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Transitioning from J1 Visa to Green Card: A Guide to Permanent Residency for Postdoc

My transition from a J1 visa to a Green Card: As a postdoc on a J1 visa until 2022, I see value in sharing my journey to benefit fellow J1 visa postdocs aspiring to apply for a green card and become permanent residents in the United States.

In the upcoming posts, I'll also detail the initial step of the J1 visa to green card process – filing Form I-140 and I-485. But before we delve into that, I encountered several questions while transitioning from a J1 visa to a green card that initially puzzled me.

This blog addresses those questions, and I invite you to read them. Feel free to comment if you have additional questions that you'd like me to address. I am not an attorney, but I am sharing my experience and will do my best to answer your questions.

Table of Contents: J1 Visa to Green Card

J1 Visa to Green Card Timeline

The timeline for a J1 visa to a green card can range from a minimum of one year to several years. The J1 visa to green card timeline is unpredictable and depends on various factors, such as:

  1. Where You Were Born: If you were born in India or China, it might take longer because there are many people in line.

  2. Your Citizenship and Birthplace: If you're from India or China but were born in another country, it might be a bit easier. Birthplace matters.

  3. Type of Green Card: There are different types, like EB1a/EB1b or EB2 NIW, and they each have their timelines.

  4. Premium Processing: If you choose premium processing, when applying for step 1 (I-140), it will speed up the process.

  5. J1 Waiver Time: If you need a J1 waiver, that will add some time.

  6. Getting Documents Ready: Collecting all the documents, and preparing petition letters and recommendation letters you need for your green card application takes time.

  7. Priority Date: This is like reserving your spot in line. If your line moves faster, you might get your green card sooner.

At the end of the day, what matters is initiating the process without thinking about when you'll receive the green card. It's a lengthy journey, and securing a priority date is crucial.

Can a J1 visa apply for a green card?

Yes, it is possible to begin the J1 visa to green card application process while holding a J1 visa, but not every J1 visa holder qualifies. Meeting specific criteria is essential to enhance the chances of green card approval.

The EB2 category, while facing a long backlog, generally has fewer obstacles. In contrast, the EB1 category is relatively faster but demands higher credentials. Opting for an employer-sponsored green card involves comparatively fewer criteria compared to self-filing.

Do I need to obtain a waiver before I initiate the J1 visa to green card process?

Most J1 visas are subject to the 2-year home residency rule. However, to apply for the first step of a green card (i.e., I-140 filing), one does not need to have a J1 waiver in hand.

Briefly, the J1 visa to green card process is divided into two steps:

It's essential to obtain the J1 waiver before applying for I-485 i.e. adjustment of status. You can initiate the green card process concurrently with a J1 waiver or even before that, as both stages of the green card process are time-consuming.

Is it feasible to initiate the J1 to EB1a green card process while on a J1 visa?

Yes, definitely! I did the same, assuming you have a strong research profile with a substantial number of citations, publications, grants/patents, involvement in reviewing several papers, editorial memberships, awards, and membership in reputable societies, etc. EB1a is a self-petition, and if you possess an outstanding profile, why not consider it?

My credentials were based on the following criteria: Google Scholar

  • Published papers

  • Citation Index

  • Editor

  • Reviewer

Is it feasible to initiate the J1 to EB1b green card process while on a J1 visa?

Yes, it is feasible to initiate the J1 to EB1b green card process while on a J1 visa. If your employer is willing to sponsor you, then you can apply for a J1 visa to green card transition through the EB1b category, as EB1b is employer-backed.

This category, specifically designed for outstanding professors and researchers, enables individuals to pursue a green card through employer sponsorship. However, it's essential to meet the specific eligibility criteria for the EB1b category to ensure a successful application.

As a postdoc, may I request my university to file for an EB1b Green Card?

Yes, absolutely. You can negotiate with your boss or university and see if they are willing to file for an EB1b green card on your behalf. I know postdoc friends whose universities have filed EB1b green cards for them.

Is the EB1a or EB1b green card category easier to obtain?

Tough to answer, but it depends on one's profile and the evaluating officer for their I-140 petition. In short, consider the following before you decide on the EB1a or EB1b green card category:

  1. To file for EB1a green card, you need to pay all the required fees (💰). However, if you have an employer, you can save a lot of money.

  2. For an EB1a green card, one needs to fulfill 3 out of 10 criteria determined by USCIS. On the other hand, with an EB1b green card, you only need to fulfill 2 criteria since an employer is backing you.

  3. Choosing EB1b may have some advantages, but it doesn't guarantee 100% approval, in the end, your case is at the discretion of the evaluating officer.

Can EB2 be converted to EB1?

Yes, it is possible to convert from EB2 to EB1. For example, if someone initially applied for a green card under the EB-2 category but later meets the criteria for EB-1 (such as excelling in a particular field, being an outstanding professor or researcher, or becoming a manager in a large company), they can switch their application to EB-1. Additionally, their priority date remains the same as the EB2 application.

Is it better to transition from a J1 visa to an H1B visa and then apply for a green card?

It is a personal choice; I obtained my green card while on a J1 visa after securing the J1 waiver, and I know some friends who followed the same path. Additionally, I am aware of a few friends who transitioned to an H1B visa to gain time and enhance their profiles, aiming to qualify for the EB1 green card category.

I recently moved to the US on a J1 visa; do I need to wait for some time before I initiate the J1 visa to green card process?

There is no specific limit; it depends on one's profile and situation and when one feels comfortable starting the process. If you think your profile needs improvement, it's better to wait for some time, enhance your profile, and then initiate the process.

Should I hire a lawyer for the J1 visa to green card transition, or should I self-file?

It's a personal choice as well. If you feel confident in drafting a petition letter and responding to USCIS's RFE or NOID (request for further evidence/Notice of intent to deny) in case you receive one after filing, you can handle it yourself. However, if you prefer not to stress about anything, hiring a lawyer is an ideal choice.

Can you suggest a lawyer for transitioning from a J1 visa to a green card? Is it better to opt for a large and well-known firm?

Again, it is your choice. Google is filled with a list of attorneys, and you can choose based on someone's recommendation or reviews, etc. More or less, what all lawyers do is pretty much similar, so you can decide.

J1 visa to green card

I'm sharing some of the firms that my friends and I have opted for, but there are undoubtedly many more out there. Every lawyer offers a free resume evaluation, so please contact them, talk to them, and then decide. Note that I am not receiving any benefits from mentioning these names.

How much does it cost to get a green card with a lawyer?

The total cost of green card processing will depend on the firm you choose, but it's likely to be similar across different firms. I hired a lawyer for both EB1A and EB2 NIW, which resulted in a discount for processing both cases. If you decide to file only one case, the fees may vary.

  • I-140 Attorney Fee (filing EB1A & EB2-NIW both): $6,000

  • USCIS Filing Fee: $715 for each case

  • I-485 Attorney Fee: $1,500 for the primary applicant & $1,200 for each derivative applicant

  • USCIS Fee: $1,440 per person (except for minors) and $950 for minors if the child files their I-485 petition with any one parent

Please note that these fees are subject to change based on lawyers and USCIS guidelines.

If I obtain a green card, will my dependents on J2 visas automatically receive it, or do they need to file for a J2 visa to green card separately?

Yes, if the primary applicant obtains the green card, dependents (spouse/kids) will also receive the green card, provided you have filed an I-485 petition for all the dependents.

Can J1 visa holders apply for the green card lottery?

Yes, J1 visa holders are generally eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery, also known as the green card lottery. The DV Lottery is an annual program run by the U.S. Department of State that provides an opportunity for individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for a chance to obtain a U.S. green card.

Participation in the DV Lottery does not require sponsorship from an employer, family member, or any specific qualifying relationship. However, this doesn't waive off your 2-year home residency requirement, you still need a J1 waiver before you apply for adjustment of status.

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Dr hardeep Kaur
Dr hardeep Kaur
6 days ago

Hi Hina

What is the procedure for getting J1 waiver for an Indian and how much time it takes.

Hina Singh
Hina Singh
3 hours ago
Replying to

Hi Hardeep, I know the process if you are applying from the US, but not sure how you can do it from India (if your question was this). You can start here. Thanks.


giri cs
giri cs
Apr 28

Hi Hina

When the university tries to sponsor you for your eb1b application , does that mean I’ll get converted to h1b from j1.



Replying to

Generally, universities first grant you an academic H1B and then file an EB1B green card application. So yes, your visa status will change from J1 to H1B. Alternatively, if you have enough time remaining on the J1 visa, you can still obtain a green card on the J1 visa, assuming you have obtained a waiver and the priority date is current for your country. If not, you have to switch to an H1B anyway. Ultimately, you need an underlying visa. Thanks.



I filed my I-140 case outside the U.S. Now I am expecting to be admitted for a postdoc position in the U.S. Now in order to prevent any complications to get the visa for this postdoc, what should I ask the university to file for me , EB1b or J-1?



Replying to

Hi MM, I think they can sponsor you for an academic H1B visa. It's better to directly check with the university. Thanks.


Hello Hina and everyone,

Could you please suggest that we need to visit India for H1B and H4 visa stamping or can it be done in USA ?Thank you

Replying to

While traditionally you cannot obtain H-1B visa stamping within the US, there is currently a pilot program allowing for H-1B visa stamping within the country with limited slots. You can verify eligibility by checking the details here on the USCIS website. Thanks.


Hi Hina , I sent a mail to Chen almost 1 month ago. I didn’t get any reply from them. Could you please suggest what should I do to contact with them

Thank you

Replying to

You can try calling them during business hours (888.666.0969). Thanks.


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