Lawful permanent resident status is granted to individuals who intend to make the U.S. their principal place of residence, legally affording them the privilege of residing permanently in the U.S. as an immigrant. Individuals who have obtained lawful permanent residence (LPR) are also commonly referred to as "green card" holders (terms used interchangeably below).
There are a number of pathways a person can take to apply for a green card. Generally, people must have an approved immigrant petition and have an
immigrant visa available to be eligible for approval of LPR status. Immigrant petitions often involve either family sponsorship or employer sponsorship, though some categories are eligible for self-sponsorship. Additional information on obtaining LPR status is available through
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
Those considering or seeking LPR status should be aware of the
Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule, which took effect on February 24, 2020. Under this rule, immigration agencies will make a determination about the likelihood of applicants for certain immigration benefits becoming a public charge. Questions about the public charge rule should be directed to an experienced immigration attorney.
Requirements for NIH Sponsorship
In order for NIH to consider sponsorship of an immigrant petition on behalf of a scientist, s/he must hold or be approved for a permanent/indefinite Full-time Equivalent (FTE) appointment such as Staff Scientist or Staff Clinician and higher. There must be an expectation for long-term employment with at least two years remaining at the NIH at the time of filing.
Employees in a Staff Scientist or Staff Clinician position must be in that designation for six months before being eligible for NIH sponsorship. Higher-level positions such as Tenure Track or Senior Investigators do not have a time-in-designation requirement.
Non-FTE designations and trainee-level FTE appointments (Research Fellows/Clinical Fellows) are not eligible for NIH sponsorship of the immigrant petition.
To initiate NIH sponsorship of the immigrant petition, the employee's Institute/Center (IC) must submit a signed request to DIS. Contact DISLPR@mail.nih.gov to obtain the latest edition of our request form. Once DIS receives an approved sponsorship request from the IC, we will evaluate the scientist's credentials to ensure their record sufficiently meets necessary requirements.
Detailed information on LPR sponsorship for NIH scientists and staff is available here (NIH users Only)
NIH Scientists Obtaining LPR Status Independently
NIH scientists in the Visiting Program may be eligible to apply for a green card without employer sponsorship. DIS is unable to provide guidance on the LPR process for those seeking a green card independently and strongly recommends obtaining reputable immigration counsel. Review the NIH Ethics restrictions that may limit NIH employees' ability to issue letters in support of an LPR application.
It is important to inform DIS if you are pursuing or have obtained a green card. While unable to advise on the LPR process for scientists seeking a green card independently, DIS will assist to ensure that work authorization and immigration status are maintained until LPR status is obtained.
Once LPR status is obtained, the scientist should provide a copy of the green card to DIS and the IC administrative contact. The IC should start the conversion process as soon as possible to remove the scientist from the Visiting Program, which includes updating the scientist's NED record.