So I was in the office today, and received an email requesting assistance with the following question:
I would like details about a green card. I have family who are citizens here. They own a business, can they sponsor me for a green card? I am in the US now.
I thought I would share the answer – probably not. Most non-immigrant work visas require you to be in status before you can switch to them while you are in the United States. If the person who asked the question was here legally on a visa that permitted changing classifications, then yes, he could apply for several of the visas that permit some kind of work — F, H, L, EB, E, Q, J, etc. However, if he has no status (as the individual who asked the question did not), then you cannot be “sponsored” while you are in the US. A “visa” means, right to enter. You cannot receive a right to enter if you are already here. With some exceptions (such as a one step application after marriage), the law requires you to be outside of the country in order to obtain a visa — unless you are changing status between visas, or certain special classifications such as “U” visas, etc. Absent those special circumstances, in order to get a work visa, as previously mentioned, you need to be in status — i.e. legally here in the US already, under a visa that permits changing classifications.
To petition to change classifications, you would need to file an I-539. This form allows you to switch between visa categories when permitted. Typically, for example, if you were pursuing an H1 visa, your employer would file all the required documentation. Once approved, you would than file the I-539 to “switch” into H visa status.