Initial Publication Date: August 20, 2007

Immigration and Citizenship Issues

As an international faculty member, you are probably trying to navigate the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident of the US (and perhaps eventually a US citizen), even as you are starting your new career. Here is some advice from your peers on dealing with this process and some of the challenges it presents. Because the laws governing citizenship and immigration are subject to change, you should verify this information with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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Permanent residency

Becoming a lawful permanent resident is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor (and is a pre-requisite for becoming a US citizen). If you have not yet begun the process, now is the time.


  • The resources on this page can help you get started.
  • Find out whether your institution has an office that can help you prepare your immigration-related paperwork, and take advantage of their services if it does.
  • You may wish to hire an attorney who specializes in immigration and work closely with them.


Foreign residence requirement

  • Fulbright scholars (or anyone else on a J-1 visa) who don't want to return home for two full years prior to re-entering the US can apply for a waiver, although these are rarely granted. (Note: the foreign residence requirement is waived for many scholars from European countries at the time the visa is granted.)


International travel

  • Citizens of "third world" countries need visas to go abroad, even if they're permanent residents of the US (though lawful permanent residents generally have an easier time getting visas).
  • After you have applied for lawful permanent resident status, you aren't supposed to leave the US until your case is decided. However, if you have a compelling reason to travel abroad, whether for personal or professional reasons, you can apply for what's called "advance parole." Note: you must apply for, and receive, advance parole prior to traveling abroad. Otherwise, you may not be able to re-enter the U.S.


Your college-bound children aren't citizens or residents (yet)

  • Budget your money carefully. Your child may not be eligible for financial aid or for many scholarships.
  • Apply for a student visa early. Your child won't be able to register for classes until he or she has a student visa.
  • Investigate scholarships for international students. Because they are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, your children may be eligible for many of these scholarships even if they have lived in the U.S. most of their lives.
  • Discuss the situation with your child, explaining your financial constraints. Attending a two-year college and then transferring to a state university or other four-year institution is an economical alternative to four years of high tuition, and many state university systems are making the transfer process easier.