Obtaining H-1B Status
STEP 1: Acceptance of a UH job offer
STEP 2: Determination of H-1B eligibility
STEP 3: Preparation of the H-1B petition
STEP 4: USCIS processing
STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in H-1B status (applicable only if entering the U.S. to obtain H-1B status)
STEP 1: Acceptance of a UH job offer [top]
UH can only file an H-1B petition on a foreign national’s behalf if the foreign national has accepted a job offer from a UH department (i.e. an employment relationship exists between the UH department and the foreign national). If no job offer has been extended to you or if you have received a job offer but have not accepted it, UH cannot file an H-1B petition on your behalf.
Once a UH department enters into an employment agreement with a foreign national, the department must determine whether he/she is eligible to work in the U.S. If he/she does not already have employment authorization that will allow him/her to work at UH, he/she will need the proper authorization before employment can begin.
NOTE: UH does not classify stipend recipients (e.g. post-doctoral fellows) as employees. This means UH cannot seek H-1B classification for foreign nationals coming to UH as stipend recipients. Instead, the J-1 Exchange Visitor classification may be the most appropriate immigration status for such appointments.
STEP 2: Determination of H-1B eligibility [top]
Minimum H-1B eligibility requirements:
- The position must be in a “specialty occupation.” The position must require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge AND at least a bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent) in the specific field.
- The individual must meet the requirements for the position. The individual must have the required educational degree in the specific field or its equivalent through education, training, and experience and any necessary licenses. Degree equivalents for H-1B eligibility purposes include:
- Bachelor’s Degree = 3 years of progressive experience for each year of formal education the individual lacks.
- Master’s Degree = Bachelor’s degree + at least 5 years of progressively responsible experience in the specialty.
- Doctorate = No equivalent. If the job requires a doctorate, the individual must have it.
- JABSOM positions: If the position involves direct (not incidental) patient contact and the employee is a graduate of a foreign medical school, he/she must meet these additional requirements:
- Passage of one of the following exams: Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX) parts I and II OR an "equivalent examination as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services" (HHS). HHS has designated only two exams as being equivalent to the FLEX for H-1B purposes: (1) National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), Parts I, II, and III OR (2) United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Steps 1, 2, & 3.
- Competency in oral and written English shown by passage of an English proficiency exam acceptable to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). ECFMG accepts and evaluates TOEFL scores.
- A full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in a foreign country or have graduated from a medical school in a foreign country.
- A license or other authorization required by the state in which the Foreign Medical Graduate (FMG) will practice or receive graduate medical education or training.
Exemption from annual H-1B "cap"
UH qualifies as an institution of higher education as defined in the Higher Education Act of 1965, section 101(a), 20 U.S.C. section 1001(a). As such, UH is not subject to the annual “cap” or “quota” for filing H-1B petitions.
STEP 3: Preparation of the H-1B petition [top]
After determining that H-1B classification is proper, your UH department will prepare an H-1B request. Your department will require information from you to prepare this request.
Please inform your UH department if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You are currently in F-1 status with a graduation date or F-1 status/OPT end date that will occur more than 60 days prior to your intended H-1B start date.
- You are currently in J-1 status with a program end date that will occur more than 30 days prior to your intended H-1B start date.
- You or your dependents currently are or previously were in J-1 or J-2 status, subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement.
- You will be changing your status to H-1B and are planning to travel abroad while your H-1B petition is pending.
- You were previously in H-1B status and have not been outside the U.S. for at least one year after holding that status.
Your UH department will forward the H-1B request to the college/school/unit’s Administrative/ Personnel Officer (AO/PO), who will review the request and forward it to FSIS. FSIS will prepare the H-1B petition and return it to the AO/PO.
The UH college/school/unit/department is responsible for paying all H-1B-related fees (excluding the I-539 filing fee for H-4 dependents) and for mailing the petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
STEP 4: USCIS processing [top]
USCIS will mail a receipt notice to FSIS if the H-1B petition is properly and timely filed.
Petitions for changes of status to H-1B: If UH is filing a petition for a change of status to H-1B from another nonimmigrant status (e.g. F-1, J-1), you should not leave the U.S. until the petition is approved by USCIS. If you leave the U.S. while a change of status petition is pending with USCIS, your change of status will be considered abandoned. If you know you will need to travel abroad while your petition is pending, be sure to notify your UH department and FSIS BEFORE the petition is sent to USCIS.
Petitions for concurrent H-1B employment or change of H-1B employer: You may begin UH employment from the requested start date once FSIS receives the USCIS receipt notice. Receipt notices are often delayed. Therefore, to ensure the receipt notice arrives in time to begin UH employment, USCIS should receive the H-1B petition at least 3 weeks prior to the requested start date.
USCIS processing time
- Regular Processing: Normally takes 2-3 months on average.
- Premium Processing: USCIS will act on the petition (i.e. approval, denial, or a request for more evidence) within 15 calendar days of receipt. This service is available for an additional fee, which must be paid by the UH college/school/unit/department.
See the USCIS Case Status Service website to check the status of pending petitions and to see current average processing times.
When the petition is approved, USCIS will send an H-1B approval notice (Form I-797A Notice of Action) to FSIS. The original bottom portion of the approval notice belongs to you and should be kept in your passport. The original top portion of the notice, which is the employer’s copy, will generally be kept in FSIS files. FSIS will notify the AO/PO/contact when the approval notice has arrived.
Petitions for initial entry in H-1B status: You must enter the U.S. from abroad in order to begin your H-1B period. See STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in H-1B status, below.
Petitions for concurrent H-1B employment or change of H-1B employer: H-1B status will automatically continue upon the H-1B approval notice start date. You do not need to leave the U.S. and reenter to begin your UH H-1B period.
If you cannot begin employment at UH for any reason, you must notify your UH department immediately.
STEP 5: Entering the U.S. in H-1B status [top]
If you are currently outside the U.S., you will need to enter the U.S. to begin your H-1B period. Your UH department will mail you your H-1B approval notice, a UH employment confirmation letter, and other documents to assist you with entering the U.S.
After you receive your H-1B documents from your UH department:
FIRST, apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. (Canadian passport-holders can skip this step and go to the second step, below.) You should generally apply at the U.S. embassy/consulate having jurisdiction over your place of residence. Although you may apply at any U.S. embassy/consulate, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside your country of citizenship or permanent residence. If you were ever a visa overstay in the U.S., you must apply for any new visas at a consular office in your country of nationality.
- Check the U.S. Department of State "Apply for a U.S. Visa" website for visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview. H-1B visa application requirements differ by embassy/consulate, so you must select the country where you will apply to obtain the specific requirements for your visa application.
- NOTE: Most U.S.
embassies and consulates no longer require the I-797 approval notice or
a copy of your I-129 petition for visa interviews. However, you will
need your petition receipt number from your approval notice to schedule
an interview and to enter the U.S. at a port of entry. See the U.S. Department of State website for more information on this topic.
- Dependents: If your unmarried children under 21 and/or your spouse will accompany you as H-4 dependents, they will need to apply for H-4 visas. Your family members will need to show evidence of their relationship to you; your spouse should bring a copy of your marriage certificate and you should bring copies of each child’s birth certificate to the visa interview.
SECOND, apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. You can enter the U.S. in H-1B status up to 10 days prior to your H-1B approval notice start date. Bring the following items to the port of entry:
- Valid H-1B approval notice
- Valid H-1B visa in passport (N/A for Canadian passport-holders)
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the H-1B approval notice end date (if your passport will expire before the H-1B approval notice end date, you will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew your passport before entry)
- Employment confirmation letter from your UH department
Also, each H-4 dependent should bring the following items to the U.S. port of entry:
- H-4 visa in passport (N/A for H-4 dependents who are Canadian passport-holders)
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the H-1B approval notice end date (if a passport will expire before the H-1B approval notice end date, that person will be granted a shorter period of stay than is printed on the approval notice, so it is best to renew the passport before entry)
- Copy of marriage certificate (for H-4 spouse)
- Copy of birth certificate (for H-4 child)
- Employment confirmation letter from your UH department (to show financial support)
Please note that visas and/or approval notices will not guarantee entry to the U.S. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry will review your immigration documents and ask you questions about your stay. These officers have the discretion to admit you in H-1B status and your family members in H-4 status and may refer you to a more detailed secondary inspection.
When you are admitted into the
U.S., your documents will be returned to you and you should
receive an admission date stamp with the notations “H-1B” (principal H-1B worker) or “H-4” (dependents) and a date indicating the length of your period of authorized stay in your passport. You should also receive
instructions on how to print your own I-94 arrival record on CBP's I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout function as proof
of your admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. In some
cases, you may be issued a paper I-94 at entry, but CBP is phasing out
this process. If you are issued a paper I-94, that card is evidence of
your legal status in the U.S.
It is a good idea to keep copies of your approval notices, passport biodata/expiration pages, visas, admission stamps, and I-94 records permanently in case any of the documents are lost or stolen.
After you arrive in the U.S.:
Visit your UH department's main office to complete the necessary employment paperwork. Your UH department will need to see certain immigration documents to process your employment paperwork, so be sure to take your passport and all other immigration docments with you.
Please also remember to send the following documents to FSIS so we can update our files and check that you were properly admitted to the U.S.:
- Completed Contact Information Form
- Top portion of the original H-1B approval notice (if borrowed)
- Copy of both sides of I-94 card or I-94 printout from CBP's I-94 website
- Copy of admission stamp with notations in passport
- Copy of H visa in passport (if applicable)
- Copy of your passport biodata and expiration page (if you have a new passport)
- Copies of #3-6 for each H-4 dependent (if applicable)