In order to apply for a Green Card based on employment, you must have an approved Labor Certification OR you must be exempted from filing a Labor Certification (e.g. if you are a High-Level Employee, Multinational Manager and or a Schedule A Employee).
A labor certification is a document issued by the US Department of Labor (US DOL), which basically indicates that there is a shortage of US employees in certain occupation. Before filing a labor certification application the US employer MUST try to recruit, subject to the supervision and regulations of the US DOL, American Workers for the position, which has been offered to the foreign national. Certification may be approved ONLY if the employer can show that the position cannot be filed by an American Citizen and the foreign national candidate is in fact qualified to fill the position. Effective March 28, 2005, the US DOL is processing Labor Certifications within 60 days.
After the labor certification application is approved, the alien must next wait for a Visa number and apply for a green card, since green cards under this category are subject to annual quota. The Visa Bulletin indicates the waiting period for a Visa number.
Effective March 28, 2005 the US Department of Labor is issuing labor certifications within 45-60 days. Delays may happen, especially, when a case is selected for audit, randomly or for any other reason.
Once a labor certification has been approved and a Visa number becomes available you may file the green card application. This may be done by applying for an Immigrant Visa (if you are outside the US) OR for an Adjustment of Status (if you are in the US and eligible to adjust). During the process of the application you may request a temporary work authorization so you can start work before your green card application is approved. You must not leave the US until your green card application is approved. If you do leave before you get the green card, your application may be denied. There is an exception to this rule and you may get a special permission to leave the US for a short period of time in cases of emergency. Except in rare cases a green card through employment does normally require personal interview.
As an H-1B Visa holder you have a big advantage in these circumstances. The reason is that, as long as your labor certification OR employment based green card application is pending for 365 days or more you are entitled to extend your H-1B Visa in one year increments, beyond the statutory limit of six year, until your green card is approved.
**This is general information and is NOT intended to provide legal advice.
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