President Obama’s Employment Based Immigrant Visa Modernization Plan

President Obama’s immigrant visa modernization plan titled, “Modernizing the Employment-Based Immigrant Visa System” will enable thousands of foreign workers with an approved immigrant petition to get an Employment Authorization Document. To get an EAD under this new plan, employment based immigrant petitions filed on behalf of the foreign workers must have been approved a year back.

Under the current U.S. immigration laws, a guest worker can get a green card if his employer sponsors him or her for lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. Employers must file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Workers for the foreign worker they wish to sponsor. If the immigrant petitions are approved, these nonimmigrant guest workers in the U.S. will be able to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident. Once they file their adjustment of status applications, they can get an EAD that will let them work for any employer in the U.S. These EADs will allow them to remain in the U.S. legally even after the expiration of their temporary nonimmigrant visas.

The wait time between filing an I-140 application and getting a work permit depends on the nonimmigrant worker’s country of origin and the date on which an immigrant petition was filed on his or her behalf. Many wait for years to get their work permits. Once their adjustment of status applications are approved, green cards will be issued to them.

The President’s new plan will now simplify this process and permit anyone who has an immigrant petition that has been approved for a year or more, to get an EAD. To get a permit to work, they will not be required to apply for adjustment of status and wait for years. This new proposal will help the guest workers for whom immigrant petitions have been filed to get EADs within one year from the date on which immigrant petitions filed for them were approved.

Tech companies in the U.S. who prefer employing immigrant workers are in favor of the President’s plan. This plan will likely benefit undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as they may not be required to prove lawful presence in the U.S. and an approved I-140 immigrant petition alone is sufficient to get a work permit. With this permit, they can work anywhere in the U.S. However, USCIS will only approve I-485 applications filed by legal immigrants and reject applications filed by undocumented immigrants. Though the undocumented workers will eventually not be able to get green cards, they will get their most coveted work permits.