J1, H1b, EB-1, EB-2, PERM —
All of the above sounds like a foreign language to many, but to international medical graduates who are non-US citizens or green card holders/permanent residents. It’ll probably be best to learn the above jargon and add it to your daily vocabulary. As a J1 trainee and like many physicians, I need to be aware of steps I need to take to get that all important Green Card or Citizenship in order to continue living in the States.
DIY or Not?
Immigration law, especially among foreign physicians, is a big business in the States. After successfully obtaining my waiver job, I was trying to figure out the best options for my spouse to get a work visa. How can he quickly continue working at our new location? While I was under my J1 training visa, it was a simple matter of applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) under his J2 visa to work legally here.
It is not so simple after that: as a H1b dependent (while I am doing my 3 year J1 waiver under the Conrad 30 program), my spouse will be under a H4 visa, which in by itself, does not allow him to work. (Back in 2008, this is the case, since 2014, there are H4 dependents who can apply and work under EAD) So what are our options?
EB-1 would be out of reach, as I simply did not have any major publications or research papers that will qualify.
Since I have already obtained a job in an underserved area, I would qualify for an EB-2 program. Under that category, my spouse will be eligible for an EAD and be gainfully employed. After doing some research, I found out that I could self-petition for labor certification directly. One caveat is that you will need a supportive Conrad program coordinator, as they need to write a letter supporting your application and to verify your job is in an underserved area and the ‘nation’s interest’.
I wanted to be sure that our applications are complete prior to moving to my new location, so my spouse could start working right away. Right after my J1 waiver was approved, I downloaded and completed all the forms (see steps below). The current immigration fees for such applications are as follows: Form I-140 – $700/applicant, total for I-485, I-765, I-131 and fingerprinting fees – $1225/applicant – $1925/applicant. There is also an optional $1225/applicant fee to expedite your applicant processing time from 4-6 months to 15 days.
If you choose to file through an attorney, it will cost an additional $5000-$8000 in legal fees. As I had already done in depth research, I filed this applications myself and saved on the legal fees.
*Update: coming up to my 5th year on a green card, and citizenship available soon*.
Timeline: Get waiver job –> negotiate sign-on bonus/relocation bonus to include reimbursement for your legal fees if possible (that will greatly reduce your taxes on the bonus – check out this article for more details: http://foreignbornmd.com/2017/10/02/beware-high-tax-on-sign-on-bonuses/) –> review and get all forms and documents –> apply to Department of State for J1 waiver –> apply concurrently for H1b once waiver is granted and EB-2/National Interest Waiver –> start job –> get your Green Card either through NIW or PERM (employer sponsored green card, you can apply for both PERM and NIW concurrently as well).