The problem with this requirement is there is not a specified time stating how long you need to be employed there. Changing jobs after obtaining your green card through employer sponsored petition could lead to repercussions you should be aware of. Below are some ways that you should navigate changing jobs with a work sponsored Legal Permanent Residency.
The USCIS grants employees a green card with the understanding that the employee shall remain employed with their employer permanently. That does not mean forever or until you retire. According to immigration law, “permanently” means an indefinite amount of time. However, Department of Labor has confirmed that permanent employment means 2 years of more of employment. So, staying at your sponsoring employer for 2 years after you receive your green card is what you need in order to secure your green card permanently. If it is important that you intend on changing jobs, wait for 2 years. It is sometimes possible to change jobs sooner. For example if the company experiences hardship financially or closures (like during COVID-19) or economic downturn. In addition, if there is a much better job opportunity (like offer to give lectures at Harvard) with a higher pay, then you would be ok to leave as well when that offer presents itself.
However, if you need to change jobs before getting the final green card approval, there may be a denial of your green card application if USCIS believes you used the employer application process just to gain a green card and did not have intention to work for the company.
An I-140 approval does NOT guarantee you a green card by itself either. While you’re waiting to receive your green card, you should be careful not to obtain inadmissibilities such as unauthorized work, overstay or illegal presence in the US, etc. If you are currently working for the sponsoring company, it is not a good time to change jobs either. If you must quit the sponsoring employer, it is better to do so after the green card is in your hands. You are able to change jobs when a physical green card is delivered to you without notifying the USCIS. However, when you apply for your Naturalization, you maybe denied and your Legal Permanent Residency maybe taken away because, as explained earlier, USCIS may think you left your sponsoring employer too soon.
After the I-140 approval but before your adjustment of status application is approved, there are two different scenarios you may be faced with when considering a job change. The first one is changing positions with your current employer and the second is changing employers altogether. If you are to remain with your current employer but are changing titles or positions, it may be appropriate to file an I-140 amendment. This will ensure that the USCIS has the most relevant, up-to-date information with accurate records on your case.
Now, if you are changing employers at any time in the process of getting your green card after filing the I-140, then you MUST have the new employer file as a new I-140 form. In addition, the employer will also need to get a new PERM Labor Certification if you change jobs sooner than you can port your Labor Certification application approval or your salary and/or job description or title are different.
If your promotion is increase in salary and added responsibilities, you may be safe and would not need to file a new I-140. Also, if you move locations, there maybe a change that must be required on your I-140 and the rate of pay may go up even if the job title and responsibilities remain the same. The PERM is put in place to protect the jobs of U.S. workers. It is for a specific employer in a particular geographical location for a specific job with a specific salary. If any of that information changes, the PERM cannot be granted to protect the U.S. workforce. If you change jobs before or after the form I-140 is approved, you may need a new PERM.
The employer will have to run another recruiting period and will also run the risk of being audited. The one good thing about this process is when you submit the new petition you maybe able to keep the priority date of your original petition and in the process save years of waiting time. Keeping your original priority date is what it means to “porting” your PERM certification to a new employer. It may also happen that while waiting for your date to be current, you may apply for and gain a higher preference green card (EB-2) and a new employer can sponsor you and file a new petition and PERM and still keep that priority date.
Changing Jobs After Green Card Approval Using AC-21
The AC-21 is the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. This act has a few notable provisions centered on the flexibility of a job for adjustment of status applicants who face very long or delayed processing times. The AC-21 permits an approved I-140 to stay valid as long as the I-485 has been pending for a minimum of 180 days. The time starts when they receive the form, not the notice date. Also, the new job must be in a similar occupation with same or higher salary.
If the USCIS approves the I-485 in less than 180 days and you would like to change jobs after you’re approved for a green card, the USCIS will most likely start an investigation to determine whether or not you intended to stay with that employer long-term. So remember, the longer you stay with your first employer, the safer your immigration status will be.
How do you know if your occupations are similar?
There is sometimes confusion as to whether or not your choice of occupation is similar. To clarify, the DOL’s online occupational classification system helps the adjudicating officer make that decision. They use the Standards Occupational Classification to properly group jobs and classify them as well. One problem with this classification system is jobs in Technology. Since technology is rapidly changing (almost daily), this system tends to be outdated very fast.
Your best defense against this, is to change jobs where the titles and job descriptions are related as closely as possible to the original one. For example, if you work as an engineer and afterward start working as a CPA, the USCIS will question your intentions when you applied for your original or second job as it relates to your green card application.
Do you have to notify USCIS of a job change?
To stay in the good graces of USCIS, you need to notify them when you intend to change jobs as soon as possible under the AC-21 Act. This may save you from having your adjustment of status application denied even after your form I-185 has been in pending status for over 180 days.
Will changing jobs after approval affect naturalization?
AC-21 does not specify how changing jobs affects your ability to obtain citizenship. However, if your job history includes changing jobs before obtaining a green card that will raise red flags to the immigration officer. Consult with your immigration attorney to see if waiting for a certain period might help your case. If the USCIS concludes that your job change was not in good faith and you attempted to beat the system, you may have trouble getting an N-400 approval. If this happens after five years have passed, your permanent resident status is safe. It is BEST to not make any decisions on a full job change without the advice of an immigration lawyer.
In conclusion, obtaining a green card through employment-based reasons is already a time consuming, expensive, and complicated process. If you change careers entirely, you will have some explaining to do to the USCIS. To be on the safe side, make sure you have a competent immigration attorney by your side to help you navigate this process legally. With all of the sensitive paperwork and particular deadlines, it is best to hire an immigration attorney to make sure you do not raise any unnecessary red flags with the USCIS.
Call the expert lawyers at MC Law Group for employment-based matters today. Dial (702) 258-1093 for a consultation or visit our contact page.