How Do I Ask Prospective H-1B Employer About Future Green Card Sponsorship?

Whether you are a graduating foreign national student or a mid-career H-1B worker, negotiating with a new H-1B employer about green card sponsorship can determine the future course of your career and your immigration status in the United States.

When seeking employment with a company to sponsor you for a temporary H-1B visa, you may want to know whether the company will sponsor you for a green card in the future. But as a prospective employee in the interview process, that conversation can be difficult.

It is only natural that you would want to know whether you can plan for a future in the United States if the company hires you. But petitioning for a foreign national employee's green card can be expensive and time-consuming for a company. If you do not have a strong negotiating stance in your talks with the employer, bringing up the potential of this expense could sour negotiations.

The costs and benefits of having this conversation depend on the conditions surrounding your negotiations with the employer. This article will describe the conditions that you should take into account in determining how or whether to bring up this topic with a potential employer.

At What Stage in Your Career Are You When You Request Green Card Sponsorship?

Your potential employer may be more receptive to negotiating the topic of future green card sponsorship if you are more advanced or accomplished in your field.

Many people searching for H-1B employment sponsors are students or recent graduates from U.S. undergraduate or graduate education programs. If you have little previous employment experience, and do not have a previous relationship with the company you are applying to, it may be risky to ask for long-term green card sponsorship during the interview process. The company does not know your work product, and it may be hesitant to make a long-term financial commitment under those uncertain conditions. The negotiations may get sticky and the company may consider other candidates if your interviewer feels you are asking for benefits too far outside of your negotiating power.

Some students may have already received temporary employment authorization and secured an employer pursuant to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. During your OPT employment, you might discuss with your employer the possibility of applying for H-1B status to continue employment after your OPT authorization expires. Because the company knows your work product and the value that you bring, it may be more receptive to a request for future green card sponsorship along with your transfer to H-1B status.

Other applicants searching for H-1B employment sponsors are established professionals who want to transfer their H-1B status to a different employer. In this case, you may not have a previous relationship with the company to which you are applying, but you likely have years of experience in the field. If you can demonstrate a solid track record of accomplishments, then you may be in a strong enough position to request future green card sponsorship.

If you have already been working with a company for some time, did not negotiate green card sponsorship when you were hired, and want to bring up sponsorship mid-employment, there is likely little risk in requesting sponsorship at this stage, but you are also in a relatively weak negotiation position. The company can simply decline your request. However, if you have made significant contributions to your company, or are willing to seek to transfer your H-1B to a new sponsor if your company declines your request, you may be able to negotiate sponsorship with your current employer or a new employer. You should strive to demonstrate that the value you have brought and will bring to the company in the future is greater than the cost and hassle of green card sponsorship.

How Established Is the Company That Would Sponsor Your Green Card?

The process to petition for a green card is lengthy, complicated, and costly. Companies that have more financial and human resources to dedicate to employee retention may be more amenable to sponsoring H-1B employees for a green card.

Petitioning for a green card can cost a company anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on the type of immigrant petition the employer files and whether it will cover the costs for your family. And even with the assistance of an immigration attorney, filing an immigrant petition can require significant time and attention from the employer in order to test the labor market, for instance by posting newspaper advertisements and interviewing candidates.

Less established companies with small profit margins may not have the financial resources to dedicate to green card sponsorship, even if you bring great value as an employee. Larger companies with considerable financial reserves, by contrast, might consider the cost of green card sponsorship a minor expense in their budget.

Companies' human capital can be a determining factor as well. If the company is thinly staffed, the extra workload that an immigrant petition will bring may be more difficult to accommodate.

When Should You Bring Up Green Card Sponsorship?

If interviewing for an H-1B position, and you have decided that you have a strong enough negotiating stance to request future green card sponsorship, it would be wise to wait until the final stages of the interviewing process to mention it. If you bring up green card sponsorship in your first interview, it might seem like you are more interested in your own immigration benefits than you are in working for the company. Once the company has made you a written offer of employment, you should review the offer, and if future green card sponsorship is not mentioned, you can request that it be added to the employment offer.

If you have already had H-1B status for some time and are seeking to transfer your H-1B to a new employer, you should also consider whether you are nearing the end of your H-1B validity. H-1B status is valid for three years, and ordinarily renewable only once, for a total of six years. In order to stay continuously in the United States at the end of your H-1B status, you need to have either secured permanent resident status (a green card) or meet the requirements for a "seventh year extension."

A seventh year extension is available for people who have started the immigrant petition process, but are subject to country-specific backlogs and will not be immediately eligible to apply for a green card. Those who fall into this category must initiate the immigrant petition process by one year (365 days) before the H-1B status expires. Keep in mind that significant preparation is often required to start the immigrant petition process.

Based on these factors, you should begin to discuss applying for a green card with your employer about two years before your H-1B status expires.

You may also wish to request that future green card sponsorship is included in your employment contract. For additional information on this topic, see What Aspects of Green Card Sponsorship Should Be Included in an Employment Contract?.

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