The Road to a Schedule A Green Card: The Essential Steps You Need to Know
The Schedule A green card process is a streamlined way for certain types of foreign workers to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. For Schedule A occupations, the Department of Labor (DOL) has predetermined there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available. Because of the occupational shortage of these U.S. workers, the DOL has “pre-certified” Schedule A occupations. An employer who wishes to hire a person for a Schedule A occupation is not required to test the U.S. labor market and file a PERM application with the DOL. In this article, we will discuss the steps involved in the Schedule A green card process.
Step 1: Determine Eligibility
The first step in the Schedule A green card process is to determine if the foreign worker is eligible for Schedule A designation. The following occupations are the Schedule A occupations:
- Group I – physical therapists and professional nurses; and
- Group II – immigrants of exceptional ability in the sciences or arts, including college and university teachers, and immigrants of exceptional ability in the performing arts.
In this article, we will focus on Group I – physical therapists and professional nurses. These workers must have a job offer from a U.S. employer who is willing to sponsor them for permanent residency.
Step 2: Obtain a Prevailing Wage Determination
The employer must submit a prevailing wage application to the Department of Labor (DOL). The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. The DOL issues a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) based on the specific position, job duties, requirements for the position, the area of intended employment, travel requirements (if any), among other things. The prevailing wage is the rate the employer must at least offer the permanent position at. It is also the rate that must be paid to the beneficiary once the green card is received. Current processing times for prevailing wage applications are 6 to 7 months.
Step 3: Post the Notice of Filing
The purpose of the Notice of Filing is to alert other employees of the position the employer is seeking to fill under Schedule A. The Notice of Filing must be placed at the job site for ten consecutive business days. The Notice of Filing must contain the job description, wage, and an attestation that the notice was posted for ten consecutive business days. The notice must also provide the address of the appropriate DOL Certifying Officer and state that any person may provide documentary evidence bearing on the Schedule A petition to the appropriate DOL Certifying Officer.
Step 4: File the Schedule A Designation Petition
The employer must apply for Schedule A designation by submitting an uncertified PERM application to USCIS in conjunction with an I-140 immigrant petition. These petitions must be filed with a valid PWD and documentation that a Notice of Filing was posted no more than 180 days prior to filing.
The following supporting documentation is required for Schedule A petitions for physical therapists and professional nurses:
- Form I-140;
- An uncertified PERM application;
- Form G-28 if represented by an attorney;
- A Prevailing Wage Determination;
- Copy of the Notice of Filing;
- Copies of all in-house media, whether electronic or printed, in accordance with the normal procedures used in the employer’s organization for the recruitment of similar positions;
- Translations of any document not in English;
- Evidence that the employer has the ability to pay the proffered wage;
- Educational diploma and transcripts;
- License in home country;
- License in the state of intended employment or letter indicating applicant is qualified to sit for the licensing exam upon entry; and
- Health care certification/VisaScreen (not required to submit with the I-140 petition but can submit if available).
Step 5: File the Green Card Application
Once the Schedule A petition is approved, the beneficiary will check the Visa Bulletin to determine if there is an available green card. The actual green card application can only be filed if the beneficiary’s priority date is current, meaning a green card is immediately available to the beneficiary.
Every month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa (green card) numbers and indicates when a green card has become available to an applicant based on their preference category, country of birth, and priority date. The date the Schedule A petition is filed establishes the beneficiary’s priority date.
Once the beneficiary’s priority date is current, he/she will either go through adjustment of status or consular processing to receive the green card.
Adjustment of status involves applying for the green card while in the U.S. After an adjustment of status application is filed (Form I-485), the beneficiary is notified to appear at an Application Support Center for biometrics collection, which usually involves having his/her picture and signature taken and being fingerprinted. This information will be used to conduct required security checks and for eventual creation of a green card, employment authorization (work permit) or advance parole document. The beneficiary may be notified of the date, time, and location for an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding his/her application. Not all applications require an interview. USCIS officials will review the beneficiary’s case to determine if it meets one of the exceptions. If the interview is successful and USCIS approves the application, the beneficiary will receive the green card.
Consular processing involves applying for the green card at a U.S. consulate in the beneficiary’s home country. The consular office sets up an appointment for the beneficiary’s interview when his/her priority date becomes current. If the consular officer grants the immigrant visa, the beneficiary is given a Visa Packet. The beneficiary will pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee which is used by USCIS to process the Visa Packet and produce the green card. The beneficiary will present the Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will inspect and determine whether to admit the beneficiary into the U.S. If admitted, the beneficiary will receive the green card in the mail. The green card serves as proof of permanent residency in the U.S. and allows the individual to live and work in the U.S.
Benefits of the Schedule A Green Card Process
The benefits of the Schedule A green card process is time and cost efficiency. An employer is not required to conduct the recruitment process – a process which can be very costly to the employer. Importantly, the employer does not have to file the PERM application with the DOL, where adjudication is currently taking around 8 to 9 months.
The Schedule A green card process is a valuable option for certain types of foreign workers who are seeking permanent residency in the U.S. By following these steps and working with an experienced immigration attorney, foreign workers can successfully navigate this process and achieve their goals of living and working in the U.S.
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated to helping our clients navigate the U.S. business immigration system. Because the U.S. business immigration system can be tricky, it is always best to contact a qualified immigration attorney to help come up with the proper solution for each individual case.
By: Camille Joson
Camille Joson is a Senior Associate Attorney in Reddy & Neumann, P.C.’s PERM Labor Certification Department, where she assists clients in the beginning stages of the green card process.