Here's another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you're in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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My wife and I are from India. I’m 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 received her employment authorization and has been working as a doctor since then.
Can she apply for a green card? Will she get a green card sooner given her profession? If she applies for a green card, what happens to my green card?
— Humble Hubby
My deepest thanks to your wife for providing healthcare services during the pandemic. I appreciate you, your wife, and all of the individuals who have the grit and determination to start a new life in the United States and make our country strong and vibrant in the process.
Now, let’s dive into your questions.
Can my wife apply for a green card?
Yes, definitely! Your wife can apply for a green card in parallel to your green card efforts. We have many married clients who use this strategy to increase their chances and potentially get a green card faster. We also have several individual clients who apply for two different green cards in parallel.
Typically, they apply for an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card, and an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). The EB-1A has a high bar for qualifying, but the shortest wait time among the employment-based green cards. The EB-2 NIW is easier to qualify for than the EB-1A, but usually has a longer wait time.
In your wife’s case, the key will be to figure out which green card she would be a strong candidate for, and whether the processing and wait time would be shorter than the remaining wait time for your green card number. An immigration attorney can help determine the best path forward for you and your wife based on your circumstances and her qualifications.
With the importance of healthcare in the United States, your wife may be a strong candidate for the EB-2 NIW. This is one of two green cards that don’t require an employer sponsor, which means your wife could self-petition if her employer is not willing to do so.
Aimed at individuals whose field of expertise and work is considered to be important to the U.S., this green card does not require the lengthy PERM process. The PERM process is required for the standard EB-2 for candidates with an advanced degree 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 U.S. Department of Labor. Labor certification is designed to ensure that no U.S workers are qualified and available to accept jobs offered to green card candidates, and that employing the green card candidates won’t adversely affect the 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 wait time for an EB-3 green card is particularly long for individuals who were born in India because of the annual limits and the per-country caps on green cards. This is why I have long advocated eliminating the per-country caps on green cards and was thrilled when President Biden listed it as one of his legislative priorities.