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The Point: International Faculty at UMB


Dear Colleagues,

Today’s Point was written by Professor Sana Haroon, Ex-Com member and leader of the Immigration Caucus

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 citizenship. 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 and work authorization filings. 

Employment visa filings and green card petitions take time to prepare, file and adjudicate.  Some of these procedures are handled by UMB counsel and some by private counsel hired by UMB. Costs include official government filing fees and attorney’s fees. A part of the costs of these procedures related to the faculty member’s visa and all the costs related to the faculty member’s family members are borne by faculty themselves. The anxieties and costs associated with these procedures create ongoing conditions of stress and precarity for our international colleagues as well as for their partners 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 October and December 2022 and CIT-led meetings held in December 2020 and May 2021, international faculty reported common experiences of delays, miscommunications, lack of transparency and information relating to immigration procedures, lack of responsiveness by key staff, changing rules for cost sharing, missed deadlines and other procedural missteps. Chairs reported sufficient lacking 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 support each other informally. The Core Bargaining Team has pledged to bargain for better support for international faculty through the visa and green card process. Read this, FSU members, and remember, to catalyze the individual experiences and efforts of so many on this campus into a pervasive, sustaining and improving culture of support for international faculty at UMB.

The FSU will host the spring 2023 International Faculty Breakfast Social, open to all FSU members and friends, on Tuesday May 9, 9-10.30 am. Stay tuned for more info.

This is your union.  Please let us know at if you have additional ideas about how to support all of our international colleagues.