Permanent Residency

Emory sponsors certain employees for employment-based permanent residency. If your department is hosting an international scholar who wants to become a legal permanent resident (also called "Green Card holder"), contact your department's ISSS advisor to initiate the process of filing a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


H-1B visa holders have dual intent and can be sponsored for permanent residency. If your scholar carries an H-1B visa and wants to become a permanent resident, your department should file a Form I-140 or or labor certification before the end the scholar's 5th year in H-1B status. That way, they can extend H-1B employment beyond their 6th year while permanent residency is pending.

Emory sponsors O-1 scholars for permanent residency, but if they want to file under the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category, they will need to hire an outside attorney.

J-1 exchange visitors and TN visa holders cannot be sponsored for permanent residency.

Employment criteria for Emory sponsorship

  • The position must be full-time and permanent (not time-limited or based solely on grant funding).
  • The university must intend to employ the scholar indefinitely.

  • The position must be faculty or faculty equivalent.

Applications that are not sponsored:

ISSS does not prepare or sign permanent residency petitions for postdoctoral fellows because these positions do not meet USCIS standards for permanent positions. Some alternative options are below.

ISSS typically does not file petitions for positions that require only a bachelor's degree because Emory must demonstrate to the DOL that there are no US workers that meet the minimum requirements for the position.

Category options

Emory files petitions for permanent residency in 3 categories:

  1. EB-1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher: This category is limited to those who have risen to the very top of their field. They must be internationally recognized as a leader in the field, and must be able to prove this through awards, publications, and attestations from other experts. This category does not require a labor certification.

  2. EB-2 Special Handling for College and University Teachers: This category is specific to those who will be teaching courses at the college/university level. It requires a labor certification, but the recruitment requirements are less than those for a standard EB-2.

  3. EB-2 Standard Filing: This category is for individuals who will not be teaching courses, and who do not qualify for the EB-1 category. It requires a labor certification process than is handled by an outside law firm, and the recruitment process is complex and time consuming. The department is responsible for paying the recruitment and attorney fees.


Depending on the category that the scholar is qualified for (EB-1, EB-2, etc.), the permanent residency process can vary widely. Please contact your department's ISSS advisor for case-specific guidance and to initiate the process of filing an employment-based permanent residency petition. 

Steps might include recruitment according to Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines, filing labor certification with the DOL, filing Form I-140 with USCIS, and adjustment of status. The process should begin as soon as possible after the scholar is hired.

Your department should initiate all steps except for adjustment of status, which is the scholar's responsibility.

Travel restrictions

Applying for permanent residency won't affect an H-1B scholar's ability to travel, apply for an H-1B visa stamp, and return to the US in H-1B status while their permanent residency application is pending. 

For scholars in other statuses, there are potential risks involved in traveling abroad while a permanent residency application is pending. They should talk to their ISSS advisor before making any travel arrangements.

Outside attorneys

ISSS has exclusive authorization to file permanent residency petitions on behalf of Emory University. Outside attorneys are not authorized to file employment-based permanent residency petitions on Emory's behalf except in extraordinary circumstances. If an outside attorney is used without the prior knowledge and consent of ISSS, the petition will be withdrawn immediately, even if filing fees or attorney's fees have already been paid.

ISSS and the Office of General Counsel will determine whether a particular case warrants use of an outside attorney. Unusual or extraordinary circumstances typically mean either a complex case requiring an unusual amount of time to prepare or a case requiring expedited handling.

Alternatives to Emory sponsorship

For certain petition categories, employer sponsorship isn't necessary. Scholars can "self-petition" based on their qualifications and accomplishments if they can establish that they have made significant contributions to their field, are easily employed in their field, or their contributions to their field benefit the United States.

If a scholar plans to petition in a category that doesn't require a full-time job offer, we recommend that they contact an attorney who is board certified in immigration and nationality law.