Immigration Options for College and University Employees

Institutions of Higher Educations are given special status when it comes to immigration law. Colleges and Universities offering higher than associate degrees have options in the immigration law specially designed for their employees.

Non-Immigrant Options:

H-1 Cap Exemptions
Institution of Higher Educations can sponsor employees on H-1B Specialty Occupation status without cap limitations. In another word, institutions of higher educations can sponsor H-1B specialty workers without the limitations put on most other organizations.

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O-1 Extraordinary Ability

For someone who enjoys international or national reputations in their academic teaching or research, an O-1 visa may be a better option. O-1 visa, once granted, implies that the applicant may well qualify for first priority employment-based visa for advanced researcher or professor or extraordinary ability. O-1 visa paves the way to faster immigrant visa for qualified individuals without possible backlogs in other lower-priority categories.

Non-Immigrant Options:

Special Handling PERM: Teachers or professors working for Institutions of Higher Education have the option of special handling of PERM, or labor certification, designed specially for teachers and professors in college and universities. Only teachers or professors can utilize this procedure. Special handling PERM requires that the alien goes through a “competitive recruitment and selection process” and the PERM application must be filed 18 month after the selection is made. Major requirement of the “competitive recruitment and selection process” is at least one advertisement for the job opportunity be placed in a national professional journal that states the job title, duties, and the requirements.

Regular PERM: Workers and other professionals who do not work as teachers should apply for regular labor certification.

National Interest Waiver: Teachers can apply for permanent residency through “National Interest Waiver”. The“National Interest Waiver” seeks to exempt the applicants from the Labor Certification process. National Interest Waiver does not require a job offer or employer sponsorship. National Interest Waiver applicants are still subject to the visa availability requirement. Adjustment of status to permanent residency is conditioned on there is visa currently available for this category. The minimum requirement is that the applicant must have a master degree, a bachelor degree with at least 5 years of progressive
working experience, or demonstratable exceptional ability.

Outstanding Professors or Researchers: Teachers or professors of international recognition in their teaching or research can also apply for Outstanding Professors or Researchers. There is always visa currently available for this category. If applicant’s immigration petition is approved, the applicant can file for adjustment of status immediately as there is usually no backlog in this category. This option always requires the college or university to sponsor the applicant. This option also requires a permanent job offer from the college and university.

Aliens of Extraordinary Ability: Teachers or professors of international recognition still have the option to apply for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability. Similar to outstanding professor or researchers, there is usually no backlog. The standard of approval for aliens of extraordinary ability is also higher.