The green card process can be time-consuming for employers and their employees – and the waiting can often cause anxieties when so much is riding on permanent residency in the U.S. Although there are some things – priority dates, for example – that are simply out of HR's control, there are some things you can do to expedite green card processing on your end.
How to expedite green card processing
Requests to have your employment-based green card application expedited with Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status are discretionary and subject to approval by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To qualify, USCIS requires that at least one of the following criteria below are met:
Severe financial loss to company or individual
This reason, for example, would apply if an applicant is currently working for your company in the United States and in order to continue working they need to obtain a green card. In this case, you would need to convince USCIS that your position in the company is essential and the company will lose a substantial amount of money if you do not receive an expedited green card.
Another example that could apply is if your foreign national employee has a spouse that's a U.S. citizen and also isn’t employed. In this reason would apply if the family would suffer severe financial loss if the foreign national does not obtain an expedited green card.
An extreme, emergency situation
If your foreign national employee fears persecution or serious harm in their home country, this reason could apply. You would have to show that expedited green card processing would save the employee from being forced to leave the United States to return to the dangerous situation in their home country.
If your foreign national employee is afflicted with a serious health condition and requires an expedited green card in order to maintain treatment for their medical condition, this reason could apply. To receive expedited green card processing, you would need to prove that, if forced to leave the United States, your employee may endure serious bodily harm and/or death.
An error made by USCIS
If USCIS issued an Request for Evidence (RFE) in error when the evidence requested was already provided in the initial green card application causing an unnecessary delay, this reason may apply. An expedited green card can be requested to make up for the lost time.
You can find the original USCIS expedite criteria here.
Expedited green card processing times
The standard processing time for a green card petitioned from outside the United States is eight to 12 months.
However, USCIS can sometimes take as little as three months to process Form I-485, which adjusts status to a permanent resident. If USCIS agrees that you meet the criteria for an expedited green card, they will process your petition as quickly as possible. Some expedited green cards are approved in a few weeks, while others still take a few months. There is no set processing time once a green card is approved for expedited processing, as they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Supporting documentation is the best way to prove you are eligible for an expedited green card and should be sent along with the application.
For more details on the green card processing times and other essential info about permanent residency, read our Comprehensive Guide to Employment-Based Green Cards.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-retained attorney or another qualified professional.