With the approval of premium processing for the EB2-NIW visa, a petitioner is theoretically able to decide on immigration at a given time and receive the green card less than two months later. Is this a realistic expectation?
As I explain in this text, this is not the case. The EB2-NIW process has three important phases that must be completed for the green card to be issued:
- The law firm prepares the process.
- USCIS adjudicates whether the process is eligible (Form I-140).
- The Green Card is processed and issued.
Here is an explanation of each:
1 – The law firm prepares the process
Depending on the amount and complexity of evidence to be collected, this phase could take 3 to 6 months on average.
2 – Adjudication by the USCIS
During this phase, the I-140 form is examined to determine eligibility. Here, the USCIS (US immigration agency) will determine if the EB2-NIW requirements are met.
3 – Processing and Issuing the Green Card
This issuance can occur either through adjustment of status (for those who are physically in the USA) or through the consulate (for those who are outside the country). In all cases, the visa application phase has taken between 6 and 12 months if the visa is available.
And what does the question of visa availability mean? Every year a finite number of visas are made available and this availability/waiting list can be tracked via the Visa Bulletin.
For a long time EB2-NIW was “Current”. This means that in a hypothetical scenario of a case being submitted on today’s date (March 7, 2023), thus receiving today’s priority date, and being approved today, we could immediately request immigration visa processing either through consular (by submitting form DS-260) or adjustment of status (by submitting form I-485). However, since the end of last year, the Visa Bulletin date has moved back to the EB2-NIW category.
Thus, applicants who have a file submitted after the date on the Visa Bulletin (which is currently November 1, 2022), and thus receive a priority date not yet covered by the Visa Bulletin, must, after USCIS adjudication (approval of the I-140 form), wait for the Visa Bulletin to cover the priority date of their file before they can apply for visa processing and thus the green card.
So, this adds a time frame to the process over which we have no control. After all, although the Visa Bulletin is made available every month, it is not possible to predict when the dates will “move forward” so that we can begin consular processing or adjustment of status (which itself averages 6-12 months).
I hope that your doubts have been cleared up.
Ana Schaffert, Immigration Attorney