Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above the limits and pursue their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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My wife and I are from India. I am a software engineer and have an H-1B visa. My wife has a dependent H-4 visa. The company that sponsored me for the H-1B also sponsored me for an EB-3 green card, which was approved about three years ago, but I’m still waiting for a green card number. My wife got her work permit and has been working as a doctor ever since.
Can she apply for a green card? Is she more likely to get a green card because of her profession? What happens to my green card if she applies for a green card?
— Humble Hubby
My deepest thanks to your wife for providing health services during the pandemic. I appreciate you, your wife, and all those who have the courage and determination to start a new life in the United States, making our country strong and vibrant in the process.
Now let’s get to your questions.
Can my wife apply for a green card?
Yes absolutely! Your wife can apply for a green card in parallel with your green card efforts. We have many married clients using this strategy to increase their chances and potentially get a green card faster. We also have several individual customers applying for two different green cards in parallel.
Usually they apply for an EB-1A Green Card for extraordinary ability and an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). The EB-1A has a high qualifying bar, but the shortest waiting time among the employment-based green cards. The EB-2 NIW is easier to qualify than the EB-1A, but usually has a longer waiting time.
In your wife’s case, the key is to find out which green card she would be a good candidate for and whether the processing and waiting time would be shorter than the remaining waiting time for your green card number. An immigration attorney can help determine the best way forward for you and your wife based on your circumstances and her qualifications.
Given the importance of healthcare in the United States, your wife may be a strong candidate for the EB-2 NAV. This is one of two green cards that doesn’t require an employer sponsor, meaning your wife can file herself if her employer doesn’t want it.
This green card is for individuals whose expertise and work are considered important to the US and does not require a lengthy PERM process. The PERM process is required by the standard EB-2 for candidates with advanced degrees or exceptional ability, and the green card your company sponsored you for, the EB-3, for skilled workers and professionals.
PERM, which stands for Program Electronic Review Management, is the system used to apply for labor certification from the United States Department of Labor. Employment certification is intended to ensure that no U.S. workers are qualified and available to accept jobs offered to green card candidates, and that hiring the green card candidates will not have an adverse effect on wages and working conditions of American workers.
Will my wife get a green card sooner?
Even with a three-year head start on your EB-3, the answer to that question is most likely yes. As you know, the waiting time for an EB-3 green card is particularly long for individuals born in India because of the annual and country limits on green cards. This is why I’ve long advocated abolishing country-by-country limits on green cards, and was thrilled when President Biden listed this as one of his legislative priorities.