U.S. Permanent Residency
Permanent residents to the U.S. are also referred to as "green card" holders, immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and resident aliens. These individuals typically plan to remain in the U.S. on a long-term and/or permanent basis. A person may apply to be a permanent resident of the U.S. based on one of three criteria: (1) family, (2) employment, or (3) public or humanitarian policy. At Carnegie Mellon, most people will apply to become permanent residents of the U.S. based on employment.
This information is for CMU students, researchers, or professors interested in becoming U.S. legal permanent residents. Included on this page is general information and some specifics for obtaining U.S. legal permanent residency (LPR) while working at CMU as a researcher, professor or staff member. OIE does not provide expert or legal advice on U.S. permanent residency and does not provide direct services in this area.
Scholars are advised to reference government websites and seek the advice of a well-qualified immigration attorney for additional information. This page does not address family-based LPR; for information on that topic, see the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
A foreign employee who wishes to establish long-term residency and work authorization in the U.S. must take formal steps to apply to the federal government via USCIS for legal permanent resident ("immigrant") status in the U.S. Permanent resident visas are quota-limited. Only 140,000 permanent resident visas may be issued per fiscal year (October through September). These 140,000 slots are divided between five employment-based “preference” categories. They are limited by country of birth so that no more than 7% of the total number of visas can be granted to natives of any single foreign country in each fiscal year.
LPR typically follows several or many years in other statuses, such as H-1B, TN, O-1, J-1, or F-1. H-1B is a common stepping stone to LPR for those working in an academic environment such as Carnegie Mellon. Those who become LPRs may choose to become naturalized U.S. citizens after a certain period, although it is not required.
If and when an individual applies for permanent residency based on employment, in most cases, the department/employer will be involved in the process no matter if the department or the individual is making the primary contact with the attorney. Either way, the department/employer will "sponsor" the application to USCIS and will be involved in approving the attorney to handle the case, signing off on key forms and documents, confirming employment conditions, providing letters of recommendation, etc. The department head is the appropriate person to write and/or sign these official documents in most cases. In some cases, the department will pay for the attorney fees; in others, the individual will pay for the attorney fees. This is a departmental decision.
OIE does not process applications for permanent residency to the U.S. Scholars are welcome to meet with an OIE advisor for general advice, but the process will involve the employee, department, and a pre-approved attorney for employment-based petitions.
Departments and scholars involved with an employment-based permanent resident petition must? should? Use one of CMU’s pre-approved attorneys.
USCIS offers a wealth of information on permanent residency.
Five Typical Paths to LPR
A foreign national may apply for LPR based on different criteria, including family-based petitions, refugee or asylum status, employment, etc. This page features five typical paths in an academic community. Paths two through four (below) are employment-based petitions which directly involve the Carnegie Mellon department as employer and sponsor and must involve one of the pre-approved Carnegie Mellon immigration attorneys for processing with the Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Only OIE is authorized to sign the G-28 forms that authorize a specific attorney to represent the institution in a non-immigrant or immigrant petition.
EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
Aliens who meet the EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability criteria may require self-petition to USCIS based on extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Federal regulations broadly define Extraordinary Ability as "…a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of a very small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor." Evidence may include receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards, published material about the alien in professional, trade, or media publications, and participation in judging the work of others. For a complete list of the criteria required, visit the USCIS website. Even with a Ph.D., a recent graduate will have difficulty qualifying in this category. Because they are exempt from the requirements of a labor certification and a specific job offer from a U.S. employer, such as Carnegie Mellon, aliens can choose to self-petition or have a U.S. employer petition on their behalf. In most cases, an applicant will use an immigration attorney to prepare the petition, but USCIS does not require the assistance of an attorney. Check with your attorney about current processing times.
EB-1 Outstanding Professor/Researcher
EB-1 Outstanding Professor/Researcher is a good option for outstanding individuals who do not meet the "extraordinary ability" criteria. Those who qualify for this EB-1 category have at least three years of experience teaching or researching and must be tenured or tenure-track faculty or senior researchers in permanent research positions; post-doctoral researchers will not qualify. Individuals are eligible if they are "recognized internationally as outstanding in a specific academic area." Unlike EB-1 Extraordinary Ability, a job offer or job from a U.S. employer is required. Therefore, an individual cannot self-petition; at Carnegie Mellon, the alien and department must use one of CMU’s pre-approved immigration attorneys. A successful Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition will demonstrate that a sponsored employee has an exceptional record of scholarly achievement in his or her field, such as three years or more of teaching and/or research experience, a strong record of publications or authorship, evaluations by recognized experts in the field, and the receipt of prizes, awards, or other forms of professional recognition. The route to LPR through approval of an Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition is relatively short and can usually be completed in 12 to 24 months in some regions. Check with your attorney for current processing times.
EB-2 Advanced Degree Holder/Special Handling for Faculty Teaching Positions
Using one of Carnegie Mellon’s pre-approved immigration attorneys, the department/employer can apply to the Department of Labor (DOL) for labor certification under special handling rules for a sponsored employee who is appointed to a faculty teaching position such as lecturer or assistant, associate, or full professor. Under special handling rules, the department/employer is not required to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. citizens or permanent resident workers available for the position but that the appointee is the best-qualified applicant. The department/employer can usually meet this requirement by presenting to the DOL the details of the typical recruitment process that led to the faculty appointment. Check with your attorney for current processing times.
Special handling applications under PERM rules must be filed with the DOL within 18 months of the sponsored employee's selection for the position. Failure to file within this period may make it impossible for the University to obtain permanent residence for an employee in a faculty teaching position for several years or longer.
EB-2 PERM Recruiting for Advanced Degree Holders
If a sponsored employee does not meet the requirements for EB-1 categories, the department/employer can apply to the DOL using PERM labor certification regulations and one of Carnegie Mellon’s pre-approved immigration attorneys. PERM recruitment is a process whereby an employer proves to the DOL that there are no U.S. citizens or LPRs ready, willing, or able to perform a particular job. This is done through a special advertising process under the supervision of the DOL. The department/employer must also meet DOL salary requirements to obtain an approved labor certificate. Once salary (or "prevailing wage") requirements are met, most university applications for labor certification in the academic job categories succeed since the positions in question generally require high levels of education and specialized experience in short supply in the domestic labor pool. If granted, a PERM approval permits a petition for LPR to USCIS. Check with your attorney for current processing times for PERM plus the forms I-140 and I-485.
Current legislation requires that university employers such as Carnegie Mellon pay all costs related to PERM (including attorney fees, advertising costs, and PERM filing fees). Therefore, individual beneficiaries (i.e., the employee) can no longer pay for their PERM petitions. The department/employer at Carnegie Mellon must agree to sponsor the petition by paying for all related PERM costs; these costs may not be charged back to the beneficiary/employee in any form. If the department/employer does not or will not cover PERM costs, a PERM petition may not proceed.
National Interest Waiver (NIW)
Another path to LPR is the "national interest waiver," which does not necessarily require a job or job offer. The legislation that created this pathway allows the Attorney General "when (s)he deems it to be in the national interest, [to] waive the requirement... that an alien's services in the sciences, arts or business be sought by an employer in the United States." The provision can apply to both aliens of exceptional ability and members of the professions holding advanced degrees or the equivalent. These applications for LPR are exempt from labor certification.
To obtain a national interest waiver, you must demonstrate that (1) the work being done is in the national interest, and (2) the alien's continued contribution is crucial to the work.
If the university employs an individual, one of Carnegie Mellon’s pre-approved immigration attorneys will be contacted by the department/employer to use NIW to obtain LPR. If the department will pay for and/or sponsor the NIW petition on behalf of a CMU foreign employee, a pre-approved immigration attorney must be used. In most cases, employees in temporary positions, such as postdoctoral fellows or lecturers, will not be sponsored by the department/employer. Individual employees can apply on their own behalf under the NIW provision without university sponsorship. In this case, supervisors may be asked to supply letters of reference for the application but should make certain that the application is not made on behalf of the university for a current position or an offer of a future position.
Two-Part Process and TimelineThere are two basic parts of the Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) process:
- The I-140 petition to establish that the primary beneficiary meets the designated criteria, and
- The I-485 petition to adjust status to U.S. LPR or application for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in the alien’s country of nationality.
Most Carnegie Mellon employees use the adjustment of status process (Form I-485) since they remain in the U.S. for most or all of the processing period while continuing authorized employment at Carnegie Mellon. However, there may be concrete reasons or timing benefits for those who choose to consular process; these issues should be discussed with the immigration attorney handling the LPR petition.
The I-140 and the I-485 can be filed concurrently (at the same time) when an immigration visa number is available at the time of filing; when available, most immigration attorneys will file concurrently. Once the I-485 has been filed, the primary beneficiary or petitioner (and their family, if relevant) may apply for and receive work authorization and may apply for "advance parole" to legally exit and re-enter the U.S. without jeopardizing the pending request to adjust status to LPR.
Your country of origin may be a factor in how long it takes to adjust your immigration status to LPR. Discuss the "priority date" with the attorney processing the petition, and read the information on the "visa backlog" below.
Note: Scholars who are maintaining H-1B status during the entire LPR process may choose to remain in H-1B status and thereby avoid the necessity of applying for work authorization and/or advance parole. Discuss maintenance of H status with an OIE advisor and related issues with the attorney working on the LPR case.
Conditions and Limitations
Requesting Departmental “Sponsorship.” Departmental practice at Carnegie Mellon varies regarding payment for LPR-related costs. When an employee requests “sponsorship” from the department/employer, there are three primary issues of concern:
- Will the department agree to support, with letters of reference, etc., the LPR petition of the individual?
- Will the department help to pay for a portion or all of the related fees and costs?
- Is the position a permanent position that supports an employment-based petition?
Selecting a Qualified Immigration Attorney. The Office of the General Counsel and OIE have determined that most nonimmigrant and immigrant matters that are not handled by OIE will be handled by select pre-approved attorneys. This is important not only for consistency but also because in employment-based LPR petitions, the attorney represents the department/employer and the beneficiary. The following types of cases must be handled by a pre-approved Carnegie Mellon attorney:
- EB-1 Outstanding Professor/Researcher
- EB-2 Special Handling for Faculty Teaching Positions
- EB-3 PERM Certification for Advanced Degree Holders
- National Interest Waiver for a person working in a permanent or senior position at Carnegie Mellon or any NIW case where the department/employer will pay for and attorney and other costs and fees.
In the following types of cases, the foreign employee may progress without department/employer sponsorship and may select their own immigration attorney, opting to use a Carnegie Mellon pre-approved attorney, or not:
- EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
- National Interest Waiver for a person working in a temporary position such as lecturer or post-doctoral fellow and where the costs and fees are paid by the individual (not the department/employer)
Note: Department/employers who will pay for the EB-1 or National Interest Waiver petition may require the use of a Carnegie Mellon pre-approved attorney.
Visa Backlog. There is frequently more demand for employment-based immigrant visa slots than there is availability; when this occurs, delays of years can be routine. A preference category can become oversubscribed in two ways: either the total category availability has been reached or the per-country limit for that category has been reached. For more information, refer to the USCIS website.
Visa numbers for people born in India and China became backlogged,impacting many pending or in-process LPR petitions at Carnegie Mellon and around the country. The practical result of the visa backlog is long wait times either before the I-485 can be filed on behalf of pending LPR or before the I-485 can be adjudicated by USCIS. For specific information on current priority dates, refer to the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin.
Approval of U.S. Permanent Residency. The I-140 will be adjudicated before the I-485 and, if approved, an Approval Notice (Form I-797) will be sent by USCIS to the attorney or petitioner. Once the Visa Bulletin has published that the priority date has been reached (see sections above), the I-485 may proceed. Once the I-485 has been approved, an Approval Notice (Form I-797) will be sent by USCIS to the attorney or petitioner. Shortly thereafter, the beneficiary will receive the green card as an approved LPR.
Cost and Fees. The fee for the I-140 is $700 and for filing of the I-485 and related processes, the fees total $1140. Fees for family petitions and work authorization ($410) are additional. Attorney fees vary by region, according to the type of petition filed, and on whether or not dependent family members are included. In Pittsburgh, expect basic attorney fees to be $4,000 to $6,000, depending on the type of LPR petition being filed.
At Carnegie Mellon, departments/employers and employees will need to discuss payment for USCIS and attorney fees related to LPR processing. There is no University policy on these issues; however, since July 2007, regulations require that PERM-related expenses (attorney fees, advertising costs, and filing fees) must be paid by the University/Employer. For tenure-track faculty, senior researchers, and other permanent positions, many departments will agree to pay a portion or all of the related LPR costs. For post-doctoral and other temporary positions, employees should not anticipate departmental funding for the LPR process. Employees should discuss this first with direct supervisors and follow departmental directions or guidelines.
Currently, Carnegie Mellon has designated the following attorneys as authorized to represent Carnegie Mellon and the beneficiary on employment-based LPR petitions.
Larry Lebowitz & John Brendel
Cohen & Grigsby, P.C.
Robert S. Whitehill
Fox Rothschild, LLP
H. Ronald Klasko
Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Selzer, LLP
Travel Outside of the U.S. While the LPR Application is Pending. Scholars with a pending petition to adjust to LPR (Form I-485) must apply for and receive “advance parole” through USCIS before exiting and re-entering the U.S. An adjustment applicant who departs the U.S. without first obtaining advance parole is considered to have abandoned their adjustment application.
H-1B employees, still in valid status, alternatively may choose to exit the U.S. and reenter in H-1B status in addition to applying for advance parole. Discuss thoroughly with an attorney and the OIE H-1B advisor before proceeding.
Other Important Information
Portability. Portability refers to the ability to move from one employer to another. Aliens who have applied for LPR based on EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability generally may move from one employer to another since the initial petition was not employment-based. Consult with an attorney about the change of address requirements with DHS and USCIS. Aliens who have filed an adjustment of status (I-485) on the basis of a petition approved in certain I-140 petitions (including EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers and EB-2 categories) may change jobs or employers in very specific types of circumstances without jeopardizing their LPR petition. Consult with a qualified immigration attorney before changing jobs or employers.
Maintaining H-1B Status While LPR is Pending. OIE generally recommends that scholars maintain some other legal nonimmigrant status, such as H-1B, while the LPR petition is being processed. Maintained H-1B status also serves as an insurance policy for continued work authorization if the LPR petition is not successful.
Dependent Family Members. Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) can be, and usually are, included as beneficiaries along with the principal applicant. In adjustment of status cases, dependents may apply for employment using the I-765 form after the I-485 petition has been filed. If you have dependents, be sure to inform the attorney handling your petition.
Naturalization to U.S. Citizenship. While there is no requirement for an LPR to become a U.S. citizen, LPRs cannot vote, serve on juries, or hold certain elected public offices or jobs reserved for U.S. citizens. Most LPRs who elect to become naturalized U.S. citizens handle the requirements of naturalization without the assistance of their employer or attorney. Visit the USCIS website and read Form M-476, Guide to Naturalization, for more information. Generally, a person is eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years as a U.S. LPR, although this timeline is shorter for people who marry U.S. citizens and longer for those who spend considerable time outside of the U.S.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page should not be construed as legal advice, but is intended for general, informational use by Carnegie Mellon community members.