Form I-140 Approved: Next Steps to Navigate Your Immigration Journey

Upon receiving approval of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, beneficiaries and their employers enter a critical phase. The approval signifies United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) recognition of a foreign worker’s eligibility for an employment-based visa. The beneficiary’s attention must shift to consolidate their legal status, which often involves choosing between adjustment of status, processed domestically, or consular processing, handled through a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Beneficiaries receive an official notice from USCIS, and a courtesy email is typically sent to both the employer and beneficiary with details of the approval. It is essential for the beneficiary to retain this approval notice for their records. After I-140 approval, beneficiaries also need to be mindful of priority dates and visa bulletin updates, as these determine when they can apply for visa issuance or adjustment of status.
In the case of adjustment of status, convenience plays a significant role, allowing the application to be filed by mail with USCIS without requiring an interview abroad. This path serves those residing within the United States. Employers and beneficiaries must navigate these choices with precision and in compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations.

Understanding Form I-140 Approval

The approval of Form I-140 is a pivotal moment in the employment-based visa process, marking the recognition of a noncitizen’s eligibility for an immigrant visa by USCIS.

Significance of Form I-140 Approval

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants Form I-140 approval to signify that a noncitizen worker has met the qualifications for an employment-based immigrant visa category. This approval is essential for an individual’s progress toward lawful permanent residency in the U.S. It confirms that the petitioner (usually the employer) has established a valid job offer and that the beneficiary (the employee) possesses the required skills and qualifications.

Validity Period of the Approval

The approval of an I-140 petition does not expire; it remains valid indefinitely. However, it is important for beneficiaries to act on their approved I-140 in a reasonable amount of time, especially if they plan to adjust status to permanent resident or if they are in a nonimmigrant status that requires extension based on the approved I-140.

Next Steps After Approval

Once an I-140 petition is approved, the beneficiary and their employer must decide on the best course of action to proceed towards lawful permanent residency. This typically involves either adjusting status within the United States or applying for a visa through consular processing abroad.

Adjustment of Status Filings

Individuals who are currently in the United States can file for an Adjustment of Status (AOS) through Form I-485 to become a lawful permanent resident. This step is contingent on the availability of a visa number. The applicant must ensure they have a valid nonimmigrant status until their AOS application is filed. Once the I-485 is filed, the applicant can remain in the country legally, even after the expiration of their nonimmigrant status, while their application is processed.

Consular Processing

For those outside the United States or who opt not to adjust their status within the U.S., consular processing is available. This requires the approved I-140 beneficiary to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. Upon approval, the beneficiary can then enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates

The U.S. Department of State issues a monthly Visa Bulletin that provides the latest priority dates for visa availability. Beneficiaries must compare their priority date—the date when their employer filed the I-140—with the dates listed in the Visa Bulletin. If their priority date is before the date listed for their visa category and country, they can proceed with the AOS filing or consular processing.

Employment Authorization

Once an I-140 petition is approved, the principal beneficiary has crossed a significant milestone on the path to employment-based permanent residence. Employment authorization in certain circumstances may be available for individuals with an approved I-140.

EAD for Derivative Beneficiaries

Derivative beneficiaries, such as spouses and minor children of the principal applicant, may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) while the I-140 petition is pending or after it is approved. This EAD allows them to work legally in the United States. The process includes filing Form I-765, providing the necessary evidence, and ensuring consistency with their current nonimmigrant statuses.

Travel Considerations Post-Approval

After the approval of an I-140 petition, beneficiaries often have questions about their ability to travel outside the United States. It is crucial to understand the travel privileges granted and the documents required to ensure re-entry into the U.S. without jeopardizing the immigration process.

Advance Parole Document

An individual who has an approved I-140 petition and is in the process of adjusting status to obtain lawful permanent residency should consider applying for an Advance Parole Document before traveling abroad. Advance Parole permits one to travel back to the United States without the need for a visa. This document is particularly important if the applicant’s nonimmigrant visa has expired or if their status does not automatically re-validate at the port of entry.

To obtain Advance Parole, the applicant must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and receive approval before leaving the country. Traveling without Advance Parole can result in the abandonment of the pending adjustment of status application (Form I-485), leading to significant delays or even the possibility of having to restart the process. Therefore, it is advised to secure this document to maintain continuity in the immigration timeline.

Changing Employers After I-140 Approval

After an individual’s Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, is approved, they may change employers. It’s important to understand the implications for one’s immigration status and the steps that need to be taken.

Porting Under AC21

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) allows an individual to change jobs or employers without affecting the status of an approved I-140 petition, provided certain conditions are met. The individual may keep their priority date and carry it over to a new employer’s petition, a process known as “porting.”

Conditions for AC21 Portability:

  • The new job must be in the same or a similar occupational classification as the job for which the original I-140 was filed.
  • The individual’s Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, must have been pending for at least 180 days.

In practice, if an individual decides to change employers after the I-140 is approved but before the I-485 has been pending for 180 days, the new employer must file a new PERM Labor Certification and a new I-140 petition.

Addressing Delays and RFEs

After an I-140 petition approval, beneficiaries often face delays or receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). Efficient handling of these situations is crucial to maintain the momentum towards residency.

Responding to a Request for Evidence (RFE)

When an RFE is issued, USCIS requires additional evidence to make a decision on the case. Responding effectively involves the following steps:

  • Review the RFE carefully: It’s important to understand exactly what documentation or information is being requested.
  • Gather the evidence: Collect all requested documents, making sure they are current, accurate, and relevant.
  • Submit before the deadline: Ensure that the response is comprehensive and is submitted before the deadline provided by USCIS.

A timely and complete response to an RFE can help avoid further delays.

Dealing with USCIS Delays

Processing times after I-140 petition approval can vary, and delays can occur due to several reasons. Here are strategies to address delays:

  • Case Status Checks: Regularly check the case status online through the USCIS case status tool.
  • Service Requests: If the case is beyond the posted processing times, a service request can be created.
  • Congressional Liaison: Contacting a congressional representative may assist in obtaining updates or expediting a delayed case.

Timely action and follow-ups are key when addressing USCIS delays.

Planning for Green Card Interview

After the I-140 petition approval, the Green Card interview is a critical step in the process of obtaining permanent residency. Applicants must approach this phase with careful preparation and a clear understanding of what is expected.

Preparing Documentation

Applicants should compile a comprehensive set of documents to bring to their Green Card interview. This should include:

  • Original forms of all application materials: Including the I-140 approval notice.
  • Proof of eligibility for the Green Card: Such as job offer letters and evidence of employment qualifications.
  • Legal documents: Passports, travel documentation, and any prior immigration forms.
  • Civil documents: Birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), and any divorce decrees.

Interview Tips and Common Questions

The applicant should:

  • Be punctual: Arrive at the interview location early to allow for any unforeseen delays.
  • Dress professionally: Which conveys respect for the process.

During the interview, they should:

  • Listen carefully and answer questions directly and honestly.
  • Stay calm and collected: Even if faced with unexpected questions.

Interviewers commonly ask about:

  1. Employment history and current job duties.
  2. Educational background and qualifications.
  3. How the applicant’s skills fit the job they are being sponsored for.
  4. Personal information: To verify the details in the application and to assess the applicant’s integrity and admissibility.

By following these guidelines, applicants can navigate the Green Card interview with greater confidence and poise.