- Employment-based Options for Pitt Faculty and Staff
- Using Outside Counsel
- How to Apply
- When to Apply
- About the Labor Certification Process
- About the Visa Bulletin
Permanent Residency authorizes a foreign national to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. There are several ways to obtain permanent residency in the U.S, including through a petition from an employer, marriage to a U.S. citizen, or the U.S. Department of State diversity visa lottery program. The University of Pittsburgh sponsors only selected employment-based permanent residency visa petitions. For permanent residency petitions that are not sponsored by the University, you are advised to contact an immigration attorney.
Only OIS staff are authorized to sign immigration-related forms on behalf of the University. International employees and/or their departments should not contact an outside immigration attorney about a Pitt-sponsored petition until after the case has been established by OIS. Only select law firms that have been approved by Pitt’s Office of University Counsel may prepare and submit EB-1b and EB-2 petitions on behalf of Pitt faculty or staff. See OIS’ guidelines regarding the use of outside attorneys here.
Employment-based Permanent Residency
The two types of employment-based permanent residency petitions that the University of Pittsburgh can sponsor are EB-1b and EB-2. In general, all applicants for permanent residency in an employment-based category must be employed in a ‘permanent’ position, as defined by the US Department Labor. A “permanent position” for these purposes is one that is full-time and of indefinite duration in which the employee has the expectation of continued employment. Postdoctoral positions are training positions and as such do not meet this definition.
EB-1B OUTSTANDING PROFESSOR RESEARCHER
To qualify for the EB-1b Outstanding Professor/Researcher category, the employee must show international recognition as being outstanding in a specific academic area. The employee must have at least three years of experience in teaching or research in the academic area, and fulfill at least two out of six qualifying criteria.
EB-2 MEMBER OF THE PROFESSION WITH AN ADVANCED DEGREE
To qualify for the EB-2 Advanced Degree category, employees must possess an advanced degree, such as Master’s, PhD, JD, MD or its foreign equivalent. A permanent foreign labor certification (PERM) is also required to prove that there are no minimally able, willing, qualified, available and interested U.S. workers to do the job of the employee. If a new faculty member – with teaching responsibilities – joins the University, we may be able to use expedited ‘special handling’ for the PERM if we can get the PERM filed within 18 months of selection for that position.
Other categories that employees may use to apply for a green card are EB-1a and EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). While these are ‘employment-based’, they are not strictly ‘employer-sponsored', meaning Pitt is not considered the petitioner. Employees applying in the EB-1a and EB-2 NIW categories may do so on their own, or with the help of any attorney of their choosing. The Office of International Services would not be involved in these types of cases.
Below is an estimate of fees and expenses for EB-1b and EB-2 PERM casework. Note that USCIS filing fees are subject to change. Attorney fees are based on one law firm approved to process casework for Pitt employees, and may change if a different firm is chosen to process the case.
According to federal regulations, all costs related to a labor certification must be paid by the employer and cannot be passed onto the international employee. These costs are indicated in bold below.
|Labor Certification||N/A||$1,000 - $1,500|
|I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition Filing Fees||$700*||$700*|
|Premium Processing Filing Fees (Optional)||$2,500||$2,500|
|I-140/Labor Cert Attorney Fees||$1,500*||$3,000 - $5,000|
|I-485 Adjustment of Status Filing Fees||
$1,225 – each adult
$750 – each child
$1,225 – each adult
$750 – each child
|I-485 Attorney Fees||
$1,500 – each adult
$300 – each child
$1,500 – each adult
$300 – each child
* Customarily paid by employer
Using Outside Counsel
Only the Office of University Counsel (OUC) has the authority to approve the retention of outside legal counsel to represent the University of Pittsburgh and its schools, divisions, and departments. OUC has approved the law firms below to process employment-based petitions that list Pitt as the petitioner, as well as any other specialized cases that OIS chooses to forward to outside counsel for any reason. International employees and/or their departments should not contact an outside immigration attorney about a Pitt-sponsored petition until after the case has been established by OIS.
Dentons Cohen & Grigsby, PC
Maggio Kattar Nahajzer + Alexander, PC
Sostrin Immigration Lawyers, LLP
A link to OIS’ full guidelines regarding the use of outside counsel can be found here.
How to Apply
Step One: Employee attends an OIS Permanent Residency Information Session, held monthly, to learn about which category would be most appropriate. Registration is required.
Step Two: Employee secures support from their department. If there are questions about which category to pursue, the employee should contact OIS to discuss their qualifications. If there are questions from the department about what it means to support an employee for a green card, they should contact OIS to discuss.
Step Three: Employee submits a ‘Request to Initiate Permanent Residency’ in My OIS. Department administrator will receive an email asking to confirm department support for the petition.
Step Four: OIS reviews the request and determines if the selected category is appropriate. OIS will also draft a Fee Agreement that indicates what portions of the petition will be paid for by the department, and what costs will be passed onto the employee. The Fee Agreement must be signed by someone with financial signatory authority within the department (e.g. Chair, Director of Administration, etc.).
Step Five: OIS initiates the case with an outside law firm, and connects parties as needed. For EB-1b casework, the attorney will begin working with the international employee directly. For EB-2 casework, OIS will schedule an initiation call with the firm, the department, and the employee to go over general processes and timelines.
When to Apply
Employees should be mindful of their current immigration status when applying for permanent residency. In most cases, OIS recommends that a valid status be maintained throughout the permanent residency process, until a green card is issued, to ensure continual employment authorization.
H-1B visa holders should begin thinking about permanent residency in their third year of H-1B status. This typically allows plenty of time to file a petition and either obtain a green card before the end of their 6th year in H-1B status, OR file an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6th year.
Extensions of H-1B status beyond the 6th year are only available in the following circumstances:
- 365 days or more have passed since the filing of the application for labor certification (Form ETA 750 or 9089); or
- 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an immigrant visa petition (I-140); or
- The employee is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 and is not able to file to adjust status to U.S. permanent legal residence based on the unavailability of an immigrant visa number.
Therefore, it’s imperative to file either the labor certification or an I-140 before the end of the 5th year in H-1B status.
J-1 visa holders who are subject to the 212 (e) two-year home residency requirement, and will apply for a waiver of that requirement, should consult with OIS. J-1 status cannot be extended once a waiver of the home residency requirement is approved, so it is important to process any available J extensions prior to filing a waiver application.
About the Labor Certification Process
For certain permanent residency categories, including EB-2 Advanced Degree, a permanent foreign labor certification (PERM) must be issued by the US Department of Labor before an I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition can be filed. The PERM process can take around 12-15 months, depending on a number of factors. Its purpose is to prove that there are no minimally able, willing, qualified, available and interested U.S. workers to do the job of the employee applying for permanent residency. Employees in teaching positions who file a PERM within 18 months from the date they were selected for their position may be able to utilize an expedited ‘special handling’ labor certification process.
About the Visa Bulletin
Only 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas (green cards) are available each year, across all employment-based categories. Each month, the US Department of State publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when visas are available for issuance to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date. Priority dates are listed on Form I-140 receipt notices. If immigrant visas are immediately available (current), then that person may file Form(s) I-485 Adjustment of Status as soon as the I-140 is approved. If immigrant visas are not available, the employee must wait until their priority date becomes current to file the I-485.
Information about how to read and use the Visa Bulletin can be found here.
Dependents are added to the petition in the final step via separate applications to adjust status to lawful permanent resident (via forms I-485). With this application, dependents may seek authorization for employment and/or advance parole to re-enter the U.S. after international travel. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times for the I-485 may exceed one year for a variety of reasons; consequently, renewals are normally required.