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Permanent Residency FAQ

Please visit the Immigrant (Permanent Visa) Worker section for general information about employment-based green card categories and steps.  This section contains answers to various specific green card process situations. Questions and answers in this section are in no particular topic order.

Q: How soon after obtaining H-1B or O-1 status can I request sponsorship for the green card?

A: If you're faculty, the first day you obtain H-1B or O-1 status. If you're staff, after you have been in a benefits-eligible exempt position for at least 3 uninterrupted years.

Q: May I hire an attorney to process my UH-sponsored green card?

A: UH requires that a UH-sponsored green card application be processed by an immigration attorney. If UH is paying any of the fees of any of the green card steps, UH requires that an attorney designated by the General Counsel be utilized; otherwise, you may hire an attorney of your choosing.

Q: I'm going to work for UH in a tenure-track faculty capacity. Why does UH not sponsor me for permanent resident directly while bypassing the H-1B?

A: The employment-based permanent residency process takes months and sometimes years to complete.  For this reason, a new hire requiring visa sponsorship needs to begin the employment in H-1B or O-1 classification.

Q: How long does a permanent residency process take?

A: Processing times vary depending upon the preference category being pursued. Processes that do not require the Labor Certification may be completed faster.  Nationals of China, India, Mexico, and Philippines may experience longer wait times.

Q: What is the Labor Certification?

A: The Labor Certification, also known as "PERM," is a required step of some employment-based permanent residence categories.  The purpose of it is to test the market to see if there is a qualified, available, and willing U.S. worker for the position being offered to the nonimmigrant pursuant to permanent residency.  Certification of the PERM does not constitute authorization to stay and/or work in the U.S.

Q: What is "Special Handling"?

A: The PERM for college or university teachers can be processed through special handling if the following criteria additional to the standard PERM requirements are met:

  • The job opportunity was advertised in a national professional journal;
  • The employer conducted a competitive recruitment and selection process;
  • The PERM is filed within 18 months of the job offer date.

Q: What is the I-140?

A: The I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, is either the first or second step of the employment-based permanent residency process.  The purpose is normally to show that the job has been certified by the Department of Labor; the employer's job offer still stands; the employer has the ability to pay the worker the required wage; and the worker meets the qualifying criteria. Approval of the I-140 does not constitute authorization to stay and/or work in the U.S.

Q: What is the I-485?

A: The I-485, Application to Adjust Status, is the final step of the permanent residency process. The purpose of this step is primarily to conduct an evaluation of the nonimmigrant's background.  Any of your qualifying dependents may be included in the permanent residence process during this step. The filing of the I-485 step may take place when your "priority date" is "current." Approval of the I-485 results in issuance of the permanent resident card.

Q: When do I know that my priority date is current?

A: The Visa Bulletin tells whether or not your priority date is current.  The priority date is current when the pertinent Visa Bulletin date is the same as or beyond your priority date, or when marked with "C."