I'm European and I'm about to accept a tenure-track position in the US where I will come up for tenure review after 2 years (i.e. get tenure after 3), as I have already spent a number of years in a comparable position.

While negotiating, I was warned that I must obtain permanent residency in the US before they can grant me tenure, but they couldn't tell me whether the 3 years of my initial contract will be sufficient time for doing so. Apparently, this 3 years can't be extended unless I get tenure, so I better manage to obtain a green card within 3 years. This somewhat conflicts with what my US-based colleagues assured me, namely that the process of getting permanent residency is quite straightforward for professors.

My question:

How long did it take for you (or your colleague) to get permanent residency through the "Outstanding professors or researchers" (EB-1B) category?

  • Are you married? If not, would you be willing to marry an American citizen? Not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that'd make things easier.
    – nick012000
    Jun 6 '21 at 23:15
  • For the last person my department intended to hire, we tried to get him a green card (rather than a work visa) before he even arrived. This was expected to delay his arrival by about six months, assuming all went smoothly. However, things did not go smoothly. COVID happened, delaying the process seemingly indefinitely.
    – Buzz
    Jun 6 '21 at 23:57
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    I'm mildly surprised that your hiring institution somehow puts the responsibility for getting the green card on you. If the institution (even just your department) exerts themselves by a pretty standard amount, things will be expedited. The apparent comment that you have to expedite something to enable their continued consideration of you sounds to me irrespondible or passive-aggressive. Sort of like asking your kid how they expect to pay for college... :) Jun 7 '21 at 0:25
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    @nick012000: yep already married :) Jun 7 '21 at 13:15
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    Have a look at this page. I’m totally not an expert on this subject, but as it seems to be illegal for US employers to discriminate against an employee based on their immigration status, I’m wondering how this university can legally condition the tenure on getting permanent residency. You might want to consult a lawyer or ask about this on law.se (and/or ask the people who “warned” you - it’s possible they are mistaken).
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 9 '21 at 8:40

It takes less than 2 years in average to get a green card. If the University does not help, you should hire a lawyer. It takes several thousands dollars to do that, but this is money well spent. But most Universities have immigration lawyers and they help.

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    Do you have any reference to support the “less than 2 years on average” claim? It may be correct, but I don’t think OP or other people should take your word for it. Also, OP asked about a specific route to obtaining a green card (EB-1B), so this statistic, even if correct, may not be indicative of that particular situation.
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 9 '21 at 17:38
  • @DanRomik: I have been in the country for 30 years and I know the situation. The EB-1B status takes a few months, the rest is less than 1 year. This is the standard path. There are horrible exceptions, though, but for Europeans, I do not know those.
    – markvs
    Jun 9 '21 at 17:47

At my institution (the University of California), I believe that one can still go through the process of being judged for tenure and what happens is that if one does not have permanent residency at the time of promotion they are instead put on as an "Acting Associate Professor" for a two-year period. They would then become a tenured "Associate Professor" at the end of that time, assuming the greencard has come through.

It's worth checking whether your university has a similar policy, as that would seem to solve your main problem.

Your university may have an immigration lawyer who will work with you to file everything. If not, be sure to hire one. It's a complicated process but can be quite smooth with competent lawyers.

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