Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Permanent Residence (Green Card)

Main content start


Permanent residence allows a non-U.S. citizen to remain in the U.S. permanently and to work in most occupations without the need for additional authorization. This contrasts with the temporary authorization to reside in the U.S. and work in a specific job that a classification like H-1 or J-1 accommodates. 

Evidence of permanent residence is a document called a “green card” (for its original color). You can see an example of a green card and get additional information about permanent residence at  this Wikipedia page about the Green Card.

Green card petitions of any type are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Analysts working for USCIS review petitions for conformance to the legal and regulatory standards associated with the type of petition that has been filed.

Employer-sponsored Green Cards

Employer-sponsored green cards are associated with a particular offer of employment, which US immigration law requires to be full time and permanent (or for faculty appointments, in the tenure line), to reflect the permanent nature of the benefit. Immigration regulations include tenure-line faculty offers in this definition.

Types of Green Card Petitions

Employer-sponsored green cards fall into defined categories, referred to by numbered preferences: first preference, second preference, etc. The lower the preference number, the less time a prospective immigrant must wait for their actual green card. This wait time is controlled by the system of cutoff and priority dates operated by the US State Department. You can read about preferences and priority dates on this Wikipedia page.

First Preference Petitions

First preference petitions (in the Stanford environment) are merit-driven, meaning that the law has created a standard of achievement or accomplishment that must be met, usually through the presentation of evidence. There are other eligibility requirements as well, having to do with experience and scope of renown. These particular first preference petitions are frequently identified by their reference in the law as EB-1, EB-1B or E12. They are suited to offers of academic employment in teaching and research, where a significant record of publications and other types of professional accomplishment are integral to the essential qualifications for the job in question. 

Some Stanford-specific information about first preference petitions can be found here.

Second Preference Petitions

Second preference petitions usually require a preliminary "labor certification" from the US Department of Labor (there are a couple of important exceptions), but the evidentiary standard is largely commensurate with the actual minimum requirements of the job being offered, and as settled by the labor certification. These requirements can range from those associated with skilled work, to tenure-line faculty; positions that normally require an advanced degree confer some advantages, but in general, inherent to any second preference petition is a lot of waiting. Not only does the labor certification take a very long time to be approved, but the cut-off date may be significantly in the future.

Labor certification procedures for faculty (including teaching staff; see this link) and non-teaching staff (see this link) can differ markedly. DoL regulations make specific exceptions to the search requirement in the case of employees who are engaged in “some amount of actual classroom teaching.”

Immediate Relative Petitions

Immediate Relative petitions allow the spouse of a US citizen to apply for a green card without the challenges to both applicants and employers that are associated with employment preferences. There is no preference quota. US citizens 21 years old or over may also file an Immediate Relative petition on behalf of their parent. Other family preferences exist as well.

Self-sponsored Petitions

In addition to employer-sponsored permanent immigration mechanisms, applicants can file a petition for a green card as an individual. These “self-sponsored” petitions exist in both the first and second preferences (described above). First preference self-sponsorship is often called “Extraordinary Ability,” for the way the standard of evidence is defined in the law. The standard is very high, higher than that for the EB-1B. In a second preference petition, the reference to the process is National Interest Waiver (NIW). Despite being a second preference petition, the NIW is also largely a merit-driven process.

Employees are free to pursue self-sponsored green cards (National Interest Waiver, Extraordinary Ability) with a personal attorney representing only you and not representing Stanford. Employees may not retain personal counsel for green card petitions sponsored by Stanford (PERM, EB-1B).

Referral Procedures for a Stanford-sponsored Green Card

Stanford has retained the Fredrikson law firm (also known as F&B or Fredlaw) for assistance with certain types of immigration work, including employer-sponsored permanent/green card petitions. Fredrikson is the exclusive provider of these legal services to Stanford University and is the only firm that can submit Stanford’s petitions to USCIS. 

If a department or employing unit has a need for these services, it must work with Bechtel International Center to collect basic information and secure preliminary approvals before processing the referral. The firm works in cooperation with Bechtel International Center and the Office of General Counsel to coordinate the university’s representations to the USCIS.

All requests to refer permanent immigration work on Stanford’s behalf require the approval of a cognizant dean or vice president. You can use this template, which should be attached to the referral request, which is made by completing this online form in Qualtrics. The form will collect account/PTA information and has a function to attach letter of authorization from the cognizant dean. There is no provision for employees to initiate their own Stanford-sponsored immigration procedures.

When a department’s referral request is approved, the department or unit representative is given instructions for contacting the attorneys. 

Departments and other hiring units are responsible for legal and filing fees for Stanford-sponsored petitions. See F&B’s Legal Fee Schedule. (The user must be logged in to a account to review the fee schedule.) Legal fees do not include filing or premium processing fees; these are extra and should be discussed with the attorneys.

Do not consult the firm outside the context of an approved referral from the Office of General Counsel and/or Bechtel, for each individual matter you want to have referred.