Dear Sophie: How long am I required to stay at my current job after I get my green card?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I’m a software engineer currently on an H-1B. My employer sponsored me for an EB-2 green card, and my application has been approved, but I’m still waiting for a decision on my application to register for permanent residence.

I want to leave my employer and do something completely different. Can I transfer my green card to another employer in a different field and position, or should I stick it out in my current position until I receive my green card?

If I should stick it out, how long should I stay with my current employer after I receive my green card?

— Craving Change

Dear Craving,

As my dad (also an immigration lawyer) would always say, here is one of those classic lawyer answers: “It depends.”

It’s so exciting when a company is willing to sponsor you for a green card, but things can change fast, especially in the Valley. The past two years have been a time of self-reflection and reassessment. Thanks for reaching out, and here’s an overview of some of the general options.

Can I transfer my green card?

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) makes it possible for some professionals to transfer their employment-sponsored green card process from one original employer to another without giving up their “spot in line.”

It has various conditions, such as:

  • The I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Status or Adjust Status), the final step after filing the I-140 green card application, must have been pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for at least 180 days since filing;
  • The new job is in the “same or similar” field as the job for which the original green card application was filed (this involves a complicated legal analysis based on a variety of factors).

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