U.S. Permanent Residency (Green Card)
The office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) assists Georgia State University departments in recruiting and retaining quality faculty and staff by filing permanent residency petitions for international employees. Permanent residency is an immigration status conferred by the government agency U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on an international citizen that allows her/him to live and work in the U.S. permanently. This “permanent” ability to remain in the U.S. is what distinguishes a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), also known as a “green card” holder or “immigrant,” from a temporary or “non-immigrant” visa holder (i.e., a person in the U.S. in the status of H-1B, J-1, O-1, etc.).
There are several ways a foreign national can become a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States, including through employment, family, ability, and the visa lottery. Of these routes to a green card, ISSS is authorized by the University to file permanent residency petitions for Georgia State employees on the basis of employment only.
Once a department identifies an international employee (or “foreign national”) it wishes to sponsor, the department should seek consultation with ISSS to determine sponsorship feasibility and strategy. ISSS will review all requests and advise departments accordingly. Furthermore, ISSS will complete and submit all documentation as required by law on behalf of the University. Throughout the process, ISSS will not only assist the international employee and department, but will protect Georgia State’s long-term ability to file permanent residency petitions.
In the majority of cases, three steps are required.
- First, ISSS will file a Labor Certification Application (ETA Form 9089, known as the “PERM”) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The labor certification establishes the University’s recruitment efforts with regard to the foreign national’s position and provides other important information regarding the position and the foreign national’s qualifications. DOL must approve this application before ISSS can advance to the next step*.
- Next, ISSS will file a form known as the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workerwith USCIS. This is the University’s petition on behalf of the foreign national for permanent residency.
- Third, once the I-140 petition is approved, the foreign national can file the I-485 Form, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The I-485 is the individual’s personal petition for permanent residency and is therefore filed and paid for by the individual, not Georgia State.
*When the foreign national qualifies for the EB-1 category (discussed below), ISSS can skip the first step and proceed directly to step two (filing the I-140). Please see the EB Categories Page here for more information.
The permanent residency process is complex and often lengthy, requiring action by the sponsoring department, the employee, ISSS, and various departments of the U.S. government (including the Department of Homeland Security/USCIS, the Department of Labor, and/or the Department of State). Each case is different so individual processing times will vary, especially by country. The vast majority of PR cases, however, take anywhere from a minimum of 18 months to 2 years and up to 4-6 years or more. Please see the page on Employment-Based categories for more defined timelines.
The federal government requires certain filing and processing fees to accompany immigration forms (including the I-140), which cannot be waived. In addition to the mandatory government fees, the University also charges service fees for the work performed by ISSS. Per University policy, all Georgia State departments are required to use the services of ISSS for immigration matters of international scholars. The fee schedule is below. GSU departments are not permitted to use outside counsel, though it should be noted that attorney fees for similar processes are well above what ISSS charges. **ISSS will charge department upon submission of Permanent Residency application to our office. Check request instructions will be sent later on in the process.**
- ISSS fee: $1500
- USCIS filing fee: $700 (paid by department)
- USCIS Premium Processing fee: $2,500 (can be paid by dept. or scholar, depending on business or personal need) Please note that this shortens processing of the I-140 ONLY to 15 calendar days. Any Department of Labor or ISSS pieces of the timeline cannot generally be expedited.
- I-485 Application to Adjust Status: Fees combined total to $1,215 (must be paid by scholar. Departments cannot pay this fee.)
Georgia State University can sponsor foreign nationals who have an offer of full-time, permanent employment or tenure, including faculty and staff members. Please see below for more details regarding those Georgia State positions that are eligible, and ineligible, for PR sponsorship.
Faculty: All faculty members and any teaching positions considered a full-time, permanent appointment are eligible to begin the permanent residency process as soon as Georgia State University offers them employment, a process which can happen in tandem with the H-1B process.
Research Positions: Even though generally not tenure-earning, researchers may be sponsored for permanent residency so long as their position is for a term of indefinite or unlimited duration in which there is an expectation of continued employment (absent good cause for termination).
Non-Research Based Staff Positions: Staff members must hold a permanent, full-time position at the University and must have been employed at Georgia State University in H-1B for at least two years in order to be eligible for sponsorship by the University. There are no exceptions to this policy for staff members.
Ineligible for PR sponsorship
- Acting, Temporary, or Visiting Positions
- Administrative Support Staff
- Staff Positions Not Requiring a Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree
- Postdoctoral positions (As they are temporary in nature)
Once determined eligible, faculty and staff members must also fit into a specific Employment-Based (“EB”) Category in order for GSU to sponsor them. These categories are created by the government (USCIS), and not the University. Each foreign national applying for LPR status on the basis of employment must prove that he/she meets one of these categories.
If a person is not eligible for GSU sponsorship, they can still pursue other employment-based opportunities for the green card using an immigration attorney.