Inviting & Hiring Scholars

SPONSORING INTERNATIONAL FACULTY, STAFF & VISITING SCHOLARS

The University of Alabama has a proud tradition of welcoming international faculty, staff, and visiting scholars from around the world.  International scholars enliven our community and enrich the institution’s scholarship.

UA’s International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) is pleased to support scholars and their hiring or host departments by assisting with immigration-related matters and providing information to help scholars and their families settle into The University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa community.

ISSS is the University’s designated representative for all immigration concerns, including determining the appropriate visa type, preparing and filing immigration petitions, and verifying work or payment eligibility.

Departments, faculty, staff, or scholars with questions can reach out to ISSS at international@ua.edu or 205-348-5402.  Trang Nguyen is the primary International Advisor for scholars, faculty, and staff and may be reached at trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu.

 

APPLYING TO BE A VISITING SCHOLAR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

We recommend that interested visiting scholars contact prospective UA faculty hosts or departments directly with your request.  When doing so, please look for faculty and departments whose research and practice align with your background and interests.

The University of Alabama’s 13 colleges and schools and numerous libraries and research centers provide many opportunities for collaboration.

Prospective visiting scholars are encouraged to research UA’s academic offerings and faculty interests, and reach out directly to faculty with shared interests and expertise to discuss their proposal and to explore the possibility of being hosted at UA.

Below are links to UA’s colleges, schools, libraries, and research centers:

We outline guidance for UA host faculty and departments below.  If there is mutual interest and the department and host faculty have determined that they are able to host you, then the UA faculty host/mentor will reach out to the International Students & Scholars Services for next steps in initiating sponsorship.

Here are some helpful components of a formal request to a prospective host department or faculty:

  • A résumé or curriculum vitae
  • A description of the proposed research, including a statement explaining why UA is an appropriate setting for the work
  • A letter of recommendation from an academic colleague or your home institution
  • The proposed length and dates of the visit
  • If you are interested in observing a particular course, a statement indicating the course and the reasons for the interest

If your native language is not English, please include a description of relevant experience and training in English and the degree of their proficiency with the English language (e.g. English test scores or other evaluations). English proficiency expectations may vary by discipline and research project and is ultimately decided by the host department or faculty member.

If you require a formal letter of invitation from the host faculty in order to secure approvals or funding, we outline guidance for UA host faculty and departments below.

 

INVITING A VISITING SCHOLAR TO UA

The University of Alabama proudly hosts hundreds of Visiting Scholars each year.

Visiting Scholars differ from international faculty and staff in that they do not hold paid positions at UA.

Often, Visiting Scholars are either funded through personal funds or by their home institution, home government, or an external grant.  Subject to proper review procedures, while at UA, Visiting Scholars may be granted access to facilities and campus resources necessary to carry out their academic objectives.

Note on Honoraria Payments: If a department wishes to invite an international visitor to campus to present or consult with the intention of paying them an honoraria or other fee, then they must have a visa status that allows such payment. Departments wishing to pay an international visitor should consult with ISSS and the UA Tax Office prior to inviting the visitor, and well in advance of the expected visit.  Departments bringing visitors to campus without prior consultation with ISSS and the UA Tax Office risk a denial of the honorarium payment request if it is later determined that the visitor is not payment-eligible.

STEP 1: REVIEW APPROPRIATENESS OF ACTIVITY
When reviewing a possible visiting scholar, please consider whether or not their activity is in line with normal Visiting Scholar activities, such as:

  1. Pursue own research agenda
  2. Undertake collaborative research with faculty or staff
  3. Teach or co-teach a course
  4. Present guest lectures in classes
  5. Deliver a formal lecture to the school/college
  6. Participate in departmental or interdisciplinary program seminars
  7. Engage in formal or informal discussions with graduate students
  8. Participate in co-curricular activities
  9. Participate in trainings/internships


STEP 2: EVALUATE DEPARTMENT’S HOSTING CAPABILITIES
Prior to inviting a visiting scholar, Departments should review the appropriateness for the visit as well as the department’s resources for proper support.

  • Identify a department faculty mentor who will work with the visiting scholar and serve as the primary point of contact for the visiting scholar and for ISSS.
    • For visiting researchers or instructors, they are typically paired based on common research interests.
    • The faculty mentor should communicate with the scholar via phone/video in order to discuss the nature, scope, and specifics of the prospective scholar’s research project and/or teaching responsibilities, to learn about one another, and to experience what it is like to communicate with one another.  This communication can also serve as the basis of an evaluation of oral English proficiency.
  • Prepare for other forms of needed support, such as:
    • Relocation assistance (ultimately finding housing is the scholar’s responsibility, however hosts are expected to help the scholar) – ISSS has extensive resources on our Housing Page.
    • Arrival support (airport greeting and transport and anything else the hosts feel is appropriate to welcome and assist the scholar, including introductions, area and campus tour, etc.) – ISSS has airport transportation information on the Transportation Page.
    • Arrange access to computers, libraries, and other facilities, as appropriate (See Step 5 Below).
    • Provide university office or workstation space, if available.
    • Provide administrative assistance, if possible.


STEP 3: PREPARE A LETTER OF INVITATION (TYPICALLY REQUIRED IN ADVANCE FOR VISITING SCHOLARS APPLYING FOR INSTITUTIONAL, GRANT, OR GOVERNMENT FUNDING)
Many visiting scholars will require a letter of invitation from The University of Alabama in order to be able to secure their government, grant, or institutional funding that will support their visit.

Once the Department has determined that it is able to host a visiting scholar, the Department or School should provide a letter of invitation that communicates the nature and scope of the relationship, specifics of the prospective visitor’s research project and/or teaching responsibilities.

The letter should explain the department’s general willingness to serve as a host. There is no set length or format for the letter, although it should be on university letterhead and in English or accompanied by an English translation.

The letter should communicate:

  1. Who is being invited
  2. Who or what department with which the scholar will collaborate
  3. What grant activities the scholar will pursue (e.g., discipline-specific research or special lecturing needs)
  4. If the scholar is pursuing a combined teaching and research grant, both activities should be addressed
  5. When and for what period of time the host expects the scholar at their institution
  6. Why the host is interested in the scholar and/or their work
  7. Why the scholar’s proposed activity is a good fit
  8. How the host expects to benefit from the scholar’s project

ISSS has a sample invitation letter for Visiting Scholars which can be modified by the department.


STEP 4: INITIATE VISA SPONSORSHIP
In a few instances, visa sponsorship does not have to be initiated by UA, for example, if the scholar is coming under a B-1/B-2 Visitor’s visa or on a sponsored J-1 with a Fulbright award.  However, the host must still notify ISSS concerning the potential visiting scholar and for guidance on hosting guidelines and requirements.  And all visiting scholars, regardless of their visa status require the Visiting Scholar Request Form and a “New Faculty/Staff Setup” Form to be processed in advance of their first day of campus activity.

The most common visa categories for self-funded or externally-funded International Visiting Scholars are J-1 Scholar and B-1/B-2 Visitor (or ESTA Visa Waiver).

Reach out to International Student & Scholar Services at international@ua.edu or 205-348-5402 to get visa sponsorship process started.  Trang Nguyen is the primary International Advisor for scholars, faculty, and staff and may be reached at trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu.


STEP 5: ACADEMIC AFFAIRS AND HR APPROVALS – CWID, MYBAMA, & EMAIL ACCESS
Once a Visiting Scholar has secured external funding and is ready to come to UA, departments must separately complete the Visiting Scholar Request Form and a “New Faculty/Staff Setup” Form.  These should be processed prior to the Visiting Scholar’s arrival to campus.

The Visiting Scholar Request Form  and  “New Faculty/Staff Setup” Form should be submitted to Karla Nicholson, knichols@ua.edu, in Academic Affairs for approval and processing.

These forms will generate a CWID Number, Action Card, Email, WiFi, and computer systems access as well as access to UA Libraries and other campus facilities for the dates of the visit.

 

STEP 6: ORIENT AND ENGAGE WITH THE SCHOLAR DURING THE VISIT

  • Soon after arrival, have the international scholar set an appointment to meet with International Student & Scholar Services.
  • Provide scholar with all pertinent university policies, such as safety trainings.
  • Ensure that the scholar understands that they are expected to conform to the policies and standards of behavior which govern all UA Faculty and Staff.  For reference, please see the HR Staff Handbook.
  • Engage in close collaboration or appropriate oversight, depending on the department and scholar arrangements/needs.
  • Inform scholar of relevant conferences or meetings of professional associations held during the scholar’s grant period.
  • Invite visiting scholars to observe classes and attend faculty workshops and other academic events, when possible and appropriate.
  • Share resources on extra-curricular activities (cultural, social, or community).
  • Maintain frequent contact with the scholar throughout the duration of their stay on campus.

 

HIRING INTERNATIONAL FACULTY & STAFF

All employment opportunities should be properly posted either through Human Resources (for staff and research positions) or through Faculty Recruitment (for faculty and instructor positions).

During the job application process, applicants will answer the question of whether or not they will require visa sponsorship now or in the future.  This answer on the job application is an indication that ISSS should be involved if the candidate is a finalist for the position.

Hiring departments should reach out to International Student & Scholar Services at international@ua.edu or 205-348-5402 to discuss potential visa support needs.  Trang Nguyen is the primary International Advisor for scholars, faculty, and staff and may be reached at trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu.

Departments should consider the following when offering employment to an international faculty or staff member:

  1. All employees must have valid immigration status with the appropriate work authorization prior to commencing employment, and they must maintain a work-eligible status for the duration of the employment.
  2. Departments contemplating hiring a foreign national should consult with ISSS as early as possible so that ISSS can help the department and individual determine which status is most appropriate to ensure University and the prospective employee’s compliance with federal regulations.  At the hiring department’s request, the ISSS would then facilitate the preparation and submission of the required petition.
  3. All new foreign national employees holding non-immigrant status must make an appointment for check-in and orientation with International Student & Scholar Services within their first week on-campus.
  4. Similarly, if a department wishes to invite an international visitor to campus to present or consult with the intention of paying him/her an honoraria or other fee, then he or she must have a visa status that allows such payment. Departments wishing to pay an international visitor should consult with ISSS and the UA Tax Office prior to inviting the visitor, preferably well in advance of the expected visit.  Departments bringing visitors to campus without prior consultation with ISSS and the UA Tax Office risk a denial of the honorarium payment request if it is later determined that the visitor is not payment-eligible.
  5. Determining the appropriate status for a prospective employee or visitor depends on a number of factors, including federal immigration and labor regulations, University policy, the expected start date and duration of the employment or visit, the expected salary, the individual’s current status, immigration history, international travel plans, long-term plans for working in the U.S., and family situation.   ISSS welcomes questions from hiring departments and candidates regarding which immigration status is most applicable to the given circumstances.

 

 

TYPES OF VISAS SPONSORED FOR INTERNATIONAL PROFESSORS AND RESEARCHERS

ISSS, in consultation with the University of Alabama host department, will determine the most appropriate immigration status for work or sponsored visits at The University of Alabama.

Before ISSS may process any initial or extension of visa support for a visiting international professor or researcher, the individual must be invited or have an invitation extended by a UA department which will serve as host.  For new or continuing paid employees of The University of Alabama, this means that an approved job offer and appointment letter must be signed before sponsorship or extension.  For independently-funded, unpaid visiting researchers, an invitation letter must be prepared before visa sponsorship or extension.

VISA CATEGORIES COMMONLY SPONSORED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

 COMPARISONS   J-1 SCHOLAR    H-1B WORKER TN – USMCA Agreement O-1 EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY
 Purpose  Research, teaching, observation, and consultation to benefit international exchange.  Employment in a specialty occupation – a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a special field of study.  Temporary employment visa for professionals from Canada and Mexico under the USMCA (formerly NAFTA). Pursuit of employment related to their established Extraordinary Ability.
 Position Restrictions
  • Cannot be a candidate for tenure.
  • Cannot hold permanent position.
  • Most often used for visiting scholars, non-tenure Instructors, and Postdoctoral Researchers.
  • Position must be a specialty occupation, requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a special field of study
  • Can be either a temporary position or permanent position.
  • Can be a candidate for tenure.
  • Most often used for tenure-track faculty and professional staff positions, but also for Research Associates and Postdoctoral Researchers.
  • Candidate must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • Cannot be a candidate for tenure.
  • Cannot hold permanent position.
  • Position must be on the USMCA List, and candidate must hold required credentials.
  • Most often used for non-tenure Instructors and Postdoctoral Researchers.
  • Can be either a temporary position or permanent position.
  • Can be a candidate for tenure.
  • Typically only used for international faculty or staff who have exhausted all H-1B eligibility or who are ineligible for an H-1B due to an unwaivable 212(e) 2-Year Home Residency Requirement.
  • ISSS will not pursue sponsorship of an O-1 if there are other appropriate visa options.
 Duration  Depends on J-1 Category:

  • Research Scholar/Professor: 5 Years
  • Short-term Scholar: 6 Months
  • Specialist: 1 Year
  • Student Intern: 1 Year
  • Initial maximum sponsorship is 3 years with eligibility of extensions up to 3 years.
  • Overall maximum duration is 6 years, unless employee is a beneficiary of a Permanent Residency Application.
  • Initial maximum sponsorship is 3 years.
  • Eligibility of extensions up to 3 years at-a-time.
  • No overall maximum duration.
  • Initial maximum sponsorship is 3 years.
  • Eligibility of extensions up to 1 year at-a-time.
  • No overall maximum duration.
 Funding Source
  • UA
  • Externally funded
  • Self-funded
  •  Must be on UA payroll.
  • UA only sponsors full-time employees for H-1B.
Must be on UA payroll. Must be on UA payroll.
  Minimum Funding
  • If externally- or self-funded – $1200/month ($14,400/year).
  • If paid by UA, must meet HR salary requirements.
  • Must meet DOL Prevailing Wage Requirements
  • Must meet Actual Wage Determination (conducted by Assoc. Provost for Business Affairs & Analysis)
  • Must meet HR salary requirements
  • Must meet HR salary requirements.
  • Must meet HR salary requirements.
 Visa Sponsorship Cost to Department
  • No cost to department.
USCIS Filing Fees:

  • I-129 Fee – $460
  • Anti-Fraud Fee – $500 (for initial sponsorship filing)
  • Premium Processing Fee – $2500 (only if necessary)
Generally there is no cost to the department for TNs processed at the border or at a U.S. Consulate.

USCIS Filing Fees for extensions or change-of-status filed inside the U.S.:

  • I-129 Fee – $460
  • Premium Processing Fee – $2500 (only if necessary)
USCIS Filing Fees:

  • I-129 Fee – $460
  • Premium Processing Fee – $2500 (only if necessary)
  Visa Cost to Scholar
  • Visa application fee
  • Visa reciprocity fee (varies by country)
  • H-4 I-539 Fees (for change-of-status or extensions filed in the U.S.)
  • Visa application fee – for Mexican Citizens
  • $56 Border Processing Fee ($50 Filing Fee + $6 I-94 Fee) – for Canadian Citizens
  • TD I-539 Fees (for change-of-status or extensions filed in the U.S.)
  • Visa application fee
  • Visa reciprocity fee (varies by country)
  • O-3 I-539 Fees (for change-of-status or extensions filed in the U.S.)
 Processing Time
  • U.S. Embassy visa processing for Mexican citizens varies.
  • Border Processing for Canadian citizens – 1 day.
  • For extensions and changes-of-status in the U.S.
  • ISSS Processing time – 4 – 8 weeks from receipt of complete O-1 Packet with supporting materials.
  • USCIS I-129 Processing:
  • U.S. Embassy processing varies, but please allow 6 – 8 weeks.
  Dependents J-2 Dependent, eligible to apply for work authorization. H-4 Dependent, generally ineligible to work.  Work authorization for H-4 dependents is possible at certain stages of Permanent Residency cases. TD Dependent, ineligible for work authorization.  Must change visa status to work. O-3 Dependent, ineligible for work authorization.  Must change visa status to work.

 

COMMON VISA CATEGORIES THAT ARE SELF-PETITIONED OR SELF-SPONSORED

 COMPARISONS B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa or ESTA Visa Waiver F-1 Student on Optional Practical Training (OPT) F-1 Student on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) J-1 Student Academic Training (AT)
 Purpose  Engaging in temporary professional activities such as conventions, conferences, seminars, independent research, and observing professional activity.  Practical training directly related to the F-1 student’s major field of study. Practical training directly related to the F-1 student’s major field of study. Training directly related to the J-1 student’s major field of study.
 Position Restrictions
  • Cannot hold any position with The University of Alabama
  • Most often used for visiting speakers/guest lecturers and consultants.
  • Position must be directly related to F-1 student’s field of study.
  • Can be either a temporary position or permanent position.
  • Can be a candidate for tenure.
  • Most often used for recent F-1 graduates entering into tenure-track faculty and professional staff positions, including Postdoctoral Researchers.
  • Position must be directly related to F-1 student’s field of study, but prior to degree completion.
  • For temporary positions.
  • Can be part-time or full-time position.
  • Most often used for F-1 students on internships.
  • Position must be directly related to J-1 student’s field of study.
  • Can be either a temporary position or permanent position.
  • Can be a candidate for tenure.
  • Most often used for recent J-1 graduates entering into tenure-track faculty and professional staff positions, including Postdoctoral Researchers.
 Duration Stay is extremely limited:

  • 6 months for B-1/B-2
  • 90 days for WB/WT ESTA Visa Waiver

Can receive honorarium and/or reimbursement for travel expenses only in limited circumstances – any service beyond 9 days eliminates all possibility for honorarium payment.

  • Typically limited to 12 months.
  • Students who completed degrees in recognized STEM fields are eligible for extensions up to 24 months for a total of 36 months.
  • Duration is determined by F-1 student’s home institution – indicated on Page 2 of the F-1 I-20.
  • Typically limited to 18 months.
  • J-1 students who complete doctoral degree programs are eligible for extensions up to 18 months, for a total of 36 months.
 Funding Source
  • UA (as an Honorarium)
  • Externally funded
  • Self-funded
  • UA
  • Self-funded
  • STEM OPT must be paid by UA
  • UA
  • Self-funded
  • UA
  • Self-funded
  Minimum Funding
  • Sufficient for length of stay.
  • Must meet HR salary requirements
  • Must meet HR salary requirements.
  • Must meet HR salary requirements.
 Visa Cost to Department
  • No cost to department.
  • No cost to department.
  • No cost to department.
  • No cost to department.
  Visa Cost to Scholar
  • None – unless home institution requires course enrollment or charges Curricular Practical Training fees.
  • None – unless home institution charges Academic Training fees.
 Processing Time
  • For B-1/B-2, U.S. Embassy processing varies, but please allow at least 6 – 8 weeks.
  • For ESTA WB/WT Visa Waiver, no processing time.
  • International office’s established internal processing times for OPT Recommendation at the student’s home institution.
  • USCIS I-765 Processing: 2 – 4 months
  • International office’s established internal processing times at the student’s home institution.
  • International office’s established internal processing times at the student’s home institution.