SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING PREVAILING WAGE PROCESSING International Student & Scholar Services encourages departments to reach out to us to start the Prevailing Wage Determination process as early as possible in the job recruitment and search, even if it is not certain that you will hire an international employee in need of H-1B support. ISSS obtains a Prevailing Wage Determination from the U.S. Department of Labor through a self-determination process using public OES and FLC Data. If your department is in the midst of a search or will be beginning a search that has a possibility of an international hire, please complete page 5 of the H-1B Application Packet and send it to ISSS at email@example.com as soon as possible. We can begin the PWD process based on a few key details from this information and the Position Description/job posting well in advance of a possible job offer. Obtaining a Prevailing Wage will not commit UA to hiring an individual or to sponsorship of an H-1B. H-1B Overview The H-1B temporary work visa is a “specialty occupation”, which is defined as an occupation that requires a “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher as the minimum requirement”. To qualify for H-1B sponsorship, a position must require someone with special qualifications and the applicant must meet the minimum requirements. To sponsor an H-1B worker, the hiring department, through International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), must file petitions with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicating that the university will appoint and pay the individual the required salary. The USCIS will ultimately determine whether or not the individual qualifies for the H-1B work visa. Eligibility – Degree Requirement and Specialization In general, to be eligible for H-1B sponsorship, the position must be full-time and require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and the sponsored employee must meet that requirement and possess any necessary licensure. Some individuals, even if they meet the degree and licensure requirements, may not be eligible for H-1B status based on their immigration history. Those who have already used the six-year limit on H-1B status are ineligible for an additional period of H-1B status until they have resided and been physically outside of the U.S. for at least one year. Similarly, those who are subject to the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement based on their current or prior J-1/J-2 Exchange Visitor status are ineligible for H-1B status until they have either fulfilled the requirement or obtained a waiver through the Department of State and USCIS. A person for whom a department wishes to sponsor an H-1B should contact International Student & Scholar Services to discuss H-1B eligibility. Wage Requirements In order to sponsor an employee for an H-1B visa, the university must pay at least the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher. Prevailing Wage: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) calculates the prevailing wage as the average salary or wage for similarly employed workers in the area of intended employment. Departments should start the Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) process as early as possible, even if it is not certain that an international employee in need of H-1B support will be hired. Departments in the midst of a search or will be beginning a search that has a possibility of an international hire, should complete Page 5 of the H-1B Application Packet and send it to ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. This part of the process will not commit UA to hiring an individual or to sponsorship of an H-1B – it simply helps us to get an official wage determination from DOL. Actual Wage: The Academic Affairs’ Business Affairs & Analysis determines the Actual Wage. International Student & Scholar Services will request the actual wage when the department submits a completed H-1B Application Packet. Processing Times – Averages ISSS Processing time – Minimum of 2 weeks from receipt of complete H-1B Application Packet. This allows for the time necessary to: Prepare the I-129 and Supporting Documents Obtaining Prevailing Wage Determination from Department of Labor Obtaining Actual Wage Determination from Academic Affairs/HR DOL LCA Processing: 1 week minimum Submission of documents for Export Control Clearance Obtaining filing fee checks from Accounts Payable: 1 week minimum USCIS Processing: 2 weeks for the I-797 Receipt Notice 2 – 6 months for regular processing (+ 1 week for mail time to receive Approval Notice), depending on current processing times – USCIS Case Processing Times – Check I-129 for California Service Center 15 calendar days for Premium Processing (+ 1 week for mail time to receive Approval Notice) Requests for Evidence: USCIS has the discretion to request additional evidence on any petition. An RFE will delay the overall processing time. For those abroad, they will need to plan to apply for an H-1B Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. Embassy processing for visas varies, but please allow at least 6 – 8 weeks (or longer if sent for Administrative Processing). Notes on USCIS Processing Times USCIS H-1B processing times vary depending on numerous factors, including case load and time of the year. International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) can only provide an estimate of the timing for an H-1B petition. You can check USCIS Case Processing Times by visiting the Case Processing Times Page and selecting Form “I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker” and the Field Office or Service Center “California Service Center”. ISSS recommends that departments initiate an application as early as 6 months before the desired H-1B start date, which will allow time to obtain a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) and file the H-1B petition with USCIS using standard processing. Expedited processing, or “Premium Processing,” is available for a $2500 fee, which guarantees a decision by USCIS within 15 calendar days. When the range of current Case Processing Times for I-129 Petitions at the California Service Center exceeds the required start date, then Premium Processing is the only option for a timely approval. In these situations, this is considered a business necessity and the department will be asked to pay the I-907 Premium Processing fee. However, if the employee requests Premium Processing, and it is not an employment necessity, either the department or the individual may pay the additional I-907 Premium Processing fee to USCIS. H-1B Processing Fees Required Fees – Departments must pay the required USCIS processing fee(s) for their employee’s H-1B petition. The basic fee is the $460 I-129 application fee. In addition, departments must pay a $500 anti-fraud fee for initial H-1B petitions and for cases in which UA is filing a change of employer petition (“portability”) for someone who already holds H-1B status with another employer. Extension petitions do not require the anti-fraud fee. The employee may not pay these fees. Optional Fees – When the range of Case Processing Times for I-129 Petitions at the California Service Center exceed the required start date, then Premium Processing is the only option for a timely approval. In these situations, this is considered a business necessity and the department will be asked to pay the I-907 Premium Processing fee of $2500. If the employee requests premium processing for personal reasons, and it is not an employment necessity, either the department or the individual may pay the additional $2500 fee to USCIS. Employee Fees – The employee is responsible for paying the $370 I-539 change-of-status fee for immediate family members needing to apply for a change-of-status to or extend H4 dependent status. (NOTE: USCIS suspended Biometrics processing and the $85 Biometrics Fees for H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 applicants effective May 17, 2021 – May 17, 2023) Sponsorship of Part-Time Employees The University of Alabama does not support H-1B petitions for part-time employment. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) require mechanisms for capturing hours worked/leave time and accurate records of “hours worked each day and each week.” Furthermore, DOL and DHS require a system to track this information must be in place, and records must be retained for 3 years from the date of creation. This creates a burden that makes sponsorship of part-time H-1Bs impossible. H-1B Application Steps Department Procedures Request Prevailing Wage (complete Appendix A; Part 1 on Page 5 of the H-1B Application Packet): Departments are encouraged to start the Prevailing Wage Determination process as soon as possible, even if it is not certain that an international employee needing H-1B support will be hired. Departments in the midst of a search or will be beginning a search that has a possibility of an international hire, should complete Appendix A; Part 1 on Page 5 of the H-1B Application Packet and send it with a copy of the official HR PD or Job Posting to ISSS at email@example.com as soon as possible. Additionally, this part of the process will not commit UA to hiring an individual or to sponsorship of an H-1B; it simply helps us to get an official wage determination from DOL. Request H-1B processing (complete Appendix A, Parts 2 – 4 and Appendix B on Pages 6 – 8 of the H-1B Application Packet). Appendix A, Parts 2 – 4 should include details on the job offer, a copy of the appointment/job offer letter (if already prepared), and details on the employee to be supported. With this information, International Student & Scholar Services will request a review of Actual Wages paid to employees within the department. Actual Wage determinations are processed by Academic Affairs or Human Resources. The department must pay at least the prevailing wage or the actual wage (the rate paid to similarly situated employees), whichever is higher. Once ISSS determines the Prevailing Wage from the U.S. Department of Labor and obtains the Actual Wage from Academic Affairs/ Human Resources, we will consult with the department if it appears the offered salary does not meet the wage requirement. The department must pay at least the prevailing wage or the actual wage (the rate paid to similarly situated employees), whichever is higher. If this minimum salary exceeds the amount the department is able to pay the H-1B applicant, International Student & Scholar Services will consult the department about other options. The department might choose to increase the salary or explore other visa options for the applicant. Complete Deemed Export Form (Appendix B on Pages 6 – 8 of the H-1B Application Packet) International Student & Scholar Services is required to certify on the USCIS I-129 petition whether or not a license for export controlled technology or technical data is necessary for the professor/researcher being sponsored. To facilitate this requirement, all host departments are required to complete an attestation as to whether or not the H-1B worker will require a license for export controlled technology or technical data. The letter of H-1B support (Appendix C on Page 9 of the H-1B Application Packet) the template included in the packet may be used and/or modified and may be submitted with or in place of an official job offer letter. NOTE: the maximum length of time for which H-1B sponsorship can be requested at one time is three years. Complete Check Request for USCIS Fees (Appendix D on Page 10 of the H-1B Application Packet). Check requests should be entered through Concur under the Invoice tab. Attach a copy of Page 10 of the H-1B Application Packet as an invoice. Accounts Payable will notify ISSS when the checks have been issued. Contact ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Submit documents The Prevailing Wage Request (Appendix A Part 1), H-1B Request (Appendix A, Parts 2 – 4), the Deemed Export Form (Appendix B), and the letter of support (sample in Appendix C) may be sent as soon as they are complete. Send all documents to International Student & Scholar Services, email@example.com, 105 B.B. Comer Hall, Box 870254. Labor Condition Application (LCA) Posting Requirements: The U.S. Department of Labor and H-1B petition procedures require employers to inform its workforce of its intention to hire an H-1B worker through the posting of two Labor Condition Applications (LCA) at the employer’s location. To comply with this rule, International Student & Scholar Services will file and prepare the LCA Notices after the department completes Steps 1 – 6. International Student & Scholar Services will post one copy of the LCA notice in the public area in front of the ISSS offices in 105 BB Comer Hall. Additionally, a copy of the LCA Notice will be sent to the hiring department to be posted in a conspicuous location. This LCA must be posted for at least 10 consecutive business days. A Notice of Filing and posting instructions will be included with the LCA Notice. Once the department receives the LCA notice, it should be immediately posted in a conspicuous location at the work site. Upon completion of the necessary 10-day posting period, departments must complete the Notice of Filing by indicating the posting dates, the responsible individual, and sign the Notice at the bottom. The original LCA and completed Notice must be returned to International Student & Scholar Services, Box 870254, 105 B.B. Comer Hall. Prospective H-1B Employee Procedures Provide immigration information and history (complete Appendix E on pages 11 – 12 of the H-1B Application Packet). The documents should be submitted to the hiring department. Once the department initiates the H-1B sponsorship process by submitting the Appendix A forms, Appointment Letter and Appendix E forms, International Student & Scholar Services will contact the H-1B beneficiary with any questions or requests for additional information that is required.The following documents should be submitted with Appendix E forms: Copy/Scan of Current CV/ Resume Copy/Scan of all university-level academic degrees, diplomas, and transcripts/mark sheets Diplomas and transcripts/mark sheets do not have to be originals TRANSLATIONS: Documents not in English must be translated by someone competent to do so American Translators Association (ATA) is an association of recognized translators and translation companies from across the globe. U.S. DEGREE EQUIVALENCY: If the degree on which the employment is based was issued by a non-U.S. institution, that degree must have a foreign credential evaluation for a U.S. equivalency.Note: If the degree on which the employment is based was earned in the U.S. but lower level degrees were earned abroad, there is no need to have the lower level degree equivalencies processed (e.g. H-1B employee holds a PhD from a U.S. university, but holds a master’s and bachelor’s from their home country will not require any degree equivalency).Employees who hold a foreign degree which is the basis of employment at UA should request an evaluation from a member organization of one of the two national associations of credential evaluation services: National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) is an association of 19 credential evaluation services with admission standards and an enforced code of good practice. Association of International Credentials Evaluators (AICE) is an association of 10 credential evaluation services with a board of advisors and an enforced code of ethics. Copies/Scans of 3 most recent pay stubs/ paycheck notifications if currently employed in the United States Copy/Scans of ALL current and previous immigration documents: Passport identification pages Current/ most recent visa stamp I-94 Record All previous I-20s, DS-2019’s, and H-1B/H-4 I-797 Approval Notices, etc. Employment Authorization Card (e.g. EAD Card for F-1 OPT or J-2 EAD Card) If currently or previously on J-Visa and determined to be subject to the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, submit either: a Copy/Scan of I-612 waiver approval, a Copy/Scan of Department of State recommendation for waiver, or evidence of completion of 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement. H-4 Dependent Sponsorship. If a prospective H-1B employee has dependent family members (spouse or children) whom the H-1B employee would like to sponsor for H-4 visa status, the H-1B employee will need to consult with International Student & Scholar Services about processing the H-4 visa support. For dependents currently outside of the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in H-4 status at a later date, International Student & Scholar Services can advise on how they may obtain H-4 status abroad. For sponsorship of dependents already in the U.S. to either extend or obtain H-4 status, the prospective H-1B employee will need to submit documents for concurrent filing with the H-1B petition. Form I-539 and I-539A forms (available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-539) I-539 filing fee for $370 – check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (NOTE: USCIS suspended Biometrics processing and the $85 Biometrics Fees for H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 applicants effective May 17, 2021 – May 17, 2023) Copy of Passport Identification Pages Copy of Current/ most recent Visa Stamp Copy of I-94 Record Copy of all previous I-20s, DS-2019’s, and H-1B/H-4 I-797 Approval Notices, etc. Copy of Employment Authorization Card (e.g. EAD Card for F-1 OPT or J-2 EAD Card) AFTER H-1B PETITION APPROVAL BY USCIS: Upon receiving the I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS, ISSS will notify both the department and the employee. ISSS will also work with the employee to set up a meeting through the H-1B Check-in Appointment Bookings Page. During that meeting, ISSS will provide the employee with the original H-1B Approval Notice, full physical copy of the H-1B Petition and LCA, and will go over information relevant to their H-1B status. If the employee is abroad awaiting the approval notice in order to apply for an H-1B entry visa at a U.S. consulate, ISSS will contact the department to discuss shipping options. H-1B Visas, Travel Information, and Possible Visa Delays H-1B employees should contact International Student & Scholar Services for information on travel requirements. H-1B visa requirements can vary by consular location, therefore, please refer to the particular United States Consulate/Embassy that you will visit. A list of embassy websites is available at http://www.usembassy.gov/. Employees and departments should be aware that security checks, which are part of visa processing, may delay an employee’s entry/return to the U.S. Additional information is available in the H-1B & H-4 Travel Section. H-1B Portability (i.e. Transfers) Change of H-1B Employers If a hiring department wishes to sponsor an individual who is already in the U.S. in H-1B status through another employer, The University of Alabama must file a petition for change of employer with USCIS. In order for the individual to remain in the U.S. in H-1B status and start working at The University of Alabama, USCIS must receive the new petition, with $460 filing fee and $500 anti-fraud fee, before the individual’s last day working for the previous employer. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act as amended by the American Competitiveness for the 21st Century Act of 2000, [AC21 § 105], [INA § 214 (a) (m)], as long as USCIS receives the petition before the individual’s last day working for the previous employer, the individual may work at The University of Alabama on the basis of the I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS. The documentation required from the department for the change of employer petition is the same as that of a new petition. The process of filing and preparing the H-1B petition for portability is otherwise the same as a standard filing. H-1B Amendments Amendment Must Be Filed for Significant Changes in Terms of Employment Departments must consult with International Student & Scholar Services prior to changing an H-1B’s terms of employment (including changes to job duties or department) to determine whether an amended petition is required. According to I.N.S. field memorandum CO 214h-C, an amended H-1B application is necessary if the H-1B worker’s job duties change significantly (e.g. from postdoctoral research to college teaching) or when there is a significant change in salary which would require the filing of a new LCA with the Department of Labor. Minor changes in the conditions of employment do not require the filing of an amended H-1B petition. Though, minor changes should be noted in any future extension of H-1B status. Minor changes would include a change of job title with no or minimal changes in job duties or an unsubstantial salary increase. H-1B Extensions The process for requesting an extension of H-1B status is generally the same as for the initial period of H-1B employment. The department and employee must complete the H-1B Extension Packet. ISSS and UA must file the extension petition with USCIS prior to the current approved H-1B status end date to avoid interruptions in employment. According to 8 C.F.R. § 274.12 (b) (20), the employee may continue to work for a period of 240 days while an extension petition is pending, as long as it is timely filed before the current end date. The I-797 Receipt Notice is used as evidence of timely filing. Please note: An extension of H-1B status allows the employee to continue working in the U.S.; however, it does not extend their H-1B entry visa, which is required for re-entry into the U.S. after traveling abroad. If the H-1B employee wishes to travel outside the U.S. after the expiration date of their current entry visa, they must apply for a new entry visa at a U.S. consulate. Termination of Employment INFORMING INTERNATIONAL STUDENT & SCHOLAR SERVICES Inform International Student & Scholar Services immediately if an H-1B worker’s employment is terminated prior to the end-date of the H-1B sponsorship. This is necessary whether it is either voluntary or involuntary separation. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must be notified to withdraw the Labor Condition Application (LCA) and H-1B petition. The department may continue to be liable for paying the individual’s full salary and benefits if the H-1B support is not withdrawn. If the termination is voluntary (e.g. the employee has accepted employment elsewhere or has decided to resign), there is no penalty to UA as an employer for the early withdrawal of the LCA and H-1B. However, if the termination is involuntary, the UA employing department must offer to cover the reasonable cost of return transportation to the H-1B’s last place of foreign residence or home country in the event employment is terminated prior to the end date on the H-1B approval notice. The department must pay this cost if the employee accepts the offer. GRACE PERIODS AND STATUS Because H-1B status is employment-based, status and eligibility to remain in the United States upon termination or involuntary separation are limited. As of January 17, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security’s Final Rule “Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers” allows for some grace period at the beginning and end of H-1B Employment. The rule allows the following grace periods: 10-day initial grace period Given prior to the start of an authorized validity period to allow time to enter the United States and prepare to begin employment (granted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Entry). 10-day end grace period Granted after the end of an authorized validity period, which provides time to depart the United States or take action to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status (granted either by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or by US Citizenship and Immigration Services on the I-94 record). Up to 60-day grace period for early termination In an instance of early termination (prior to the H-1B authorization end-date), the rule allows for a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days of the remaining period of H-1B sponsorship to pursue new employment and sponsorship. If there are less than 60 days remaining on the H-1B authorization at the time of termination, the H-1B employee is granted only a grace period equal to the remaining days allowed on the H-1B authorization. Obtaining or Renewing Visa Stamp Obtaining an H-1B Visa Stamp An H-1B Worker must make an application with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. to obtain an H-1B visa stamp for entry or re-entry if he/she: Is currently abroad and will be entering the U.S. in H-1B status for the first time; Has changed nonimmigrant status while in the U.S. and have never had an H-1B visa stamp in your passport; or their H-1B visa stamp has expired. Visa Stamp exception: Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa stamp requirement; for Canadian citizens, H-1B status will be granted at the port-of-entry with just the valid Canadian passport, the I-797A H-1B Approval and a copy of the H-1B Petition paperwork. To apply for the H-1B Visa Stamp: First, to apply for your visa, you should submit the online visa application form DS-160. DS-160 Online Visa Application Page DS-160 Frequently Asked Questions Official DS-160 Example Form NOTE: U.S. Point of Contact – Some new H-1B employees do not have a U.S. Point of Contact. You may list your contact as: Organization Name: The University of Alabama Relationship To You: School Official Address Line 1: International Student & Scholar Services Adress Line 2: 105 B.B. Comer Hall, 400 McCorvey Drive City: Tuscaloosa State: Alabama Zip Code: 35487-0254 Phone Number: 205-348-5402 Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.orgTo apply for your visa, you should submit the online visa application form DS-160. The DS-160 now requires you to input your Social Media history as a standard question. The question asks for all social media platforms you have used in the past 5 years and the username(s) or handle(s) you have used on those platforms. The U.S. Embassy may ask you to also complete a DS-5535 Form, which is a supplemental questionnaire regarding your travel, employment, and residence history and family. Please note, not every visa applicant will be asked to complete the DS-5535 form. Second, you should set your visa appointment. You should plan to apply for your visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Prior to scheduling your interview, you can check visa appointment waiting times online (Click here, to check Visa Waiting times). The following documents will be required for the visa interview: Original Form I-797C (H-1B Approval Notice for your current position); Copy of Form ETA-9035 Labor Conditions Application (LCA); Copy of Form 1-129 (petition for H-1B submitted to USCIS on your behalf); Original waiver or proof of fulfillment of the two year home residency requirement (if you were previously in J-1 visa status, were subject to the two-year requirement, and received a waiver); Valid passport (valid 6 months into the future). Contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy prior to the visa appointment, for additional requirements, including photos and fees. For more information on applying for a U.S. visa, visit these State Department websites: Department of State’s Travel Web site: http://www.travel.state.gov/ Locate a U.S. Embassy or Consulate: http://www.usembassy.gov/ Visa Renewal H-1B visa holders whose visa stamp has expired must apply for the renewal of the visa stamp in the same way that the initial H-1B visa stamp was applied – in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (see information above). Visa Delays – Security Clearances and Administrative Processing Please note that when you apply for a visa, you may be subject to a security clearance that can cause delays of weeks or even months in the issuance of your visa and your arrival in the U.S. This clearance is most commonly known as Administrative Processing, and it is often connected to Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. You may be requested to provide additional information in order to receive clearance and be issued a visa. Unfortunately, if you are selected for Administrative Processing, there is nothing that International Student & Scholar Services or any other office can do to expedite the processing. The following are two common types of Administrative Processing security clearance that may be encountered: Field of Study: If a visa applicant’s area of study is on the U.S. federal government’s “technology alert list,” which includes many of the science and technology fields, the U.S. Consulate may seek a security clearance prior to granting the visa. This process may delay visa applications from 10 days to 3 months. There is no way to know for certain whether an individual will be subject to this type of clearance.If an individual works in one of the STEM fields, it is advised to request the supervisor or chair to write a letter that briefly describes the specific area of work or research in layperson’s terms. We have a sample letter template that departments can use and modify. Often the U.S. Consulate will also request the CV and publication list of the faculty supervisor or department chair. It is also recommended that the H-1B Employee carry a copy of their CV, publications list, and one or two of their publications. These materials will not necessarily deter a security clearance, but they will help address most of the common 221(g) inquiry details. Country of Citizenship, Nationality or Birth: A security clearance may also be required by the U.S. Consulate if a visa applicant was born in or is a citizen or national of certain countries. The list of countries is not published, but seems to include the following: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and West Bank. Employees who believe that Administrative Processing will delay their entry/return to the U.S. should contact their department immediately so that they can arrange to cover teaching or research duties. If an employee has been waiting for more than one month for the results of a security advisory opinion, contact International Student and Scholar Services and your department and inform them of the delay. H-1B Check-In & Orientation IMPORTANT NOTE: H-1B and H-4 visa holders coming to the U.S. from abroad may enter the U.S. up to 10 days prior to the start date indicated on the H-1B Approval Notice. Book H-1B Check-in Appointment International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) must meet with ALL new H-1B Workers within their first week on-campus. During check-in, H-1B will be advised on a variety of immigration issues and will be provided resources to assist with adjustment to life in Tuscaloosa. Check-in and orientation requires as much as an hour to complete. The incoming H-1B Faculty or Staff Member or the host department must set up an appointment with International Student and Scholar Services prior to a new H-1B’s arrival. Please set up the appointment through the H-1B Check-in Appointment Bookings Page. If you have any issues or need assistance to register for a check-in and orientation session, contact ISSS at email@example.com. Topics typically covered during orientation include: Immigration Regulations Address Reporting Requirements Travel Requirements Social Security/Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Application Banking Housing resources Health Care and Health Insurance Programming activities and opportunities for involvement H-1B Travel Travel within the United States Travel within the United States for any international student or scholar on a non-immigrant visa does not require special documentation, letters, or signatures from International Student and Scholar Services. However, U.S. and Alabama state law require that anyone on a non-immigrant visa be able to present proof of their legal status within the U.S. at any time. It is recommended that for travel outside of Tuscaloosa, you take your passport and your accompanying documentation (i.e. H-1B Approval Notice). Also, it is recommended that you keep photocopies of your main passport page, visa page, I-94 record, and any other visa documentation with you at all times even when not traveling. Travel outside the United States When traveling, H-1B Temporary Workers will need a valid entry visa stamp in their passport to enter the U.S. (please see below re: an exception for travel to Canada or Mexico). Those who changed their immigration status to H-1B since entering the U.S and have not yet traveled abroad will need to apply for an H-1B entry visa stamp in order to re-enter the U.S. Others may have an expired H-1B visa stamp in their passport and will need to have the H-1B visa renewed. Additionally, H-1Bs and H-4s seeking to re-enter the U.S. must have a passport which will be valid for at least 6 months after the date you intend to return to the U.S. Individuals, whose passport is expiring, should make plans to renew or extend their passport before traveling. For information on how to review or extend a passport in the U.S., contact the home country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. Documents Required for H-1B Travel and Re-entry to the U.S. If you are traveling outside of the U.S., to re-enter the U.S., you will need the following: Valid passport; Original Form I-797A (H1B Approval Notice for your current position); Letter from UA ISSS confirming current employment in the position described in the H-1B petition (contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request H-1B travel letter); and Valid H-1B visa stamp in your passport. (If you do not have a valid H-1B visa stamp in your passport, you must apply for one at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Canadian citizens do not require visa stamps.) Note Regarding H-4 Dependent Spouse and Children H-4 spouses and minor children must also meet the passport and visa requirements listed above and show proof of family relationship for re-entry to the U.S. If a dependent is not accompanied by the H-1 scholar, the dependent must carry the H-1 scholar’s Form I-797C (H-1B approval notice). Traveling to Canada or Mexico for Less Than 30 Days H-1Bs who have an expired H-1B visa stamp or an expired U.S. nonimmigrant visa of any other type (e.g. B, F, J) and possess a valid I-94 record stating your current valid H-1B status, the visa will be considered automatically revalidated for re-entry into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], as long as ALL of the following are true: The individual(s) Has only been in Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days; Has a current I-94 record stating valid H-1B status; Does not apply for a new U.S. visa stamp while in Canada or Mexico ; and Is not from one of the following countries: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba (citizens of these five countries must always have a valid U.S. visa stamp in order to return to the U.S.). For this automatic revalidation to apply, individuals must be careful to keep their I-94 record when leaving the U.S. to enter Canada or Mexico for a trip of less than 30 days. Present the I-94 record along with a valid passport, original Form I-797A (H-1B Approval Notice for the current position) and a letter from UA ISSS confirming current employment in the position described in the H-1B petition (contact email@example.com to request travel letter). Information on Automatic Revalidation of Visa Individual(s) may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada or Mexico. Canadian Visas Mexican Visas Visiting Third Countries Individuals visiting a country that is not their home country should consult with that country’s embassy to determine whether or not a visa is needed to enter. NOTE: Some countries require transit visas for those making connecting flights to other countries, even if the traveler is not going to leave the airport. H-1B Regulations Maintaining Passport All international faculty, staff, scholars and students should maintain their passport validity. In general, it is best to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months longer than the intended dates of stay. If renewal of a passport is necessary, check with your country’s embassy or consulate about the renewal process. H-1B Limitations of Stay H-1B authorization is limited to a maximum period of six years; this includes time spent in H-1B status with another employer. The University of Alabama may sponsor an employee for H-1B authorization for a period of up to three years at a time. If an H-1B visa holder exhausts the six-year limit, the individual must spend at least one year outside of the United States before being eligible for another six-year period as an H-1B visa holder. An exception to the six-year rule: An individual may qualify for an extension beyond the six-year maximum if there is a pending Permanent Residency application. If the H-1B holder has not left the country since the most recent H-1B Approval/Change-of-Status, they are valid to stay in the country for the time period listed on the H-1B I-797C Approval Notice. If an H-1B holder has traveled outside of the U.S. since obtaining H-1B status, they should have a new I-94 record that notes their H-1B status and an end date of the status which matches the end date on the H-1B I-797 Approval Notice. As long as the H-1B holder extends his/her H-1B status before the end date listed on the I-94 Card or on the H-1B I-797 Approval Notice, he/she will be able to remain in the United States. If employment with The University of Alabama ends earlier than the end date on the H-1B I-797 Approval Notice, International Student and Scholar Services must be notified so that the H-1B petition may be withdrawn. Transferring to another Employer – Portability Regulations An H-1B Holder can transfer to another employer as long as the employee is currently in valid status and the new employer files an I-129 application in a timely manner (before the intended start date of new employment and before the expiration of the current status). Before taking new employment, talk to International Student and Scholar Services. The H-1B petition must be withdrawn when employment ends with The University of Alabama. The withdrawal of the H-1B petition may affect employment eligibility with a new employer, so timing is critical. H-1B Employment Restrictions H-1B holders are not allowed to work for any other employer or in any other work location other than those that are authorized on the I-797 Approval Notice. To work for another employer (as in the case of a faculty member teaching at another institution for the summer months) an I-129 Petition for concurrent employment must be filed by the new employer. Concurrent employment for H-1Bs is subject to the same restrictions that govern the portability of employment. H-1B holders CANNOT receive honoraria or fees for lectures or contractual services from other U.S. institutions or businesses. In such situations, only reimbursements for actual travel expenses such as airfare, hotel, and meals are allowed. Report Address Changes to USCIS within 10 Days All faculty and staff in H-1B status have to report any address change directly to the Department of Homeland Security using the AR-11 Form or online change-of-address form. Change of address must be reported to DHS within 10 days of moving in order to satisfy the notification requirement. File change-of-address online with USCIS. International Student and Scholar Services must be notified of any change of physical U.S. address (apartment or home address) or contact information in the U.S. This is to ensure that the most accurate contact information is on file. H-4 Dependent Spouse/Children H-1B holders and H-1B applicants can sponsor their dependent spouse and/or minor children under 21 years of age for H-4 status. There are two separate ways for a dependent spouse or child to apply for H-4 status: Apply for H-4 outside of the U.S. Apply to change or extend status within the U.S. Dependents Outside of the United States If the dependent spouse or child is currently outside of the United States, the dependent can apply for an H-4 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy using the following guidelines: H-4 Visa applicants should check the website of the U.S. Consulate or Embassy for instructions on how to apply for a U.S. visa. Contacts of consulates and embassies can be found at http://usembassy.state.gov/. H-4 applicants should check the site for specific details about how to set the visa appointment and what additional information may be required for the visa interview and then should schedule an interview for a visa interview. Complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s web site. Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following: A passport valid for at least six months Supporting visa documentation (H-1B’s I-797 Approval Notice) Completed DS-160 visa application One 2”x 2” passport style photograph A receipt for the visa application fee Financial evidence that shows the H-1B holder has sufficient funds to cover the H-4’s living expenses while in the U.S. Any additional information listed on the consulate’s web site Dependents Currently inside the United States For sponsorship of dependents currently in the U.S. to either extend or obtain H-4 status, the prospective H-1B employee will need to submit the following documents for concurrent filing with the H-1B petition: File a Form I-539: “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” and Form I-539A for each H-4 dependent (available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-539) along with the following: I-539 Application Fee – Checks should be made payable to “Department of Homeland Security” (NOTE: USCIS suspended Biometrics processing and the $85 Biometrics Fees for H-4 applicants until September 30, 2023) Copy of Passport Identification Pages Copy of Current/ most recent Visa Stamp Copy of I-94 Record Copy of all visa documents (e.g. previous I-20s, DS-2019s, Employment Authorization Cards, H-1B/H-4 I-797 Approval Notices, etc.) Proof of marriage (for a spouse) or birth (for a child) For dependents currently outside of the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in H-4 status at a later date, International Student and Scholar Services can advise on how to obtain H-4 status abroad. NO TRAVEL DURING CHANGE-OF-STATUS: Once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition is submitted to USCIS, the H-4 applicant cannot leave the United States for any reason. If the H-4 leaves the U.S., even for a Caribbean Cruise, the I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned,” and the case will be cancelled by USCIS. Only once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition has been approved will the H-4 be able to travel internationally. Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa stamp; so, the H-4 dependent will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time he/she travels beyond North America (see Travel Requirements). IMPORTANT NOTES REGARDING MAINTAINING CURRENT VISA STATUS, BRIDGING STATUS, AND B-1/B-2 APPLICANTS: If you are currently on a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa Status and you want to apply to change status to an H-4 dependent visa status, applying for a Change-of-Status within the first 90 days of entry to the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status will likely result in a denial and will be considered fraudulent entry based on a misrepresentation of status based on 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) – Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry. This change to the Foreign Affairs Manual was published on September 20, 2017. USCIS now requires someone in another visa status to maintain their status continuously while awaiting a Change-of-Status. This means that in addition to filing an I-539 petition to change status to H-4 dependent status, you must either maintain your current visa status until a decision is made or file I-539 petitions to change to or extend B-1/B-2 status while the Change-of-Status to H-4 is pending. H-4 Employment Restrictions Generally, an H-4 dependent spouse or child cannot work while in H-4 status. However, there are special circumstances in which an H-4 dependent spouse may apply for an Employment Authorization Document. Effective May 26, 2015, USCIS will accept I-765 applications for employment from certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who: Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B non-immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status. Under this rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $410 fee in order to obtain employment authorization and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, they may begin working in the United States. H-4 University Study H-4 dependents who are eligible to enter college may study in the United States as either full- or part-time students of higher education institutions. The duration of stay for the H-4 is limited to the H-1B’s period of stay. H-4 students are not eligible to work and are not eligible for practical training programs. H-4 students may want to consider changing status to F-1 if they wish to study full-time and want to seek F-1 student employment benefits.