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I’ve Filed My Green Card: Now What?

Paraphrasing James Madison, our Nation’s fourth president and a Founding Father: The sectors of American life which have encouraged immigration have advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture, technology and the arts. America is indebted to immigration for its prosperity.

What should we expect after filing a Green Card? People wait years if not decades to file their I-485, Application to Adjust Status. We appreciate that filing the Green Card application marks a significant milestone in the lives of individuals and families seeking to establish permanent residency in the United States. Beyond its legal implications, obtaining a Green Card opens doors to a myriad of opportunities, from employment prospects to access to social benefits to the ability to reunite with family members and most ultimately—American Citizenship.

Filing a Green Card embodies a commitment to contribute to the cultural fabric and economic vitality of the United States while pursuing one’s aspiration and securing prosperity for future generations. However, navigating the process can complex and fraught with known as well as unforeseeable pitfalls, with various requirements and potential challenges along the way. Understanding what to expect after filing for a Green Card is crucial for applicants to effectively plan their future and ensure a smooth transition into their new status as lawful permanent residents of the United States.

Typically, a Green Card is filed either 1) at the same time as or “concurrently” with a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or 2) subsequent to the approval of the Form I-140. Once the I-485 is filed, USCIS will provide an I-797 Receipt Notice to reflect the pending Green Card filing. This receipt notice provides lawful presence in the United States while the case is pending.

While not required, individuals will often (and should!) file for interim work and travel documentation. Absent another work visa, a pending Green Card does not provide any work or travel authorizations. In fact, taking unauthorized employment or travelling without the proper documentation can and will result in the denial of your Green Card petition.

Therefore, at the time of filing the Green Card, it is a best practice to also file an I-765 Application for Work Authorization as well as an I-131, Application Travel Document. Upon approval, the approved I-765, also known as an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD” will provide plenary work authorization while the Green Card case is pending with USCIS. Further, upon approval the approved I-131, also known as Advance Parole or “AP”, will provide plenary travel authorization while the Green Card case is pending with USCIS.

How long does this whole Green Card approval process take? As a matter of course, USCIS will approve the EAD and AP long before they approve the I-485 Green Card application. For a number of reasons we don’t get into today, USCIS tends to take their sweet time approving the final I-485. Typically, USCIS will typically provide the EAD/AP within 2-4 months of filing whereas it may take 12, 18, 24+ months for the final GC approval.

What should I expect while I wait for my Green Card approval? In a typical employment-based Green Card case, as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang—the waiting is the hardest part.

Once USCIS intakes the case, they will typically send a Biometrics Appointment notice within 2-8 weeks. Here, the Alien goes to their local USCIS office to take a quick photo and provide their fingerprints. USCIS has the authority to waive biometrics and re-use previous biometrics.

After the biometrics, we should see the EAD/AP approvals in short time. These act as “Green Card Light”—meaning you can work and travel “as if” you are a Green Card holder but for that final approval that we’re waiting for.

If USCIS has any issues with documentation in the file or requests further documentation, they will provide a “Request for Evidence” or “RFE”. USCIS typically provides ~85 days to provide a response to an RFE.

If USCIS is happy with the file, they will either 1) approve the Green Card petition straight away or 2) call you and your family into the local USCIS field office for an interview. If you are called for an interview

If I am called for a Green Card interview, does that mean something is wrong with my case or that they will deny it? Not at all! Interviews are very normal. In essence, USCIS is wanting to see that the Alien is 1) truthful and 2) is the person that the forms and biometrics have spoken to.

From the time of our nation’s founding until the end of President Obama’s tenure, there was almost no such thing as employment-based Green Card interviews. They were almost routinely waived as these interviews are an immense waste of government and individual resources.

Along came Trump. Everyone—without hesitation or thought—was required to attend Green Card interviews. I don’t have the time or the patience to describe the negative impacts this had on US businesses and taxpayers.

Since Biden has taken office, USCIS has largely done away with employment-based GC interviews. While we still see them issued, we just see this as one more elementary step in the approval process. By and large, 90% or so of Green Card applicants have their interview waived by USCIS.

In the interview, the USCIS Office typically goes through the questions on the I-485 Form. What is your name? Date of birth? What is your spouse’s name? What is your father’s name? Who is your employer? What do you do for that company? What is your address?

An individual should know these answers. If the person at the interview doesn’t have a clue or is answering totally off-base, USCIS will know something is amiss and will deny the case. It is rare that things go awry during an interview.

An individual is not required to have an attorney present at these interviews. However, understanding the peace of mind an attorney’s presence might provide, practitioners are more than willing to provide representation at these events. An attorney might be valuable for note taking during the interview as well as interjecting points of fact or order should the USCIS Officer be operating under mistaken understanding.

What are the chances my Green Card is denied? Generally speaking, Green Card applications are denied at a low rate. Typically, an individual will have the educational and experience background to qualify for the Green Card. Therefore, the only thing that might impact a Green Card approvability is the issue of inadmissibility. USCIS has a few grounds: health (communicable  diseases); controlled substance use; criminal convictions, accrual of unlawful presence, among others.

If you don’t have concerns about inadmissibility, you should really have no concerns about the denial of your GC.

My Green Card is approved. Can I file for citizenship now?

Not yet, but soon. Once an individual is granted Lawful Permanent Resident status, aka has an approved Green Card, they are entitled to file for citizenship after five years from the date of approval, with certain conditions related to time continually spent in the US after approval of the Green Card.

To file for citizenship, one files an N-400 which can be filed online or by paper. To qualify for U.S. citizenship after obtaining a Green Card, applicants must meet several criteria apart from possessing the GC for at least five years. USCIS will inquire whether during the five years preceding filing for citizenship whether the applicant spent at least half of their time physically present in the United States, with trips outside the country that last more than six months potentially disrupting the continuity of residence. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate good moral character, avoiding certain criminal offenses, and possess basic English language skills, with exceptions for certain age groups and disabilities. They must also pass a civics test showing their knowledge of U.S. history and government, take an oath of allegiance to the United States, and may be required to attend an integration interview to review their application and assess their English and civics knowledge.

For more information, or for a detailed conversation regarding any questions or issues in the Labor Certification, I-140, or I-485 Green Card process, I invite you to schedule a time to speak here.

By Ryan A. Wilck, Partner and Attorney at Law

Ryan Wilck is a Managing Partner and attorney at Reddy & Neumann, P.C. with over a decade of US immigration law experience, enthusiastic and proactive in his approach assisting clients and their employees through the various phases of the permanent residency a/k/a Green Card process. “Concilio et labore” is not only the motto of Ryan’s favorite sports club but is also his life’s motto; all things come through wisdom and effort. Ryan is passionate about gaining the trust of his clients by utilizing a relentless and detail-oriented approach to understand their specific goals and concerns, hoping to instill a sense of confidence and stability. Whatever your immigration problem or interest, he and his team will find a solution, through wisdom and effort. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. has been serving the business community for over 20 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on employment-based business immigration. We work with employers and their employees, helping navigate the complex immigration process efficiently and cost-effective.

 We are committed to assisting our clients with navigating the complex PERM Labor Certification (ETA 9089 and other challenging immigration matters as an accomplished immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. Our team is here to offer the direction and support you require, whether you’re a company trying to hire top talent or a foreign worker seeking to develop a career in the United States. To find out more about how we can help you with your immigration issues, get in touch with us right away.