For an overview of Permanent Residence please visit the Permanent Residence Immigration Information page. 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, with approval by the college dean (if appropriate) and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

The applications will be prepared by the CGE if staff levels permit. If staff time does not permit, the Office of the General Counsel will arrange for an outside attorney to prepare the applications, with all attorney fees to be paid by the hiring department.

Download the “UT Policy on filing permanent Resident Petitions“.

Employment-based Petitions

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 Employees and Permanent Residence

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 wishes to submit an employment-based petition, must meet with a CGE advisor to review their case and determine eligibility for either the advanced degree holder or outstanding professor/researcher categories. If their case falls within these two categories, then the hiring department may file a request form with CGE to begin the LPR process.  If CGE advisors determine that filing in the extraordinary ability category or taking advantage of the national interest waiver would be the best strategy, no further action would be required by the University and the employee can self-petition for LPR status in the extraordinary ability category or under the national interest waiver provisions.

For persons employed as teaching faculty, the permanent resident application process should begin within eighteen months after the official job offer has been made. For all other positions (including research faculty), the conditions below must 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 Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
  4. After initial approval by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and after consultation with the employee and the hiring department, CGE will determine the most appropriate category of employment-based immigration to be used for the application. If CGE determines that the application is unlikely to be approved, it will not file any application and will not recommend that the application be referred to an attorney.

Whenever possible, the University will apply for a “Special Handling” Labor Certification for teaching positions, followed by a second preference immigration petition. For non-teaching positions, CGE may choose either a second or third preference petition with Labor Certificate, a second preference petition with a “national interest waiver”, or a first preference petition for outstanding researcher, if the employee appears to qualify for this category.

Note: Employees are free to file immigrant petitions on their own behalf without approval by The University of Tennessee. These petitions may be filed in the categories of “Extraordinary Ability” or “National Interest Waiver,” and the employee him/herself will act as the petitioner. While UT department heads, professors, and other employees may write recommendation letters in support of such applications, they may not sign any US Government forms on behalf of the University in relation to these applications.


All costs related to the filing of permanent resident petitions filed by UT must be paid by the hiring department and may not be paid or reimbursed by the employee. The costs associated with an application for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status for the employee may be paid by the employee or the hiring department. The University may not pay any costs associated with applications filed by the dependents of the employee. If the services of an outside attorney are used, the hiring department will be responsible for paying all attorney fees.

The hiring department will also be responsible for paying for all costs of advertising and recruitment, as required by U.S. labor law, as well as fees charged by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for an immigrant petition (Form I-140), and fees (if any) charged by the US Department of Labor for an application for Labor Certification.

If an employee files an immigrant petition on his/her own behalf, The University of Tennessee will not pay or reimburse the costs of the application.

Filing Permanent Resident Petition

To initiate paperwork for a permanent resident petition, the hiring department or organizational unit will complete a request form – tenure track or non-tenure track – stating its intention to employ the employee on a permanent or indefinite basis and indicating how the employee meets criteria specified above (Contact Elizabeth Washam Smith: The request form will be signed by department head and dean (if applicable) and forwarded to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs with required documentation. If the request is approved, it will be forwarded to CGE.

A representative of CGE will then meet with the Head of the hiring department to make the final determination about filing the petition, discuss the best immigrant category to be used, the relevant requirements and procedures, the probabilities for approval, and to give an estimate of related costs.

Although CGE will advise the department to the best of its abilities before beginning an application, it does not guarantee approval of any application.

Based on the availability of CGE staff, in consultation with the Offices of the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor, a decision will be made to have the application prepared by CGE or an outside attorney. This determination will be made before the department makes the final decision to proceed.

The hiring department will then provide more detailed information and documentation as requested by CGE or the attorney. If further advertising and recruitment is required, this will be arranged by the hiring department under the direction of CGE or the attorney.

The UT Office of Human Resources will also assist, as needed, in fulfilling Department of Labor recruiting requirements. When an application will be filed for a Labor Certification, paper and electronic notices must be posted for the information of other employees. Arrangements for these postings will be made by CGE, Human Resources, and the hiring department, coordinated by CGE.

Paper documentation related to the Labor Certification must be collected before the electronic application is filed, and kept by the employer for five years. This file will be assembled and kept by CGE.

A representative of CGE, designated by the Office of the Vice Chancellor, will sign all documents related to applications for Labor Certification or immigrant petitions. If the services of an attorney will be used, the G-28 form will be signed by a representative of the General Counsel’s Office.