Green Card Process Explained 2021

In this post we go over the steps in getting Green Card in the USA (gc process),  green card process steps

EB 2 and EB3 Green Card Steps

There are three stages for Green Card for EB2 and EB3.

  1. Stage 1: PERM/Labor Certification Stage (EB1  and EB2 NIW doesn’t require this Stage)
  2. Stage 2: I-140 Immigrant Petition Stage
  3. State 3: I-485 Adjustment of Status Stage

Note: Employment Based Green Card process is driven by Employer and cannot be self-sponsored. But, there are an instance, where it can be self-sponsored. Details are listed below.

Let’s take a step back and start with an overview of ways to get U.S. Green Card and then dive into stages of EB1, EB2 and EB3 based Green Card.There are two main path’s to obtain Green Card in the USA (lawful permanent resident status)

There are two main path’s to obtain Green Card in the USA (lawful permanent resident status)

  1. Family-based Green Card Categories
  2. Employment Based Green Card – EB1, EB2, and EB3.

Stage 1: PERM Labor Certification

  • PERM/Labor Certification stage is the first step in the green card process for EB2 and EB3.
  • PERM stands for Program for Electronic Review Management.

During this PERM Labor Certification step,  Employer has to prove that there are no qualified American Citizens or Permanent Residents for this positions and foreign workers not taking jobs away from U.S. citizens.

What Happens during PERM Labor Certification Stage?

Here is an overview of what happens at work place before green card process begins.

  • HR Manager or your Manager notifies company’s Immigration Attorney about filing Green Card.
  • Initial Meeting: Manager, Employee, HR and Immigration Attorney
  • Job Description: Drafted, revised and finalized.
  • Prevailing Wage determination request submitted to Department of Labor (DOL) by Immigration Attorney
  • Followed by Recruitment Phase – Handled by your employer’s HR
  • If no qualified US workers identified, Attorney would file PERM Labor Condition application with DOL.
  • The Date, when the PERM application is filed with DOL, is your Priority Date (PD).
  • DOL processes and approves PERM Labor Certification.

PERM Labor Certification Timeline:

  • Initial Conversation to Job Description Finalization: 1 to 3 Months (It can take longer in larger firms)
  • Prevailing Wage Determination: About 2 to 5 months
  • Recruitment and Filing: 3 to 6 months
  • PERM Labor Approval: 2 to 8 months. (as of Oct 2015, PERM approval time is 7 months)

If PERM Labor is filed 365 before the H-1B visa Expiry date and still pending, H1B Visa can be extended in 1-year increments.

Processing Times for PWR and PERM Applications

Processing Time for Prevailing Wage and PERM Labor application approval for Green Card varies. You can find the for both PWR and PERM Labor Application here –  current processing times here. Following screenshots shows where to look for the Processing Times.

find pwr and perm processing times

Next, let’s dive deeper into finding the Processing Times for Wage Determination and PERM Labor Application Processing.

PWR Processing Times

green crd prevaling wage processing times

How to read the above PWR table?

  • As of March 2017, its taking Department of Labor them 100 days to issue the Prevailing Wage Determination for the position that would be posted and recruited.
  • Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

PERM Labor application Processing Times

perm labor application processing times

How to read the above PERM Processing Tabel?

  • As of March/31/2017, DOL is processing applications submitted in Jan 2017.
  • That’s 4 months to process PERM for Cler Cut Cases – Analyst Review.
  • If there’s Audit, then it’s taking 9 months to Process PERM Applications

But, Jan 2017 has 31 days. wouldn’t it be better if they gave an average day it takes to process?

perm labor application processing days

That’s what we get from the above table. 78 days for Clear Cases and 234 days on average for Audit cases. After the PERM Labor application is approved, you have cleared the Stage 1 of the Green Card Process. Next, we deal with Department of Home Security (USCIS) for Stage 2 – I140


Stage 2: I-140 Immigration Application

Next step in the Green Card process is I-140 Immigration Application. After Labor Certification Application has been certified by DOL I-140 application can be filed.

Why I-140?

  • Verify employee meets job requirements specified on the PERM/Labor Certification Application
  • Verify the sponsoring employer can pay the offered wages to the employee.

After I-140 is approved, H-1B employee will be able to extend the H1B for 3 years period beyond initial 6 years.


  • There’s special category for EB2, called EB2 NIW.
  • NIW stands for National Interest Waiver. 
  • Stage 1 – PERM Labor is not required for EB2 NIW
  • EB2 NIW would be filed as Self-Petitioned.

Processing Time for I140 Applications

I-140 application can be done via Regular or Premium Processing. As far I  know, the majority of applicants opt for Premium Processing.

Approved I-140 gives the benefit for the spouse of H1B Visa applicants to apply for H4 EAD.

To find the Regular Processing Time for go to USCIS Processing Time Page.

Then select the Service Center – Nebraska, Texas or Vermont Service centers.

uscis processing times i140

Next look for I-140 applications ( following is for Nebraska Service Center)

i140 processign times nebraska service center

At the time of this writing, it’s taking USCIS about 8 months to process I-140 via Regular Processing.

Note: There ‘s no Premium Processing for EB2 NIW cases. 

After I-140 is approved, the waiting game begins. For applicants from India, China the wait times span multiple years

  1. US Green Card Waiting Time Based on Pending Applications

Good News (Jan 2017): I-140 Cannot Be Revoked

I-140 EAD Rule went into effect on Jan 17, 2017. Ad per the rule, employers can’t revoke approved I-140 after 6 months of Approvals in most cases. Read the summary of EAD I140 Rule for more details. Why is that important? Employee can switch jobs fter I-140 is approved without losing their Priority Date in the process of transfering to new job.

How is that a good news?

Green Card applicants with approved I-140 with Employer A can switch to a new employer without losing their Priority Date in the process of transferring to a new job.

Their spouse, if they are on H4 EAD, they can continue to work, as Approved I-140 is required for H4 EAD to be active.

Stage 3: I-485 Adjustment of Status

Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status, the actual green card application which will be filed after I-140 application is approved by USCIS.

Green card visa number is available based on

  • Applicants country of birth
  • Employment-based classification
  • Priority date of the Applicant

The priority date is the date that the PERM/Labor Certification Application was filed with the DOL (EB2 and EB3).

For EB1, date I-140 is filed with USCIS is the Priority Date.

Long wait times are due to the unavailability of Green Card Visa numbers.

There is a certain number of Green card applications are made available per year per category per country.

Every month Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin,  with available visa numbers based on priority dates. Visa Bulletin now includes Final Action Dates and Filing Dates.

Final Action Dates for Employment Based Green Card

As of  May 2017 Visa Bulletin, USCIS is processing I-485 application for Indian Nationals who have PD on 22 June 2008. I’m updating this article in April 2017. That about 9 years difference. But, actual wait times for Green Card doesn’t translate to exact 9 years.

visa bulletin employment based final action dates

During President Obama Administration, Filing Dates chart were introduced that would allow applicants to file I-1485 much earlier than Final Action Dates. Here’s current (May 2017) Filing dates for I-485

i485 filing dates may 2017 visa bulletin

Current Filing Dates

  • EB2 India – 01 Feb 2009
  • EB3 India – 22 April 2006
  • EB2 China – o1 Oct 2013
  • EB3 China – 01 Sep 2015

If you compare final Action Dates for EB2 India, there’s about 8 months difference. That should give relief for some applicants to apply for I-485 and EAD.

While filing I-485 application, you could file for EAD and Travel Permit (Advanced Parole). And for others, there’s long waiting time.

Note: The Dates in the Visa Bulletin can Move backward (called Retrogression). For example, EB2 India in October 2016 Visa Bulletin was in May 2005 and after 7 months, dates moved from 2005 to 2008.

Green Card Processing Time

  • People wait for 4 to 6 years in this stage in EB2 (for India)
  • One of my co-workers got EB3 India Green Card in Oct 2015 after waiting for 13 years

If the priority date moves back from after you file for I-485, then visa numbers will not be available.

You would have to wait till visa numbers available to get Green Card. That’s when folks apply for EAD.

What about EB1 Category?

For EB1 green card process, there are just 2 stages.

  1. Stage 1: I-140 Immigrant Petition
  2. State 2: I-485 Adjustment of Status

As you can see, there is no PERM Labor Certification step and dates are Current (C) in the Visa Bulletin for EB1. Plus, there is another option called National Interest Waiver (NIW) category for EB2, where PERM Labor is not required (which we discussed before).

Questions and Answers about Green Card Process

1. Is it possible to do Green Card without H1B Visa?

Yes, it’s possible for an employer to apply for Green Card without H1B or L visa, but most likely they would not do that if you are from a country where the backlogs are huge.

2. I’m on STEM OPT and did not get selected in H1B Visa Lottery, can my employer apply for Green Card. I’m from China.

The employer can start your Green Process while on F1 Visa. But, once your STEM OPT time runs out, you will need work authorization to continue to work in the USA. You can have this discussion with your employer about this.

3. I heard about Green Card via EB5 Investment option is faster. Is that true?

Yes, if you (or your parents) can invest $500,000 or $1,000,000 dollars, then you can get Conditional Green Card in less than 2 years. employment-based-green-card-steps