Permanent Resident (PR) is an immigration status granted by the U.S. government to foreign born individuals who are not U.S. citizens.
As the term implies, an individual with PR status may live and work in the U.S. permanently.
The document issued by the U.S. government for PR status is a Permanent Resident Card.
The PR Card is primarily green in color—giving rise to the popular term green card.
Throughout this guidance the terms PR and green card are used interchangeably.
The paths to PR status include U.S. government categories based on employment plus a range of personal categories such as marriage to a U.S. citizen, asylum, etc.
The information here is limited to paths to a green card based on employment only.
Yes. Eligibility for VCU green card support, and the extent of the support, varies. For more information, please continue reading below.
Yes. VCU’s green card applications must be prepared by law firms under contract with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide as-needed immigration services to state agencies. Routine access to OAG-contracted law firms for PR application support is through the Global Education Office (GEO).
GEO manages the university’s visa programs including the VCU PR application program. For legal compliance and customer service reasons:
- Routine initial access to law firms for VCU PR application processing is through GEO.
- GEO reviews and signs, on behalf of VCU, all employer-side PR application materials prepared by the law firm and submitted to a U.S. government agency such as the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or USCIS.
- GEO provides essential employer-side legal compliance and customer service support to the hiring unit, employee, law firm, and such VCU units as central HR and Payroll throughout the PR application life-cycle.
You may be eligible for VCU green card support if all of the following are true for you:
- You are employed by VCU.
- Your job is full-time and benefitted.
- Your job is permanent in the sense that the job is expected to continue for the foreseeable future even if you no longer hold it.
- You could hold the job permanently in the sense that, barring termination for cause, your department would welcome you to hold the job for the foreseeable future.
- You are eligible under USCIS criteria to apply for a green card in one of the following employment-based categories: EB-1A Extraordinary Ability; EB-1B Outstanding Professor/Researcher; EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW); EB-2 Special Recruitment; EB-2 Advanced Degree; or EB-3 Skilled Worker/Professional.
- If the green card application is filed in the USCIS green card categories of EB-2 Special Recruitment, EB-2 Advanced Degree, or EB-3 Skilled Worker/Professional, your department’s budget priorities include paying all costs connected to the Labor Certification (PERM) process required for these categories.
No. Student workers and employees in postdoctoral positions are not eligible for VCU green cad application support for the reason that these positions are not permanent or the employee cannot be expected to hold the position permanently.
Student workers and employees in postdoctoral positions may be interested in information about a “self-supporting” PR application. For more information about this option, please see below.
This decision is made via consultation among the employee, the hiring unit, and GEO lead by the law firm. To ensure a successful PR application process, weight is given to the law firm’s expertise in identifying the EB category most likely to result in USCIS approval of the PR application in the shortest amount of time, and in the most cost-effective way.
Support for a VCU PR application consists of hiring unit and employee responsibilities.
Hiring Unit Responsibilities
- Initiate a VCU PR application for the employee according to the procedures outlined here.
- Take the administrative lead—guided by GEO and the law firm—in supporting the preparation and filing of the PR application. The hiring unit’s administrative responsibility varies by EB category and may include a legal requirement to conduct a new search for the position.
- Possibly invest financially in the employee’s PR application process. The amount of hiring unit investment in a PR application varies by application. For cost information, please see below.
- Intend to remain employed by VCU for the duration of their PR application process.
- Follow GEO and the law firm’s guidance about the stages and timelines of the PR application process.
- Proactively seek advice from the law firm about all matters relating to PR application processing.
- Possibly invest financially in the PR application process. The amount of hiring employee in a PR application varies application. For cost information, please see below.
- Agreeing to reimburse VCU for legally allowable attorney fees expended in connection with the PR application. For information about costs and reimbursement agreement, please see below.
At VCU, hiring units are free to develop and implement their own green card application support policies and practices to determine if, when, and how to support eligible employees’ PR applications.
Such policies and practices must be consistent with U.S. law and the VCU PR application support procedures outlined here. They should also be transparent and provide equitable access to PR application support by all eligible employees.
Green card application costs and who pays them varies by EB category and hiring unit budget priorities. It is possible to provide only a general estimate of the VCU PR application costs here.
PR Application Costs
Green card costs consist of attorney fees charged by the law firm to prepare and file the PR application with USCIS plus USCIS filing fees charged by the U.S. government to process the filed PR application.
VCU PR application costs and vary by EB category and other factors, but the total cost (attorney fees + USCIS filing fees) ranges from around $8,000 to around $10,000.
Who Pays the Costs?
For some EB categories (EB-1A, EB-1B, and EB-2 NIW), USCIS permits the costs to be paid 100% by the employer (hiring unit), 100% by the employee, or divided between them.
For other EB categories (EB-2 Special Recruitment; EB-2 Advanced Degree; and EB-2 Skilled Worker/Professional), USCIS requires the employer to pay specified costs, but permits the balance of the costs to be paid 100% by the employer (hiring unit), 100% by the employee, or divided between them.
VCU PR application costs not paid by the hiring unit must be paid by the employee from their personal funds.
If you have questions about the estimated PR application costs for a specific employee, and who may or must pay for them, please contact GEO by email.
Yes. Beyond attorney fees and USCIS filing fees, additional fees associated with PR applications include:
- PR applications for the employee’s dependents filed with the employee’s PR application
- Credentials evaluations
- Document translations
- Passport-style photographs
- Immigration medical examinations
- Travel to and from a USCIS field office (usually in Norfolk, VA or Alexandria, VA) for biometrics processing and, possibly, in-person interview.
- Other personal costs associated with the PR application process (varies by application).
GEO cannot provide an estimate of these additional cost amounts, but the law firm can do so after OAG has assigned the PR application to them.
Historically at VCU, these other PR application costs are paid by the employee from their personal funds with no contribution from the hiring unit.
Yes. If the hiring unit provides financial support for attorney fees relating to the VCU PR application costs indicated above and the employee terminates VCU employment for any reason within three (3) years of the commencement of billable work performed by the law firm assigned by OAG to process the application, then the employee must reimburse VCU for any attorney fees incurred by the university, as allowed by U.S. law. As part of the VCU PR application support process, the employee will be asked to sign a reimbursement agreement to this effect.
The reimbursement agreement does not include USCIS filing fees or any other costs expended by the hiring unit for the PR application.
The PR application process includes a number of parties: hiring unit, employee, GEO, OAG, law firm, and various U.S. government agencies.
This question is really about how long it takes U.S. government agencies to process PR applications to final approval (I-485 approval and green card issued).
The U.S. government processing timeline for PR applications varies by a number of factors including:
- EB category
- Workload and staffing levels at U.S. government agencies
- In some cases, where the employee was born
Given these variables, it is possible to provide only a general estimate of the VCU PR application processing timeline.
In terms of U.S. government agencies’ processing times, VCU PR applications have historically taken about 12-18 months to process to final approval (green card in hand) but delays beyond this are possible.
If you have questions about the estimated PR application timeline for an employee based on the specifics of their case please contact GEO by email.
The answer to this question depends partly on the employee’s current U.S. immigration status.
The information in the chart below is provided as general guidance. Please do not rely exclusively on this chart to determine when to start the PR application process for an employee.
Current U.S. Immigration Status
When to Start the PR Application Process
E-3, F-1, OPT, STEM OPT, J-1, O-1, or TN
After change of status to H-1B status. It is legally possible but practically very challenging to apply for PR status while in a strict nonimmigrant status such as E-3, F-1, OPT, STEM OPT, J-1, O-1, or TN. Employees in these nonimmigrant statuses should first transition to H-1B status before entering the PR application process.
During the first 1-3 years of the 6 year total allowable time in H-1B status. Due to extended U.S. government PR application processing times, hiring units should not wait until year 4-5 of the employee’s H-1B status to initiate the PR application process.
If you have questions about when to initiate the VCU PR application process for an employee based on the specifics of their case please contact GEO by email.
If the hiring unit would like to support the employee’s PR application, the unit’s Human Resources Associate (HRA) must send an email to GEO to initiate the process.
GEO will follow up with the HRA and employee by email about the next steps in the process, which include completing some internal VCU paperwork, asking OAG to assign the PR application to a law firm, and introducing the HRA and employee to the law firm.
After OAG assigns the PR application to a law firm and GEO has introduced the law firm, HRA, and employee to each other by email, the HRA and employee will enjoy direct access to the law firm throughout the PR application life-cycle.
The law firm will take the lead in guiding the HRA and employee through the PR application process, but GEO remains engaged with the VCU PR application as described above. Please see “What is GEO’s role in PR application processing?”
For support with VCU’s PR application program, please contact GEO, Attn: Paul Babitts, Ph.D., Associate Director, International Student and Scholar Programs, Email: email@example.com, Telephone: (804) 828-9615.
If the employee is not eligible for VCU PR application support, or if the hiring unit chooses not to support the employee’s PR application, the employee may want to apply for PR status without university support.
For simplicity, this kind of PR application can be referred to as a “self-supported” PR application.
A self-supported PR application would be 100% the employee’s personal legal and financial matter. VCU would not be a party to the application or provide any administrative or financial support for it.
The most common USCIS EB categories eligible for self-support are EB-1A Extraordinary Ability and EB-2 National Interest Waiver.
To file a self-supported PR application, the employee would either review the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability or EB-2 NIW PR application guidance on the USCIS web site and prepare and submit the PR application on their own (a challenging task) or hire an immigration law firm to process the application for them (a sound option).
For general information about filing a self-supporting PR application, the employee should contact GEO directly.