Office of International Affairs

U.S. Permanent Residency

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers vast information about not only temporary (non-immigrant) employmentbut also permanent (immigrant) employment in the United States. 

In general, a foreign national who is lawfully admitted to the United States as an immigrant is commonly referred to by different terms, including: immigrant, permanent resident, lawful permanent resident and green card holder, among other labels. Immigrating to the U.S. is dependent on category, country of birth and visa number availability. A foreign national can qualify for lawful permanent residence through a number of avenues on three major bases: family, employment, and public or humanitarian policy. Family-based categories require a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to petition on behalf of the foreign national. Employment-based categories relate to the type of work that the foreign national will be coming to the United States to engage in, and usually require a U.S. employer to petition on behalf of the foreign national. Public and humanitarian policy bases for lawful permanent residents have developed to meet the needs of refugees as well as public policy goals such as diversity.

While U.S. permanent residence may be obtained through several pathways in a number of different categories, the information in this page concentrates on the employment-based categories most commonly used in an the academic environment .

Employment-Based Permanent Visa Application Categories, include:

Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences – This classification is reserved for aliens who have sustained national or international acclaim in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Congress intended this classification to be for “that small percentage who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.” Petition must be accompanied by evidence to prove national or international recognition and acclaim. A major, internationally recognized award such as an Academy Award or a Nobel Prize is sufficient to prove extraordinary ability.

Outstanding Professor and/or Researcher – This classification is for outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally as exceptional in a specific academic area, have at least 3 years of teaching and/or research experience in the academic area and will be employed in a tenured or tenure-track teaching position or permanent research position. Petition must include evidence supporting specific criteria to proof that the visitor is recognized as internationally outstanding in the specific academic area.

Professionals holding advanced degrees - Through a DOL Labor Certification process, this classification requires a test of the U.S. labor market proving there is no U.S. citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident who meets the minimum education, training and experience requirements to fill the position and perform the job. The Job cannot be tailored to the international. According to USCIS, the DOL labor certification verifies that:

  • "There are insufficient available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage" and that
  • "Hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers"

National Interest - The alien must be seeking employment in an area of “substantial intrinsic merit, ”The proposed benefit of the alien’s employment will be national in scope; and The national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required. To show this, the petitioner must prove that the alien’s work presents a national benefit, “so great as to outweigh the national inherent in the labor certification process.” The alien’s service will “serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than would an available U.S. worker having the same minimum qualifications.”

Several employment-based categories may be an option for purposes of sponsoring a non-immigrant foreign national for U.S. permanent residence based on full time long term employment with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. In all cases, institutional policies and procedures must be met before the Office of International Affairs may initiate a PR process or sign a petition prepared by outside counsel. At UTHealth, the Office of International Affairs is the solely designee for signing all immigration applications on behalf of the institution.

In general, depending on the pathway and the category selected, the process involved in becoming a U.S. permanent resident through an employment-based category involved several entities, include several phases,and might take from months to years.

Find more about these employment-based and other pathways to permanent residence from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and from the U.S. Department of State.

Contact the Director of International Affairs for requesting a preliminary consultation appointment with the Director to discuss individual-case options.


Preliminary Information for UTHealth Prospective Permanent Residence Applicants and their sponsors:

Permanent Residence General Information

Preliminary Consultation by UTHealth Prospective Permanent Residence Applicants and their sponsors: 

Once UTHealth interested parties in sponsoring a foreign national for U.S. permanent residency have become familiar with the preliminary general information provided in this section, sponsors and/or beneficiaries may request an appointment with the Director of the Office of International Affairs to discuss individual options. The documents and forms listed next will be required for preliminary consultation.  

Documents / Forms required for PRELIMINARY consultation about employment-based PR options:

  1. PR Prospective Applicant Bio-Data Form - 04.2012 fillable
  2. Up-to-date CV of interested, prospective applicant
  3. Copies of all past and current immigration - documents as well as educational and professional credentials
  4. Copy of Job Offer Letter
  5. Copy of Job Description

Application for Permanent Residence through the Office of International Affairs

General Forms - Relevant to all PR applications:

  • Institutional Sponsor Administrative Approval Letter to Support Application for Permanent Resident Status - Template Letter available upon request from the Office of International Affairs.

EB-1 First Preference Category: Outstanding Professor / Researchers

EB-2/EB-3 Second and Third Preference Category: Advanced Degree Professionals and Skilled Workers through Permanent Labor Certification (PERM)

Application for Permanent Residence through External Counsel 

  • List of Attorneys (as of 03-2013) approved by the UT System for preparing petitions requiring Permanent Labor Certification (PERM)

Contact the Director of International Affairs for requesting a preliminary consultation appointment with the Director to discuss individual-case options.