There is no “perfect answer to this question but as a general rule, sooner is better than later. The timing of your start depends on what your situation is. If you are a current citizen of a foreign country looking to immigrate to the US, and you are not related to or eligible for a sponsorship from a US citizen, you application could take years based on the quota system. You can check on the availability of visa numbers by visiting the State Department’s website.
If you are a spouse or eligible family member of a US citizen and they have submitted a petition to sponsor you, the State Department will notify you when your interview is scheduled and what documentation you need to bring. Don’t procrastinate…get it done soonest. In most instances it’s not just a question of gathering documents. There is a medical exam by a physician approved by the State Department and a police check that you have to provide as well. This is not material that you can throw together in a day or two.
However if you are already in country on an employment based visa (H1 series) then timing could come into play depending on your point of view.
Good economy, bad economy – does it make a difference?
Some persons who are in country on an employment based visa can apply for a green card to become a Legal Permanent Resident. The H series visa program is designed to allow employers to bring in foreign workers to fill specific job slots where there simply aren’t any qualified Americans available. These H series visas are non-immigrant visas and are temporary.
However it is not uncommon for employers to want their “temporary” worker to become a permanent employee. Employers typically make large investments in getting the workers visa and bringing them to the country. If the worker does outstanding work it’s not unreasonable for the employer to want to retain him or her.
There is a secondary classification for the H series visa called the EB-2 visa which is the equivalent of a green card. This is the visa that might be affected by timing and the economy.
EB-2s for the lucky.
EB-2s or green cards, are not passed out easily. For starters, the employer has to submit Department of Labor certification that there are indeed no qualified American citizens available to fill the job of the temporary worker.
In poor economic times, that can be a more difficult task than good economic times when there is full employment. So in bad times the EB-2 applicant has more competition from American workers but on the other hand, they typically have less competition from other H series workers for the limited number of visas available.
What’s your strategy?
US immigration policy and law is incredibly complex and there is no single solution that fits every circumstance.
If that’s not the route you want to take then you can try to self educate at the website of the USCIS. While this agency has made great strides in automating the process and improving communications, it can’t change the fact that immigration law is exceptionally complicated.
Whichever way you go, the time to start the immigration process is now.
Eugene Jones is a principal in www.ImmiGreatNow.com.com which provides web solutions for family Immigration. Eugene is also a principal in www.connect4business.com a lotus domino manufacturing solution and www.nauvou.com.com web based solutions for customer support.