Special Handling for University Professors


PERM Overview

A labor certification or PERM, as it is commonly called, is the first step for most employers who want to sponsor their employees for permanent residency. There are three steps to the green card or permanent residency through the PERM process. The first step is to obtain an approved PERM or labor certification. Second, you must successfully file for an immigrant visa. The final step is to file an Adjustment of Status for permanent residency.

There are several types of employment-based sponsorships but PERMs are the most common process. PERM labor certifications can fall under either employment-based categories of EB-2 or EB-3. The EB-2 category is designated for advanced degree workers – normally those with Master’s degrees or Bachelor’s degrees plus 5 years of progressive experience. Since most colleges require a Ph.D. to teach, professors normally qualify for the EB-2 category.

Special-Handling PERMs

There is a special category within the PERM process that is available to universities wishing to offer foreign-national professors a permanent position and have already performed a selective, competitive recruitment process for the position. This process is commonly known as Special-Handling PERMs. This process is slightly different from the PERM process discussed in the PERM article and does not require all the advertisements detailed in the regular PERM process. The Special Handling PERM process is usually a much faster process than the traditional route.

To qualify for a special handling PERM, the employer must be a university or institute of higher education. Second, the job duties of the position must involve at least some level of teaching. Third, the labor certification must be filed within 18 months after the employee is selected through the competitive recruitment process. This is normally the date that the position is actually offered to the employee (which can be much earlier than the actual start date). Fourth, the advertising that was initially done for the position must have included at least one ad in a national journal, not just an online jobsearch website.

If these conditions were met when the foreign national was initially hired, then there remain only a couple of minimal requirements:

  • Request a prevailing wage determination from the DOL. The DOL will advise the employer of the minimum wage the employer must meet; and
  • Post a job posting at the employer’s work location for 10 business days.

One of the main differences of the special handling PERM is that the university only has to prove to the DOL that they selected the best qualified candidate for the position, rather than having to prove that there were no minimally qualified U.S. workers. Because most universities have very specific criteria when hiring professors and conduct their own competitive recruitment, it is usually easy to justify the selection to the DOL.

However, some cases are not as straightforward, and require an experienced immigration lawyer to evaluate whether the selection criteria meets the DOL regulations. Further, due to the time restrictions on special handling PERM applications, it is important for a professor to speak with an immigration attorney soon after being hired by a university in order to ensure that this option applies. If you are interested in applying for Special-Handling PERM for yourself or for your employee, call our office today. We’ll determine the best strategy to get you positive results and guide you through common issues that can lead to delays and denials.


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