is for someone who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field.


8.2) What are the requirements for an O-1? [Top]

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the applicant must be able to provide at least three (3) of the following forms of documentation: 1. Documentation of the alien’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor; 2. Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members; 3. Published material about the alien in professional or major trade publications or other major media, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought; 4. Evidence of the alien’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought; 5. Evidence of the alien’s original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field; 6. Evidence of the alien’s authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or other major media; 7. Evidence that the alien has been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation; 8. Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other remuneration for services.


8.3) What is the duration of an O-1 visa? [Top]

An O-1 visa is valid for an initial period of three years, with renewals in one-year increments.


8.4) If I am subject to a 2-year foreign residence requirement due to a J-1 visa, am I eligible for an O-1 visa? [Top]

Yes.


8.5) What is the consultation requirement? [Top]

An O-1 visa petition generally must meet a consultation requirement – the consultation is to affirm the alien meets the extraordinary ability or achievement consideration.


9.0) TN (NAFTA) [Top]


9.1) Am I eligible for a TN visa? [Top]

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), citizens of Mexico and Canada may qualify for TN status under one of the categories listed in the NAFTA Agreement.
http://www.nafta-sec- alena.org/DefaultSite/index_e.aspx?DetailID=167#Ap1603.D.1


9.2) What is the duration of the TN visa? [Top]

A TN visa may be granted for up to three years and may be renewed in three-year increments.


9.3) Must I go to the consulate to receive my TN visa? [Top]

Citizens of Mexico may apply for a TN visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate. Citizens of Canada need only apply for a TN visa at a U.S. port of entry or at a Pre-Flight Inspection. If the applicant is in valid visa status in the U.S., an application for TN status may also be filed with USCIS.


10.0) E-3 (Australia) [Top]


10.1) Do I qualify for an E-3 visa? [Top]

E-3 visas are available to professionals who are nationals of Australia.


10.2) Can I switch employers? [Top]

Yes, provided a request is made to USCIS by the new employer and the new employer obtains an endorsed Labor Condition Application.


10.3) What is the duration of my status? [Top]

An E-3 visa may be granted for up to two (2) years with two (2) year renewals.


10.4) What happens if I become unemployed? [Top]

An E-3 visa is based on employment with the sponsoring company. Once unemployed, E-3 visa status is not being maintained.


11.0) Visa Waiver Program (VWP) [Top]


11.1) What is the VWP? [Top]

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for a stay of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate. 


11.2) Citizens of which countries are eligible? [Top]

Prior to November 17, 2008: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 

The number of participating countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was expanded in 2008 to include: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta. 


11.3) What are the requirements? [Top]

For a country to participate in the VWP, a country must meet various security requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports, and document security standards. 

Beginning January 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all VWP countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.

The traveler must be traveling on an approved carrier (See the approved carriers list) and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination.


12.0) Electronic System For Travel Authorization (ESTA) [Top]


12.1) What is ESTA? [Top]

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which mandates that all nationals or citizens of VWP countries, who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure, will require an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. See http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/.


12.2) Must I participate in ESTA? [Top]

Yes, it is now mandatory all nationals or citizens of VWP countries have an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. Travelers without an approved ESTA may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied entry into the U.S.


13.0) B-1 (Business Visitors) [Top]


13.1) What type of business activities may a Business Visitor engage in? [Top]

As a business visitor, the law only allows business activities, not the performance of skilled or unskilled labor. The B-1 visa is not for the purpose of obtaining and engaging in employment while in the United States.


13.2) What is the duration of my status? [Top]

A B-1 visa holder may be admitted for up to 6 months, with renewals of up to 6 months, usually totaling 1 year.


14.0) B-2 (Visitor Visa for Pleasure) [Top]


14.1) What is the duration of my status? [Top]

The duration of status is determined at the time the B-2 visa holder is admitted to the United States and noted on Form I-94.


14.2) May I extend my B-2 visa status? [Top]

It is possible to apply for an extension of stay by submitting an application to USCIS.


14.3) Can I change my status to an F-1 visa? [Top]

It is possible to change status from a B-2 visa to an F-1 visa. If the request is filed with USCIS at least thirty (30) days prior to classes beginning, attending classes while waiting for a decision is not violating status.


14.4) Can I change my status to an H-1B visa? [Top]

Yes, it is possible to file a request to change status from a B-2 visa holder to an H-1B visa holder.


14.5) What happens if my status expires while present in the U.S. and no request to extend my stay has been filed with USCIS? [Top]

Once Form I-94 expires, status is not being maintained and unlawful presence is accruing toward the 3/10 year ban.


15.0) Labor Certification/PERM [Top]


15.1) What is PERM? [Top]

Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) is a Labor Certification (LC) request made to the Department of Labor (DOL) by an employer, in which the employer is seeking to establish a shortage of available qualified U.S. workers. The government must be convinced that there is no available qualified U.S. worker (i.e. U.S. citizen and/or Permanent Resident) to fill the position held by the sponsored employee.


15.2) What are the job requirements for the LC Application? [Top]

The job requirements must be defined and industry standard. All special requirements are deemed restrictive unless a business necessity exists.


15.3) Can I keep my current nonimmigrant visa status once the PERM process has begun? [Top]

An alien should maintain his/her current nonimmigrant status. The filing of a PERM Application does not bestow any visa status.


15.4) What is prevailing wage? [Top]

Prevailing wage is the average wage paid to an employee with same or similar qualifications in the requested occupation/location. The prevailing wage is determined by the State Workforce Agency.


15.5) What is the purpose of recruitment? [Top]

Recruitment is required by DOL so as to ensure that no qualified available U.S. worker is being displaced. The recruitment process tests the labor market to verify that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers for the intended employment position prior to hiring an alien employee on a permanent basis.


15.6) Which types of recruitment activities are required? [Top]

The government requires 6 recruitment activities for professional positions

Three mandatory recruitment activities:

– Advertisement in a major newspaper: 2 Sundays;
– Internal notice (Position Available Notice) posted at the jobsite in a conspicuous location for 10 business days; and
– Posting on the State Workforce Agency Website for 30 days.

Three optional recruitment activities, below are some options:

- Posting on another jobsite such as www.hotjobs.com;
– Ad in a local newspaper;
– Company’s Employee Referral Program;
– Posting on company’s website; or
– Posting at a college campus.


16.0) Immigrant Visa Petition (I-140) [Top]


16.1) What is the purpose of Form I-140? [Top]

The I-140 visa petition determines which category/preference. If the position requires a Bachelor’s degree, usually eligibility will be Third Preference (EB-3). A position requiring at least a Master’s or a Bachelor’s + 5 years of progressive experience, usually eligibility will be Second Preference (EB-2).


16.2) What is the processing time for Form I-140? [Top]

Processing time is approximately 1 year (visit USCIS website for updated Processing Times Report).


16.3) Once approved, what are the benefits of an approval? [Top]

Once an I-140 is approved, an H-1B visa holder is eligible for three-year extensions if visa numbers are unavailable. With an approved I-140, when a visa number becomes available, the 3rd and final stage (I-485) may be filed.


17.0) Permanent Residence (I-485) [Top]


17.1) When can I file for Adjustment of Status? [Top]

An Adjustment of Status Application may be filed once an immigrant visa number becomes available. Visa numbers become available to an alien when his/her priority date becomes current based on the Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State.


17.2) Must I be physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing? [Top]

Yes, an applicant must be physically present in the U.S. to file an Application for Adjustment of Status.


17.3) Can I travel outside the U.S.? [Top]

Generally, while an I-485 application is pending, the applicant must apply for and receive Advance Parole, a travel document that allows an alien to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad without a visa.


17.4) Am I authorized to work? [Top]

While an I-485 application is pending, the applicant may apply for Employment Authorization.


17.5) Can I keep my current nonimmigrant visa status while I have a pending I-485? [Top]

Some aliens may maintain their nonimmigrant status, i.e. H-1B, L-1, O-1 visas.


17.6) May I switch employers while my Permanent Residence Application is pending? [Top]

According to the AC21 portability provisions, if an offer of employment is in the same or similar occupational classification as the offer of employment for which an approved employment based visa petition was filed, the petition shall remain valid provided Form I-485 has been pending for more than 180 days and the underlying I-140 has been approved.


17.7) What is a Conditional Resident? [Top]

A person being granted Permanent Resident status who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen when the marriage has been for less than 2 years, USCIS places a condition on the person’s permanent residence for 2 years. During the ninety days preceding the expiration, both the alien and the U.S. spouse must petition USCIS to remove the condition.


18.0) Employment Authorization/EAD (I-765) [Top]


18.1) What is Employment Authorization? [Top]

The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a document that confirms authorization to work, issued in the form of a card. The EAD card does not confer any benefit other than work authorization.


18.2) When can I apply for an EAD card? [Top]

An application for an EAD card may be submitted when filing a Permanent Residence Application (I-485), or anytime thereafter, while the I-485 continues to remain pending.


18.3) What is the duration of an EAD card? [Top]

An EAD card is valid for an initial period of one year and may be renewed in one-year increments. If visa numbers are not available at the time an extension request is filed, an EAD card may be issued for two years.


19.0) Advance Parole (AP) [Top]


19.1) What is Advance Parole? [Top]

AP is a travel document granting permission to travel outside and re-enter the United States while an Application for Adjustment of Status (I-485) is pending.


19.2) When can I apply for AP? [Top]

An application for AP may be filed concurrently with a Permanent Residence Application (I-485), or anytime thereafter while the I-485 continues to remain pending.


19.3) What is the duration of AP? [Top]

AP is valid for an initial period of one year and may be renewed in one-year increments while the I-485 remains pending.


20.0) Re-Entry Permits [Top]


20.1) What is a Re-Entry Permit? [Top]

A Re-Entry Permit is a travel document that grants a Permanent Resident permission to re-enter the United States after an extended absence from the United States.


20.2) Who needs a Re-Entry Permit? [Top]

A Permanent Resident who plans to be abroad for more than one-year may need a Re-Entry Permit in order to re-enter the United States.


20.3) What is the duration of the Re-Entry Permit? [Top]

Generally, a Re-Entry Permit is valid for two years from the date of issuance.


20.4) What if I am a Conditional Permanent Resident? [Top]

A Re-Entry Permit issued to a Conditional Permanent Resident is valid for two years or until the date the Conditional Permanent Resident must petition to remove the condition.


20.5) How do I file for a Re-Entry Permit? [Top]

An applicant must be a Permanent Resident, be physically present within the United States when the application is received by USCIS and submit to a biometrics collection (see next question) before the applicant departs from the United States.


20.6) What is biometrics collection? [Top]

A biometrics collection is biological data, typically fingerprints and a photograph, which is taken by USCIS at a local Application Support Center (ASC). USCIS will schedule an appointment for an applicant to attend the local ASC to submit the biometrics.


21.0) Naturalization [Top]


21.1) Who is eligible to apply for Naturalization? [Top]

Lawful Permanent Residents may apply.


21.2) When does a Permanent Resident become eligible? [Top]

The two most common circumstances where a Permanent Resident becomes eligible to apply for Naturalization are: the applicant is over 18 years of age and has been a Permanent Resident for the past five (5) years; or if the Permanent Resident is currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, has been married to and living with that same U.S. citizen for the past 3 years, and the U.S. citizen spouse has been a citizen for the past three (3) years.


21.3) What is the continuous residence requirement? [Top]

Continuous residence requires that the Permanent Resident have resided within the U.S. for the duration of the five (5) year Permanent Resident requirement (or three (3) years for the Permanent Resident married to a U.S. citizen). Travel is permitted, however periods of travel longer than six (6) months may interrupt continuous residence.


21.4) What is the physical presence requirement? [Top]

Immediately preceding an Application for Naturalization, the Permanent Resident must be physically present in the state or USCIS District at least three (3) months where the application will be filed. Additionally, the applicant must be physically present in the United States for fifty percent of the continuous residence requirement.


21.5) Other requirements: [Top]

USCIS must determine the Permanent Resident is of good moral character. The Permanent Resident must also have the ability to speak, read and write English as well as answer questions in English on U.S. history and government.