The Immigration and Nationality Act groups individuals who are not US citizens into two categories:
- Nonimmigrants, who intend to stay in the US temporarily, and
- Immigrants, who intend to reside in the US permanently.
A person who is in the US on a permanent basis is commonly referred to by different terms, including: immigrant, permanent resident, lawful permanent resident, resident alien, and “green card” holder. Each of these terms refers to the same legal status in the US and describes a person who has been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the US as an immigrant, in accordance with the immigration laws.
A permanent resident is permitted to remain in the US for an indefinite period of time, and to live and work wherever he/she wishes. A permanent resident has the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as a US citizen, except that he/she cannot vote in government elections, nor serve on juries at trials, nor hold some elected offices or government jobs.
An individual can become a permanent resident through a variety of avenues, the two most common being:
- Close family relationship to a US citizen or permanent resident which qualifies in one of the family-based preference categories.
- Having education, skills or talents which are in demand in the US and qualify in one of the employment-based or profession-related preference categories.
For an international scholar to be considered by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permanent residency through employment, it is generally necessary for that individual to be sponsored by an employer. The UW sponsors many applications for permanent residency every year, based on offers of permanent full-time employment in academic departments at the assistant professor or research assistant professor level or above. (Faculty holding “acting” or “visiting” titles do not qualify for the permanent residence process). The UW will not support permanent residence applications for other occupational classifications.
The UW sponsors permanent residence for faculty who have some classroom teaching responsibilities. Faculty with no teaching responsibilities are ineligible for UW sponsorship. Additionally, only faculty whose positions are expected to last indefinitely are eligible for permanent residence sponsorship. Beneficiaries of the permanent residence process are to remain in 100% paid employment status until the “green card” is issued. Any change in employment status (reduction of percentage of time, leave of absence, change in job title or duties, or termination) could result in withdrawal of the petition.
Upon selection of an international scholar for a faculty position, the employing department should immediately contact the International Scholars Operations (ISO). ISO will direct the permanent residence application process. Note that the UW does not authorize outside attorneys to represent its interests in immigration matters. Only the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel may sign a labor certification application or immigrant preference petition for which the UW is the sponsoring employer.
This is a three-step process:
- The UW files an Application for Permanent Employment Certification (“labor certification”) with the Department of Labor (DOL). A provision of the DOL regulations, called “special recruitment,” provides unique eligibility requirements for international faculty whose job responsibilities involve some actual classroom teaching. To qualify for special recruitment, the UW must file the application for labor certification (Form ETA 9089) within 18 months of the date the foreign candidate was selected as the most qualified candidate for the position. The application will include a detailed report describing the competitive recruitment, a copy of at least one advertisement published in a national professional journal including but not limited to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and documentation of all other recruitment sources utilized, an in-house posting, copies of relevant appointment papers, and evidence that the salary meets the Department of Labor’s wage requirements.
- Following approval of the Application for Permanent Employment Certification, the UW files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) with USCIS. The eligibility classification is EB-2, “a member of the professions holding an advanced degree.” The UW must show that the employee is qualified for the job, holds the appropriate degrees, and has the required experience as described in the labor certification.
- Upon approval of the immigrant petition, the employee (and spouse and children) must file an application for adjustment of status (Form I-485) with USCIS or for an immigrant visa at a US consular post abroad. In some cases, the I-485 may be filed concurrently with the I-140. USCIS or the consulate reviews the applications, conducts background checks on all applicants, and finally grants permanent resident status. Soon thereafter, the new permanent residents receive their “green cards.”
It is recommended that the permanent residence process be discussed in detail with the international faculty member (assistant professor/research assistant professor level and above) at the time the offer of employment is made. ISO may be invited to participate in this discussion. Though approval of the permanent residence petition is likely, the hiring department should not make any guarantee of permanent residency to any new employee. It is impossible for any employer to guarantee that its efforts to secure the “green card” will be successful. Therefore, the hiring department can only agree that the University will sponsor the employee for residency. For a better understanding of how much participation is required in this process and what steps are involved, please review our LPR (Legal Permanent Residence) Process Handout.
Permanent residence is a detailed and time-consuming process and takes one to several years to complete, depending on the circumstances of the case. In most instances, the person is already employed at the UW on an H-1B work visa. It is important to begin the permanent residency process as soon as possible after the faculty appointment is approved by the Board of Regents. Failure to act within a reasonable period of time may jeopardize the employee’s ability to obtain permanent residency and continue uninterrupted employment. For a better understanding of how long individual steps in this process may take, please review our LPR (Legal Permanent Residence) Process Handout.
The fee for the I-140 petition is $580. The petition may be “premium processed” (expedited) for an additional $1,225. The UW pays the I-140 and premium processing fees on behalf of the international scholar. Fees associated with the filing of the application for adjustment of status are the responsibility of the employee.
Contact ISO for assistance with the permanent residence process. US Citizenship and Immigration Services also has helpful information.