Permanent Residency

Emory sponsors certain employees for employment-based permanent residency. To become a legal permanent resident (also called "Green Card holder"), your hosting department should contact your 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 you carry an H-1B visa and want to become a permanent resident, your department should file a Form I-140 or or labor certification before the end your 5th year in H-1B status. That way, you can extend your H-1B employment beyond your 6th year while permanent residency is pending.

Emory sponsors O-1 scholars for permanent residency, but if you want to file under the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category, you 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

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

  • Your 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. If you are a postdoctoral fellow, see your alternative options 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 that is handled by an outside law firm, and the recruitment process is complex and time consuming. Your department is responsible for paying the recruitment and attorney fees.


Your department should contact your ISSS advisor to initiate the process of filing an employment-based permanent residency petition. The process should begin as soon as possible after you are hired.

Depending on the category (EB-1, EB-2, etc.), steps 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.

Adjustment of status is the only portion that you are responsible for—your department takes care of the other steps. You may use an immigration attorney to assist in its filing.

Adjustment of status

Adjustment of status is typically the final step toward permanent residency. You are responsible for filing the adjustment of status packet with USCIS, which includes Form I-485, but your ISSS scholar advisor will help you.

You can download all the forms you'll need on the USCIS website.

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. Talk to your 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 you have already paid filing fees or attorney's fees.

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, you don't need employer sponsorship. You can "self-petition" based on your qualifications and accomplishments if you can establish that you have made significant contributions to your field, are easily employed in your field, or your contributions to your field benefit the United States.

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