Obtaining Permanent Residence for Foreign Staff Members


Immigration regulations stipulate that employers may only sponsor foreign employees for permanent resident status if both of the following conditions exist:

  • The position is permanent;
  • The employee intends to remain in the position indefinitely.

A permanent position is defined at Urbana-Champaign as

  1. a tenured or tenure-track faculty position, or
  2. an academic professional teaching or research position which is expected to be funded for at least five years. A description of funding expectations must be provided. Post-doctoral research associates are considered to be temporary and are not eligible for permanent residence sponsorship. Positions having the word “Visiting” or “Acting” in the title are obviously not permanent. If the conditions stated above do not exist and the permanent residence process is nonetheless undertaken, both the employer and the employee may be subject to investigation for fraudulent activity. Acceptable evidence of five-year funding is a description by the department head of funding which has been allocated for the position and a statement that this funding is expected to continue for the next five years. If the position is funded by grant money which does not cover five years, explain why he/she is confident that the grant will be renewed.

Additional requirements:

  • The position must have been filled following established Urbana-Champaign procedures (e.g., Affirmative Action guidelines).
  • The salary offered and the duties performed must be comparable to salaries received and duties performed by other professionals in the field. Minimum acceptable salaries are determined by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
  • The alien must have no bar to adjusting to permanent resident status such as the two-year home resident requirement which applies to certain J-1 Exchange Visitors.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will serve as a permanent residence sponsor for a foreign employee when these conditions are met. All permanent residence cases based on UIUC employment must be handled by the Office of International Faculty and Staff Affairs (IFSA), not by private attorneys. NOTE: Individual faculty members occasionally sign documents indicating that the employment status of a foreign-born employee is permanent when, in fact, it is temporary. This may lead to legal difficulties for the faculty members and the alien. Consult with the IFSA office before signing any immigration document.

Steps for Obtaining Permanent Residence

The permanent residence process for non-teachers is different from the process for teachers. A teacher, for these purposes, is anyone with regular responsibility for teaching university credit courses, e.g., assistant professors, lecturers, teaching associates. A non-teacher is someone who has no teaching responsibilities, such as someone who solely does research or administrative work.

In all cases:

The process is usually initiated after the alien has been in the position for approximately one semester. Under certain circumstances it can start earlier.

  1. Sponsoring department submits Request for Initiation of Permanent Residence Procedure to IFSA with voucher for appropriate amount ($400 for teaching positions, $500 for non-teaching positions). By signing this form, the department head and the alien certify that all proper conditions for permanent residence exist. This form will also be reviewed and signed by the Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of the Office of Academic Human Resources.
  2. Labor Certification This is a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor that there are no qualified U.S. citizens or permanent residents available and willing to accept the job. Non-Teachers:
    Obtaining a labor certification requires conducting a national search (despite whatever previous recruitment was conducted) following Department of Labor guidelines. This is a long, complicated process and IFSA works closely with the sponsoring department at every step. The alien must be the only qualified applicant. Teachers:
    Previous recruitment is accepted for labor certification purposes as long as 1) the position was advertised nationally and 2) the job offer occurred no more than 18 months prior to the request for labor certification. The alien must be the best qualified applicant.
  3. Preference Petition filed with the INS.
  4. Filing formal application for adjustment of status with the INS and subsequent interview.

Steps 3 and 4 above are quite routine. The interview may, in some cases, be waived.

Depending on a number of factors, this process can take from one to two years to complete.

For Outstanding Professors or Researchers:

If an alien can be classified as EB-1, outstanding professors and researchers classification, the labor certification stage of the process can be bypassed and they can move directly to step b. Visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services page on EB-1 qualifications for a description of the criteria for this classification. Bypassing the labor certification saves a great deal of the processing time.

Details of these procedures are available from the Director of International Faculty and Staff Affairs at (217) 333-8226.

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