Oftentimes, green card applicants are working in the United States before filing their I-485 application. For example, the H1-B-to-green card process is a common path to legal permanent resident status for many non-citizens. The I-485 follows naturally because workers prefer to stay in the United States once they have integrated into their jobs and residences, as well as the fact that immigrating back to their country of origin and starting over might be a difficult, or a counterproductive task when it comes to career decisions.
As such, many I-485 applicants are waiting to receive their green cards before their visa (non-immigrant) expires. But they also need to be interviewed under their current status before any decision is made. Upon receiving a green card, such applicants no longer have to comply with the conditionalities of their visas that were issued to them when they first arrived. This eases some of the pressure of remaining in the United States and offsets some of the stress applicants often face who are working uncertainly in the country.
One stressor that can occur during this transition is if the applicant in question is laid off, meaning they lose their job, while their I-485 is still pending or being reviewed by an officer. This presents problems because, first off, the original application they filed with their job, annual income, and organization they are working for is no longer consistent with their new situation. Thus going into a green card interview and explaining this to a USCIS officer might lead to a request for more evidence, or possibly lead the officer to think the applicant could become a public charge.
What happens if you lose your job?
Message boards and online forums where immigrants can post pressing questions have surfaced this issue, and indeed there is a procedure to go through to make sure that the individual will still have the highest chances of securing their green card and acing their green card interview.
The first bit of advice that is recommended is for applicants to realize that the I-485 they have already filed is still valid regardless of whether they lost their job or not. The policy of the USCIS regarding any form that is submitted (with a fee attached)—is that all documents are reviewed by case officers, and the USCIS will only contact applicants when they need to collect more information. In other words, applicants can use the time in between processing to get started on coming up with a new job plan.
If you lose your job you don’t need to go to the USCIS and tell them immediately. Instead, applicants need to do two things:
- Make sure you will receive an EAD—Employee Authorization Document. Sometimes I-485 applicants will already be receiving these before a green card is issued. Other non-citizens will need to apply for one.
- Use your EAD card to find temporary employment during the interim of your processing.
Oftentimes finding a high skilled job, such as the ones H1-B recipients have, takes months or even years. Firms are competitive and there are many applicants for only a few positions. This creates a conflict for those who are searching for a new job during their I-485 processing. Such individuals, according to legal experts, should simply seek a temporary job they will be able to get while their application is processing. USCIS officers who know that an applicant already has an advanced degree and skillset will see such individuals to be less of a public charge than those who perhaps don’t have a plan.