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Permanent Residence

About Permanent Residence

Permanent Residence (PR) is a U.S. immigration status granted by USCIS to someone who is not already either a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident. As indicated by the term, someone with PR status can remain in the U.S. permanently.

Green Card

The USCIS PR status document is a Permanent Resident Card. The card is primarily green in color, leading to the popular terms “green card” for PR status and “green card holder” for a Permanent Resident.

USCIS Green Card Categories

There are several USCIS green card categories, including ones based on family relation to a U.S. citizen or PR; asylum; and employment.

The information here pertains to applying for a green card in one of USCIS’ employment-based (EB) categories. 

VCU Green Card Support

VCU green card support is available to employees with full-time, permanent positions, whose PR applications will be filed in a USCIS EB category appropriate for the employee. 

In this context, permanent means:

At the time the PR application is assigned to a lawyer for processing, both VCU and the employee expect that the employee will continue to be employed by the university indefinitely in the position identified in the PR application.

Most PR applications take 2+ years to complete (green card in hand).  Job changes, including in-line promotions, during the PR process can easily disrupt the process, requiring the process to start over again from the beginning.

For this reason, anticipated or pending job changes and promotions should be completed at the time the PR application is assigned to a lawyer for processing.

Student worker, postdoctoral, visiting scholar, temporary, and part-time positions are not eligible for VCU PR application support.

Forms of VCU Support

Forms of VCU support for PR applications include:

1.    Legal support needed to prepare and file the PR application with USCIS, and
2.    Financial support to pay for the PR application (attorney fees plus USCIS filing fees).

The kind of legal support, and the amount of financial support, available varies by case and can be affected by the EB category selected for the PR application.

If an employee’s EB green card application receives any legal or financial support from VCU, the application must be prepared by a law firm under contract with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to provide immigration legal services to state agencies.  

Immigration Lawyers

Routine access to the OAG-contracted firms for VCU PR applications is through the Immigration Services unit of the Global Education Office (GEO).  

OAG-contracted firms charge set and flat fees (not hourly fees) for the immigration-related services, including PR application processing.

Department Practices

The decision to support an employee’s PR application is a personnel decision made by the employee’s department’s Human Resources (HR) team, including the employee’s supervisor, usually in conversation with the employee.

Some VCU departments expect an international employee to be employed by the department for a specified period of time (example: at least one year) before they will consider supporting the employee’s PR application.

EB Category Selection

Selecting the EB category for a PR application is a critical step in the green card process. The selection of EB category affects the following:

•    The employee’s chances for a successful PR application
•    The number of stages required for the PR application
•    The timeline of the PR application
•    The cost of the PR application—including whether the costs can legally be shared between the employee and their department

USCIS eligibility criteria for the EB categories varies widely by such factors as the employee’s job level and duties, their education, and, in some cases, their scholarly accomplishments and reputation.

At VCU, the selection of the employee’s EB category is the result of a collegial conversation lead by one of VCU’s immigration lawyers.   

Green Card Timeline and Costs

The only way to obtain a realistic estimate of the chance of success, stages, costs (including cost-sharing options), and timeline for a specific PR application to ask one of VCU’s immigration lawyers for an attorney review.

Attorney Review

The first step in the VCU green card process is for one of the university’s immigration attorneys to review the employee’s CV and some other information to determine the best EB category for their PR application.

Attorney review is free and does not oblige the department to support the employee’s PR application.   

Access to VCU’s immigration lawyers for the review is through GEO.

To request attorney review for a potential VCU PR application, please send an email to Paul Babitts, Ph.D., Director of Immigration Services (use:

After the lawyer has recommended the best EB category for the employee, GEO can provide information to the employee and their department about the estimated stages, costs (including cost-sharing options), and timeline for the PR application so that they can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Initiating a PR Application

If, after the attorney review, the department decides to support the employee’s PR application, GEO will work with the employee’s HR manager to complete some internal VCU paperwork needed to assign the case to one of VCU’s immigration lawyers (usually the lawyer who performed the attorney review).

Attorney Connection

GEO’s process of assigning a PR application to an immigration lawyer takes only a few days. When the assignment has been made, GEO will introduce the lawyer to the employee and their HR team by email.

The Lawyer’s Job

The immigration lawyer will lead the employee, their HR manager, and GEO through the steps involved in preparing and filing a PR application. Roles and the amount of work required for each varies by EB category.   

The lawyer assigned to the PR application is responsible for providing advice and guidance to GEO, the employee, and the employee’s HR team about such things as:

•    Processing stages and timelines
•    All immigration issues relating to the PR process, including international travel by the employee during the green card process, etc. 
•    Progress updates

Dependent Green Cards

The spouse and minor (under age 21) children of an employee may be eligible to apply for green cards connected to the employee’s green card.

PR applications for dependents fall outside the scope of VCU’s green card program, per se.

Employees whose dependents need green cards connected to theirs are asked to address this issue with the law firm separately after the case has been assigned to the firm.

Applying for a Green Card Outside of the VCU Process

Some employees may be eligible under USCIS criteria to apply for green cards outside of the VCU process.

For example:

•    The employee is married to a U.S. citizen and wants to apply for a green card in a Family Based (FB) category.
•    The employee is not eligible to participate in VCU’s green card program because they don’t have an offer of permanent employment.
•    The employee’s department declines to support their PR application.
•    The employee simply wants to apply for a green card on their own.

In these cases, the employee may be eligible to apply for a green card with no VCU legal, administrative, or financial support.

The employee would need to either follow the USCIS online guidance about applying for a green card on their own (although the USCIS online guidance is not user-friendly) or hire a lawyer to help them with the process.

Additional Support

If you have questions or concerns about any of the information provided here, please contact GEO Immigration Services.