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The Point: International Faculty at UMass Boston and the Costs of Immigration


Today’s Point was written by Sana Haroon, Professor of History and VP of the FSU

UMass Boston has successfully hired thousands of international faculty into tenure stream positions in a national origin-blind hiring policy that has advanced UMB’s mission to foster cutting edge research and teaching on our campus. The majority of our international colleagues have already moved onto green cards or become full citizens. All have shouldered enormous financial costs, uncertainty and personal stresses alongside day-to-day professional responsibilities in a 2-10+ year journey to receiving permanent residence or “green cards.” Each of their immigration pathways has been unique and complex and, in recent years, shadowed by an increasingly immigrant-hostile public discourse.

Academic hiring procedures interact in complex ways with United States immigration rules and procedures. International faculty identified in competitive searches, who may currently be studying or teaching in another country or international students or faculty at American academic institutions, begin work at UMass Boston on visas secured by UMB. These visas provide initial work authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). UMB will then take steps to file green card petitions in order for these faculty to become permanent residents. During this journey to permanent residency each faculty member encounters a different mix of immigration and national security procedures, rules, restrictions and screenings related to their personal travel history, country of national origin and family’s visa filings. 

Employment visa filings and green card petitions take time to prepare, file and adjudicate.  Faculty spend countless hours preparing visa and green card applications while they are also preparing for tenure and promotion. They also bear a portion of the costs of the procedures related to their own visas and all the costs related to their family members.  Alongside these direct costs of immigration, international faculty find their family income greatly reduced as their spouses are prohibited for working for many years until approved for green cards. The labor, anxieties and costs associated with immigration procedures and rules create an ongoing condition of stress and precarity for the international faculty member, their partner and children.  

Steering international faculty from hiring to green card also requires years of effort by department chairs and college deans who must fill out paperwork and provide funds for expected, unexpected and expedited procedures through this complex and time sensitive process. 

In FSU-led meetings held in 2022 and 2023, international faculty reported common experiences of delays, miscommunications and lack of transparency and information relating to immigration procedures. They faced lack of responsiveness by key staff and changing rules for cost sharing, and navigated missed deadlines and other procedural missteps. Chairs reported lacking sufficient information to advise existing and prospective international faculty members about the costs, procedures and timelines relating to immigration filing and paperwork. Costs and consequences of errors and ambiguities are not to be taken lightly. They can lead to the loss of work authorization for the faculty member and do lead to bills in the thousands of dollars for each expedited procedure that should have been filed yesterday.

Colleagues, both faculty and administrators, have supported international faculty over the years at UMass Boston. At the FSU we are working to catalyze this into a pervasive, sustaining and improving culture of support for international faculty. This year the Contract Bargaining Team will propose that the University should pay all costs related to visas and Green Cards for international faculty and librarians along with and their partners and dependents.

Join us for an FSU co-sponsored lunchtime talk “The Opportunity Trap” on Friday 3/8, 12-3 pm in Ballroom A. Pallavi Banerjee’s will speak about how US visa policies that are legally gender and race neutral in fact have gendered and racialized ramifications for visa holders and their spouses owing to the inability of spouses of H-1 visa holders to work. Refreshments will be served.