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Can I convert from J1 visa to green card?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

J1 to green card journey, I was a J1 visa holder postdoc till 2022 and I thought that sharing my journey from J1 to green card might help J1 visa holders who want to apply for a postdoc green card.

The next post is describing how you can start step 1 of the green card process i.e. filing I-140 but before you do that, here are some questions about the postdoc green card that I myself was struggling to get answers to in the beginning. Please take a look and comment if you have more questions and would like me to answer those.

I am not an attorney but I am sharing my experience and would try my best to answer your questions.

Is it possible to apply for a Green card while being on a J1 visa?

Yes, J1 visa holders are eligible to apply for green cards.

Do I need to obtain a J1 visa waiver before I initiate the Green Card process?

Most of the J1 visas are subject to the 2-year home residency rule (Check out my previous blog about the J1 waiver) but to apply for the first step of a green card (i.e. I-140) one does not need to have a waiver in hand.

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

One needs to get the waiver before they apply for I-485/adjustment of status. You can initiate the green card process at the same time as a waiver or even before that since both stages of a green card are very time-consuming.

Is it possible to file for EB1a while on a J1 visa?

Yes, definitely! I did the same provided you have a good research profile, a good number of citations and publications, grants/patents, a number of papers reviewed, editorial members, awards, members of some good society, etc. EB1a is a self-petition and if you have a superb profile then why not.

Is it possible to apply for EB1b while being on a J1 visa?

Yes, absolutely. If your employer is willing to sponsor you then you can apply for an EB1b green card since EB1b is employer-backed.

I am a postdoc. Can I ask my university to file for EB1b?

Yes, absolutely. You can negotiate with your boss/university and then see if they are willing to do it or not. I know my postdoc friends whose university did file EB1b for them.

Which is easier EB1a or EB1b?

Tough to answer this but it totally depends on one's profile and the officer they get for the evaluation of their I-140 petition. But in short, these are a few things to consider.

  1. To file for EB1a you need to pay all the money (💰) but if you have an employer then you can definitely save a lot of bucks.

  2. For EB1a one needs to fulfill 3 out of 10 criteria determined by USCIS (here is the link) but if you do EB1b you only need to fulfill 2 criteria since there is an employer backing you.

  3. Doing an EB1b will definitely have some advantages but it does not mean 100% approval as in the end, your case is at the discretion of the officer you get.

How long does it take to apply for a green card?

The timeline is unpredictable and it depends on a lot of things like if you're doing EB1a/EB1b or EB2 NIW, the time it takes to get a J1 waiver, collecting the documents/recommendation letter for a green card, if the priority date is still current or not, etc.

At the end of the day what matters is to start the process without thinking about when you would get the green card. It's a long journey and securing a priority date is important.

Is it better to move from J1 to HIB and then apply for a Green card?

It is a personal choice, I got my green card while being on a J1 visa and I know some of my friends did that too.

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

There is no such limit, it totally depends on one's profile and situation when they are comfortable to begin the process. If you think you don't have a good profile then it is better to wait for some time and improve your profile and then initiate the process.

Do I need an attorney to file for the green card or I can do it by myself?

This is also a personal choice. If you are confident enough that you can draft a petition letter and you can respond to USCIS's RFE or NOID (request for further evidence/Notice of intent to deny) in case you get it after filing, then you can do it by yourself. But if you don't want to stress about anything then a lawyer is an ideal choice.

Is there an attorney you can recommend? Should I go for a big and popular firm?

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

Here I am sharing some of the firms I and my friends have opted for but I am sure there are a ton more. Every lawyer does a free resume evaluation please contact them and talk to them and then decide.

  • Chen Immigration: Link

  • Ellis porter: Link

  • Jasmine Kai: Link

How much does it cost to get the green card if I hire a lawyer?

The fee will depend on the firm you choose but most likely they will be the same for each firm. I hired a lawyer for both EB1a and EB2 NIW so I got a discount for doing both cases. If you decide to file only one case then the fee will vary.

  • I-140 Attorney fee (EB1a & EB2-NIW): 6000$

  • USCIS filing fee: 700$ for each case

  • I-485 Attorney fee: 1500$ for the primary applicant & 1200$ for each derivative applicant

  • USCIS fee: 1,225$ per person except for minors and 750$ for minors if the child files their I-485 petition with any one parent

This fee is subject to change with lawyers and USCIS guidelines.

If I get a green card will my dependents get it too or do they have to file separately?

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

Next: Green Card (Step 1)

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