The term Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) is used to describe an immigrant who has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. Evidence of lawful permanent resident status is conferred via an I-551 stamp in the individual’s passport and an I-551 card (commonly known as a “green card”). The status also confers the right to work for just about any type employer. Only work in certain sensitive areas is prohibited.  Lawful permanent residence is also a step toward naturalization for those wishing to become U.S. citizens.All permanent resident applications filed by UT must be processed by, or directed by CGE. Permanent resident petitions will be processed based on an official request by the head or director of the department (or organizational unit) employing the employee. Click here for more information about the host-department’s responsibilities and procedures to initiate a PR petition.


When a foreign national obtains permanent residence, the spouse and all children under the age of 21 are also eligible to receive permanent residence.

Employment Permission

Permanent residents are eligible to work in the United States without restriction.

Maintaining Status

To maintain your status as a permanent resident in the United States, you must have a primary residence in the United States and obtain a Re-entry Permit from USCIS for any trip outside of the United States which will last longer than one calendar year.

USCIS Guide for New Immigrants

USCIS publishes a helpful detailed guide for new immigrants which covers many topics, including a section on the rights and responsibilities of permanent residents. For more information please refer to the guide.

Obtaining Permanent Residence for UT Faculty and Staff

The three most common bases for qualifying for permanent residency are close family relationship, public policy, and employment sponsorship. This website is intended to provide general information related only to employment-based petitions within the context of higher education, which requires a U.S. institution to petition on behalf of the alien.

The most commonly used filing categories in higher education are:

  • Extraordinary Ability: This category is for the individual who is internationally recognized as being at the very top of his or her field.
  • Outstanding Professor or Researcher: This category is for the individual that is internationally recognized as outstanding and has at least three years experience in the field.
  • Advanced Degree Holder: This category is for the individual holding an advanced degree which is required for the position.
  • Advanced Degree Holder with National Interest Waiver: This category is for the individual holding an advanced degree and who can establish that it is in the national interest for him or her to be exempt from a job offer and labor certification requirements.

UT Knoxville will sponsor professional-level employees for US Permanent Residence if the employee is employed (or has been offered employment) in any full-time professional position considered to be permanent.

  • “Professional” is defined to be any position which clearly requires a four-year Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
  • “Permanent” is defined to be a tenure-track or tenured faculty position or any regular position that is expected to continue indefinitely, and in which the employee intends to remain indefinitely.
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate positions are not considered permanent.

Any UT employee who would like UT to submit an employment-based petition on his/her behalf   should meet with a CGE advisor to discuss options.   If a UT-sponsored permanent resident petition seems appropriate, CGE will contact the hiring department to explain the process and the department obligations.   The hiring department may then, if it chooses, make a formal request for the university to begin the permanent resident process. If approved by the Provost’s Office, the application will be processed either by the Center for International Education or by an attorney on contract with The University of Tennessee.


  •  Before beginning the permanent resident process, CGE and the Office of the Provost will determine whether the application will be processed by CGE or if it will be referred to the contracted attorney.   In any case, CGE will not process more than one permanent resident petition for each employee   (If a department requests a second petition, it will be prepared by the contracted attorney, with all costs paid by the hiring department)
  •  If UT serves as the petitioner, all expenses related to the petition must be paid by the hiring department, without any reimbursement by the employee.
  •  If the application is processed by CGE, a processing fee will be charged to the department.   If processed by an attorney, the hiring department will be billed for attorney fees.   Contact CGE for a current estimate of costs.
  •  Petitions filed in the name of The University may not be prepared by any attorney, other than one on contract with The University.
  •  All immigration petitions filed in the University’s name must be signed by a representative of the Center for International Education or the Office of the General Counsel.   While UT Department Heads, Faculty or Supervisors may write recommendation letters in support of immigration applications, they may not sign an immigration document on behalf of The University .

If it does not seem appropriate for The University to file a petition on behalf of an employee, it may be possible, in some cases,  for the employee to file a petition on his/her own behalf, in the category of “person of extraordinary ability” or “national interest waiver”.  A CGE advisor can provide more information about these options.

In each case, CGE and the Provost’s office e will decide the most appropriate category for a permanent resident petition.  For persons employed as tenure-track teaching faculty, The University usually chooses to file a petition in the second employment category, using a “Special Handling” Labor Certification.   In this case, the application for labor certification must be filed within eighteen months after the official job offer has been made.

For non-tenure-track position, the following conditions must normally be satisfied before the University  begins any paperwork related to a permanent resident petition:

  1. The employee must normally be employed by The University of Tennessee,  Knoxville for a minimum of two years before the University will sponsor him/her for permanent residence.
  2. The hiring department must already have secured a minimum of three additional years of funding (after the Permanent Resident paperwork has begun) and must clearly demonstrate that continued funding beyond the three years is highly probable for an indefinite period.
  3. Exceptions to the above requirements  may be made only with approval of the Provost’s Office.

When the Special Handling Labor Certification does not appear to be possible or advisable, CGE will, in consultation with the employee and hiring department, recommend a petition in the categories of “Outstanding Professor or researcher”, “National Interest Waiver”  , or using a regular labor Certification.

While CGE will use its best judgment in filing petitions, it does not guarantee approval of any application filed.

Traveling Inside and Outside the U.S.

Permanent residents do not need a visa in order to enter the United States. In order for a permanent resident to make an entry into the United States the individual will generally have to show a valid passport and the permanent resident card, otherwise known as the “green card” or the “I-551”.