H-1B Nonimmigrant Workers Visa
The information below contains pertinent information regarding H-1B Nonimmigrant Worker visa/status in the United States.
The H-1B visa/status is a non-immigrant category established by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to employ international workers in “specialty occupations.”
The Meharry Medical College International Office is in charge of the H-1B visa/status process, and must file the H-1B request packet on behalf of Meharry Medical College. The prospective employee can not file the H-1B request packet.
Key Elements of H-1B:
- Specialty Occupation: a specialty occupation is an occupation that requires:
- The theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge; and
- The attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree in a directly related field (or its equivalent).
- Employer Specific: An offer from a specific U.S. employer is required. If an international wishes to “transfer” from one employer to another, the new employer must file an H-1B petition for that person before s/he can change jobs.
- Position Specific: H-1B visa/status is granted based on the specific terms of the specific position. Should there be changes in any of the terms of the position; an amended H-1B may be required.
Please contact the International Office to discuss the new terms and to determine whether a new amended H-1B petition is required.
- Compliance with DOL Labor Condition Application (LCA) regulations: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations require that Meharry meet or exceed a pre-determined minimum prevailing wage and that the employee be compensated with employment benefits equivalent to that of any other employee in the same position and level.
- Dual Intent: The H-1B visa/status type carries “dual intent” which means that the holder may intend to return to his/her home country or intend to immigrate to the United States.
- Persons not Eligible for H-1B visa/status: Internationals subject to 212(e) 2 year home residence requirement are not eligible for H-1B visa.
- Length of Stay: An H-1B petition can be approved for an initial maximum period of three years. Extensions of up to an additional three years may be obtained. This six year time limit is for all employments, regardless of employers.
There are two options for international employees to obtain H-1B status for authorized employment with Meharry:
Initial H-1B by Consular Processing
- In general, if the H-1B Beneficiary is abroad, s/he must apply for a valid visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
- The visa stamp will enable the H-1B Beneficiary to enter the U.S. and begin employment.
- H-1B regulations allow Beneficiaries to enter the U.S. a maximum of 10 days in advance of the H-1B validity date.
- Work may begin on or after the validity date of the H-1B approval notice.
- The International Office will send the required documents including the H-1B approval notice (I-797 Notice of Action) and a copy of the H-1B filing to the Beneficiary abroad.
- The H-1B Beneficiary is to present these documents, along with any additional forms required by the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate in order to obtain the H-1B visa/status.
Please visit the appropriate Embassy/consulates for more information at https://www.usembassy.gov/.
- H-1B Beneficiary should visit the appropriate embassy or consulate website to receive specific information on appointment wait times as well as any additional H-1B visa/status application requirements and procedures.
Initial H-1B by Change of Status
- If the H-1B Beneficiary is changing status from a different nonimmigrant visa/status to an H-1B, the Beneficiary must remain in the U.S. while the change of status application is pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Once the change of status application is granted by the USCIS, the H-1B Beneficiary’s status will automatically change to H-1B on the start date as shown on the approved I-797 Notice of Action.
- H-1B Beneficiary must check-in with Human Resources the first day of his/her H-1B employment.
- Extensions may be granted until the Beneficiary reaches the 6-year maximum given
departmental confirmation that the academic appointment, and funding will continue for the duration of the extension.
- The H-1B Beneficiary may exceed the 6-year limitation if the H-1B Beneficiary has an approved I-140 Petition for Permanent Residence, or if the I-140 Petition has been pending for more than one year
- If an employee has been in H-1B status for six years, and s/he departs the U.S. for at least 12 consecutive months, s/he is eligible for an additional 6-year period of H-1B visa/status.
* Special H-1B status extensions beyond the six-year maximum: Under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21), it is possible to obtain H-1B extensions beyond the six-year limit.
Changes in Employment – (H-1B Amendment)
The H-1B classification approved by the DOL and USCIS is specific to:
- Work location;
- Job description;
- Title; and
The faculty member who is supervising the H-1B Beneficiary, or department representative administering academic appointments and employment needs, must contact the International Office to initiate an amended petition prior to any changes to the employee’s activities.
These changes include, but are not limited to:
- Changes in employment/academic appointment;
- Location of employment;
- Duration of appointment;
- Change in immigration status; and
- Termination of employment.
Failure to comply with these regulations may jeopardize the lawful immigration status of the visitor, his/her family, as well as Meharry’s ability to sponsor international employees in the future.
Please contact the International Office when contemplating any change in employment.
Changing H-1B Employers (H-1B Transfers)
As H-1B holders, international employees must maintain continuous employment
regardless of the employer. Since there can be no gap in employment, this means that it is crucial to understand the timing issues involved in an H-1B transfer, whether transferring to Meharry from another institution, or from Meharry to a new employer.
H-1B status holders must remain employed with the current employer until the new employer can submit a new H-1B application on behalf of the international employee, and receive evidence in the form of the official USCIS receipt notice as proof of having submitted the application.
Maintaining Your H-1B Status
To maintain your H-1B status, the Beneficiary must:
- Maintain a valid passport during his/her stay in the U.S.
- Notify the USCIS of any change of address within 10 days of moving.
- Not remain in the U.S. past the expiration date of his/her last I-94 Form. There is no grace period for H-1B holders.
- If your employment will be extended, ask your department to do so at least three to six months in advance of the expiration of your current I-94.
Documents Required as Proof of Status
Beneficiaries in H-1B status are required to maintain and carry these official documents:
- Passport that is valid for 6 months beyond the H-1B status expiration date
- USCIS H-1B Approval Notice (Form I-797 Notice of Action) indicating H-1B validity dates
- Form I-94 marked “H-1B” with the H-1B status expiration date (this form must now be printed from cbp.gov/I94)
On February 20, 2011, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) added an additional export compliance attestation that affects all H-1B petitions. This attestation requires employers to confirm that they have reviewed the U.S. export control regulations and have determined whether a license is required to release controlled technology or technical data to the sponsored worker.
USCIS is now requiring that all hiring institutions review the regulations as they pertain to an international employee’s position and sign a compliance certification (attestation) as part of the H-1B visa process.
Please contact the International Office for further instructions on completing the Export Control Attestation Form as part of your H-1B request packet.
Re-entering the U.S. from Abroad
Present the following documents to U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon re-entry:
- Passport (valid through the end date of Form I-797 Notice of Action)
- Valid visa in H-1B classification (with multiple entry stamp)
- Form I-797 Notice of Action
- A Letter of Current Employment provided by Meharry Medical College
At the port of entry, your passport will be date stamped and returned to you. Obtain your electronic I-94 form and review the expiration date for accuracy. Sometimes, the U.S. Customs officer will add an additional 10 day grace period to your H-1B expiration date.
Obtaining Your Initial or Renewal Visa
Review the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply for your visa for location specific information.
- You can only obtain an initial visa or renewal visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. Visas are not issued in the U.S.
- When renewing your visa, anticipate delays, especially if you will be traveling during holiday or peak travel seasons. Security checks can delay visa issuance by several weeks.
U.S. Consulates and Embassies will generally require that you:
- Submit the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Pay the nonimmigrant visa application fee
- Make an appointment to interview for the H-1B visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. The consulate will not schedule an appointment for you.
- Bring the following documents to your interview:
- Passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
- Form I-797 Notice of Action
- Copies of I-129 Application, Labor Condition Application (LCA/ETA 9035) and H-1B Department Letter
- Updated employment verification letter
- Most recent Meharry pay statements (last 3 months)
- Original/certified educational documents, CV and publications
- J-1 waiver documents, if previously subject to the two-year home residence requirement
- Visa application confirmation Page
- Visa application fee payment receipt
NOTE: Canadian citizens do not need to apply for a visa.