Green Card Overview (Lawful Permanent Residence) for Scientists and Doctors
Green Card – Lawful Permanent Residence
A physician or scientist may apply for permanent residence through employment and may submit a green card application while physically present in the US (“adjustment of status” application) or at a consular post abroad (immigrant visa application). The green card application process generally has several steps, and is usually commenced by a sponsoring employer.
Step 1: The employer submits an immigrant petition with the USCIS. This petition is a request that the sponsored scientist or doctor be categorized in an employment based immigrant classification (which is usually either first or second preference). Please note that some second preference petitions require the submission of an approved labor certification.
Step 2: If the immigrant petition is approved and a visa number is available for his or her classification, the sponsored scientist or doctor may apply for a green card. Because there is a numerical limitation on the number of immigrant visas issued each fiscal year for the different preference classifications and the high demand for these visas, there are in many cases waiting times for visa availability. Each month, the US Department of State issues a bulletin showing which applicants are able to submit their green card applications. The availability is determined by your “priority date,” which is either the date your immigrant petition (I-140) was filed or the date your labor certification was filed. If the scientist or doctor is in the first preference classification, there is generally not an issue with the visa number. If your date is current, you may apply for an immigrant visa at the consular post in your home country. Alternatively, if you are lawfully present in the US, you may submit an adjustment of status application. When you submit this application, you may also request a travel document (Advance Parole) and employment authorization (EAD).
What is an ‘EAD’ or a ‘Work Permit’?
‘EAD’ is ‘Employment Authorization Document.’ These types of documents are granted for individuals in certain categories, such as individuals with adjustment of status applications that are pending, F-1 students who are granted curriculum or optional practical training, or spouses of L1 or E2 visa holders. Generally, EADs allow the holder to work for any employer and are valid for one year. They can be renewed for as long as the underlying eligibility requirements are met.
May a scientist or physician change employers once s/he becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident?
When a worker is granted lawful permanent residence based on an employer’s sponsorship, it is generally based in part on the assertion that the worker intends to work for the petitioning employer. This requirement has lost some relevance with changes in legislation in recent years. Nevertheless, it is a requirement that is worth noting. That being said, a lawful permanent resident is free to work and live where he or she chooses in the US. Although the green card does have an expiration date, permanent residence does not expire if the card expires. However, a lawful permanent resident must have his or her green card to re-enter the US and to demonstrate employment authorization.
Can a scientisit or physician who is a Lawful Permanent Resident apply for US Citizenship?
An individual may apply for naturalization after being a lawful permanent resident for 5 years. There are other requirements that must be met, such as certain physical presence and good moral character requirements.