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J1 Visa to Green Card: My Success Story for I-140 Application Process

The first step in transitioning from a J1 visa to a Green Card involves the submission of an I-140 application. Regardless of whether you are applying under the EB1 or EB2 Green Card category (Employment-Based Green Card), having a J1 waiver is not essential for filing an I-140 petition.

However, a J1 waiver becomes essential in the second step of the J1 visa to Green Card process, known as Adjustment of Status, Form I-485.

In this blog, I'll share my experience with the green card process for Form I-140 filing to help fellow postdocs. The first thing is to check if you qualify for the EB1 or EB2 category. I'm providing a link to the USCIS website for you to see the criteria. At first, it might seem challenging, but with a closer look, you'll discover that it's quite manageable.

Remember, EB1 is the first preference for employment-based immigration. You may be eligible if you're a noncitizen with extraordinary ability, an outstanding professor or researcher, or a multinational executive or manager.

Table of Contents: J1 Visa to Green Card

EB1a vs EB1b

EB1 has two main types: EB1a and EB1b. The major difference between EB1a and EB1b is explained below:

  • To qualify for EB1a, you need to meet a minimum of three criteria (out of ten), and you can either file yourself or have a lawyer do it for you. No employer sponsorship is needed.

  • To qualify for EB1b, two criteria (out of six) must be met, and it requires employer sponsorship, so you can't file by yourself in this case.

  • There is a third type also, EB1c which is for managers and executives.

J1 visa to green card

At times, it can be quite challenging to determine whether you qualify for the EB1 category. To address this, I have written a separate blog on EB1 Extraordinary Ability examples. You should read this to get some idea.

If you believe you don't meet the requirements for the EB1 category, you can invest time in enhancing your credentials, such as reviewing papers or taking on editorial roles in journals.

It's not mandatory to have a large number of published papers to qualify for the EB1 category consistently. There are several other criteria that you can tailor to fit your profile.

EB1 Free Evaluation

Why should I go through an EB1 free evaluation? Perhaps I am not ready.

You don't need to be ready for this; you should undergo an 'EB1 free evaluation' right away for the following reasons:

  • Lawyers don't charge for EB1 evaluations; they're free.

  • You can even try different lawyers and get their individual opinions to gain insight into where you stand.

  • An early evaluation will give you more time to improve your credentials.

  • Lastly, some lawyers even offer a money-back guarantee if they can't get your case approved.

What is needed for an 'EB1 free evaluation'?

You have the option to send your curriculum vitae (CV) for a free evaluation to an attorney who will provide feedback on your EB1 eligibility. Lawyers can also advise on areas where improvement may be needed if someone falls short of meeting the three criteria. Even if you don't qualify for EB1, lawyers will tell you if you fit for the EB2 category.

I've previously listed some reputable lawyers in my blog (refer to below). If you are considering the EB1 category, hiring a lawyer is wise.

EB1 Extraordinary Ability Examples

These were my credentials, which you can refer to as an example of extraordinary ability for the EB1 category during the J1 visa to green card transition.

  • Number of Publications: 47 published, 1 in submission

  • Citation Record: 1200+

  • Number of Papers Reviewed: 21

  • Editorial/Guest Editor Board Member: 2 Journals

I was on a J1 visa and working as a postdoctoral scholar when I initiated my green card application. I hired a lawyer for a free evaluation, and they informed me that I had the credentials to apply under the EB1a category.

Once you are assured and satisfied with the lawyer's evaluation, you can pay them for further assistance. After payment, you can create a sign-in on their portal, where you can communicate with them and upload all the necessary documents for the attorneys to review and address any questions you may have.

I-140 Application Process

There are mainly two steps for filing a green card application in any category. The first one is to file the I-140 petition, and the second step is to file the I-485 for Adjustment of Status. These are the steps in the EB1 green card application process that the lawyer instructed me to follow for the I-140 petition:

Summary of Contributions for Green Card

  • Lawyers will send you a contribution template summary that you need to fill out for the green card application. Essentially, the lawyer requires a plain-language outline of your research (a summary understandable to a non-researcher), the most significant contributions of your research, the implementation of your work by others, patents or implementation of patents, awards/grants, etc.

  • You need to provide specific examples for everything. This will help the attorney understand your work and build a stronger case for you.

Recommendation Letter for EB1 Application

Afterward, you need to provide a list of recommenders willing to recommend you for your EB1 application. Essentially, you need 1-2 dependent and 4-6 independent recommenders, depending on your profile.

  • Dependent recommenders: Individuals who have worked directly with you.

  • Independent recommenders: Individuals with whom you have never worked or studied in the same institution and who only know you through your publications and conferences.

The recommenders should hold a higher position than yours. For example, if you are a postdoc, a recommendation from another postdoc may not be as effective. You need someone in a reputable position in the field. In my case, I obtained recommendations from different countries, not just the US, showcasing that my work is recognized worldwide.

Along with the list of recommenders, you will need the recommender's CV. Once you have the recommenders, the attorney will draft all the recommendation letters and upload them to the portal for you to review and get signed by the recommenders. After the recommendation letters are ready, the lawyer will start drafting your petition letter.

EB1 Petition Letter

The EB1 petition letter explains your research summary, and achievements, and discusses your recommendation letters in detail. Essentially, it is the legal argument stating the basis for being granted a green card.

The petition letter communicates with USCIS about your credentials and how you fulfill the criteria to apply for a green card. The lawyer will upload the petition letter to the portal for you to review.

Form I-140 and Others

Once the petition letter is finalized, the next step involves all the forms. The lawyer will assist you in filling out I-140, G28, and G1145 forms, and will ask you to review and physically sign those forms.

You need to print out the forms and all supporting documents and physically mail them to your respective attorneys for their final review. They will include all exhibits in your file before sending it to USCIS. Please see the list of supporting documents at the bottom.

You can also request the lawyer to print out everything for you, but additional charges may apply. In my case, the lawyer was charging $300; therefore, I decided to take the printouts and mail them to the lawyer.

After carefully reviewing all the documents, the lawyer will inform you if any further changes are needed. Once everything is finalized, they will send the documents to USCIS.

Once the documents reach USCIS, they will send you a hard copy of the receipt notice (I-797), which will contain a receipt number that you can use to track the case.

I-140 Documents Checklist

This is the checklist of documents required for filing Form I-140. I've also added some extra documents because every case is different, and having those might make your case even stronger.

  • Copy of all forms (I-140, G28 & G-1145)

  • USCIS Check: $715; if you opt for premium processing: $2,805

  • Curriculum Vitae

  • Copy of your highest degree (Ph.D. in my case): I had to obtain a degree verification certificate since I did my Ph.D. outside the US.

  • The first three pages of all publications

  • Recommendation letters and Recommenders' CV (first 3 pages)

  • Proof of peer-reviewed work (in my case, "Thank you email" received after peer review)

  • Citation record: e.g., Google Scholar profile

  • Evidence of Editorial Board Membership

  • The lawyer discussed my citations in the petition letter, so I had to print out those articles too.

Other documents that I uploaded to the attorney's portal:

  • Passport front, back, and visa page copies

  • Copies of DS-2019

  • Latest I-94

Each situation is different. If you have extra proof, you can include it. For instance:

  • Proof from media or news reports

  • Proof of getting prestigious funding

  • Proof of receiving respected awards

  • Proof of being a member of a professional group

  • Proof of having a patent and putting it into action

Please note that I am not a lawyer, and I followed these steps in 2020 when I was on a J1 visa. USCIS rules can change, so it's essential to check the USCIS website or consult with an attorney for updated guidance.

I highly recommend hiring an attorney because they have valuable insights to strengthen your case and can guide you effectively through legal procedures. Additionally, the lawyer possesses statistics on each officer assigned by USCIS to our cases and can guide you in case you receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).

Look out for my next blog on Step 2, which is the I-485 filing! In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. Thank you.

FAQs on J1 Visa to EB1 Green Card

How to stay in the U.S. after my J1 visa expires?

You have three choices depending on the time remaining on your J1 visa. The primary condition is to secure a J1 waiver if you have a 2-year home residency requirement. Without a waiver and with an expiring visa, you must leave the country right away. If you have obtained a J1 waiver, you can either convert from J1 to H1B, switch to a B2 visa, or apply for a green card well in advance. Read more.

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1 Comment

Aug 28, 2023

Hi Hina, Thanks for the information about EB1. Can you please provide some information on timelines, from I-140 submission acceptance, what is PD, if it has a role for EB1 or is it current? I-485 submission/acceptance? This will be helpful. Thanks


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