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As noted in the introductory section, the information presented here is subject to change and cannot be relied upon for individual immigration situations. In addition, the policies of the host institution will substantially impact the visa options open to international postdocs. But the chart appearing below provides a useful conceptual comparison of the specific issues pertaining to J-1 or H-1B visa status of international postdocs and is provided as a general overview summary.



Question

J-1

H1-B


1. What is the purpose of this visa?


Provides foreign nationals with exchange opportunities in research as well as access to cultural and general educational programs.


Is a professional work visa and specific to the employer that petitions for you.


2. Who is eligible?


Reserved for researchers, faculty and scholars, specialists and speakers, and students in exchange programs. All are in the United States on fixed terms. Researchers must be brought in for a specific purpose as defined by the sponsoring institution.


Reserved for specialty occupations (scholars and scientists) that require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. Requires a doctorate or equivalent for postdocs.


3. What are the differences between these visa types?


Normally is the institutionally preferred status for postdocs owing to the exchange component and the ease of administration. Two-year home residency requirement is imposed if home country, international organization, or U.S. government funds the research or your home country is registered in the Home Country Skills List and your area of specialization is on that list.


While postdocs generally qualify for H-1B status given the professional nature of their background, the H-1B visa option is oftentimes used for J-1 postdocs who have exhausted the five-year limit. The H-1B status is typically reserved for employment purposes and not for academic exchange. There are no two-year home residency obligations associated with H-1B status. However, a postdoc is ineligible for an H-1B status as long as he/she remains subject to the two-year home residence obligation if changing status from J-1 to H-1B.

4. What is the maximum length of time for a visit?


Up to five years.

 


Up to six years. In certain circumstances in which there is an ongoing case for permanent residence, H-1B visa status may be extended beyond this six year limit.


5. What are the requirements for obtaining the visa stamp?


The issuance of a Form DS-2019 confirms academic and financial screening by the sponsoring institution.

 


Employer must demonstrate the following:

  • employer-employee relationship;
  • position applied for is professional;
  • visitor holds minimum of Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science and, for postdocs, a doctorate or its equivalent and/or special skills;
  • salary paid is at prevailing wage or higher;
  • benefits are commensurate with other similar positions;
  • initial intent to hire is temporary; and
  • will pay for return transportation to home country if employer terminates job.

6. What is the impact of pursuing permanent residence (or a J-1 waiver) on continuing visa eligibility?


In order to preserve eligibility for J-1 status, you need to show “non-immigrant intent,” that is, a continuing intention to return to your home country following the completion of your J-1 program. Therefore, undertaking affirmative steps leading to permanent residence could undercut your claim to holding non-immigrant intent. Specifically, many U.S. consulates and/or CBP inspectors will refuse to issue J-1 visas or admit J-1 postdocs once a case has been filed for permanent residence.

 

Furthermore, once DOS has ratified J-1 waiver application, a J-1 postdoc becomes ineligible to extend their J-1 program through the receipt of new DS-2019 forms.


H-1B temporary workers hold “dual intent,” which basically states that it is quite permissible to hold a longer-term intention to attain permanent residence while retaining eligibility for an H-1B visa. As such, filing for permanent residence has no impact at all under the “dual intent” doctrine on your continuing eligibility to obtain an H-1B visa and/or to maintain H-1B status.


7. Is there a cap on how many visas are issued?

No.


Yes. The quota for the H-1B visa is 65,000 annually. Furthermore, there is an additional 20,000 if you possess a U.S. master’s or doctorate degree from a U.S. university. The federal year runs from October 1 through September 30.


8. Are certain employers exempt from an H-1B visa cap?

 


Not applicable.

Institutions of higher education and affiliated or related non-profit entities are exempt from the H-1B annual quota. In addition, employees of nonprofit research organizations are also exempt from the quota.


9. Can you extend a period of stay?

Yes, but the total stay cannot exceed five years for a J-1 research scholar.

 

J-1 visa stamps are usually issued for the length of the Form DS-2019, except in cases where foreign policy between two countries has defined a particular length of visa issuance.


Yes, but the total stay cannot exceed six years, except in certain specified instances when a case for permanent residence is underway.

10. I entered the United States as a J-1 exchange student and would like to continue as a postdoc. Will my time on the J-1 visa as an exchange student affect my time on a J-1 visa as a postdoc?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


11. Although my Form

DS-2019 (certificate of eligibility) has been extended for another 12 months, the J-1 visa stamp in my passport has expired. Am I required to obtain a new visa stamp in my passport to be in compliance with USCIS regulations?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


12. What must I do to re-enter the United States. if my J-1 visa stamp has expired but my Form DS-2019 is still valid?


Available to NPA members

 


Available to NPA members


13. Where can I find out about the standard visa procedures at each U.S. consulate or embassy?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


14. Is it possible to renew my visa stamp in my passport without leaving the United States?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


15. Should the visa stamp in my passport always remain current?


Available to NPA members

Available to NPA members

16. Can the two-year home residency requirement be waived?


Waiver of the two-year home residency requirement depends on how one became subject to the requirement and the circumstances that would justify issuance of a waiver.

 

There are four (4) grounds for seeking a waiver:

  1. no objection statement from your home country;
  2. recommendation from a U.S. government agency as a matter benefiting the public interest;
  3. anticipated persecution in your home country;
  4. exceptional hardship to a U.S. anchor relative (U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child) upon your return to your home country.

There is a wide range of factors influencing waiver options, including funding from your home country and/or funding agency.


Not applicable

 

 


17. Are there any travel restrictions associated with these types of immigration status?


Check with your sponsoring institution and/or an immigration attorney.


Check with your institution/employer and/or an immigration attorney.


18. What is the cost to secure this immigration status?


Department of Homeland Security charges $180 SEVIS fee. Many institutions charge a handling fee (approximately $200-$500) for J-1 services fee.

 

Please note: Immigration filing fees can change over time so be sure to consult with the USCIS website for the current filing fee amounts.


USCIS charges a basic filing fee of $460 for the processing of the initial I-129 petition. H-1B extensions for same employer are exempt from $500 of this fee. Additionally, many institutions charge a handling fee to submit the necessary paperwork to USCIS rather than commissioning an attorney to process and submit the documents to USCIS.

 

Please note: Immigration filing fees can change over time so be sure to consult with the USCIS website for the current filing fee amounts.


19. Who pays for the processing of the petition or immigration document for this status?


The postdoc or the institution.


The employer/institution.


20. Who files the request for the immigration status?


The institution issues the DS-2019 form.


The employer/institution files the H-1B petition.


21. How long does it take to process a visa application to enter the United States?

 


Plan ahead!

The institution can take from two weeks to several months to issue the Form DS-2019. The U.S. embassy/consulate-which actually issues the visa-can take from a few days to many months to complete the process.


Plan ahead!

The employer/institution can take from weeks to months to process internal DOL and USCIS paperwork for the petition; USCIS can take up to another three to four months to review the petition (although it is possible through payment of an additional filing fee to premium process an H-1B petition). The U.S. embassy/consulate can take from days to months to issue the visa stamp.


22. Can the procedure be expedited?

 


No.

 

 

 


Yes. The petition can be expedited by adding $1,225 to the initial filing fee. This $1,225 is called the “premium processing fee,” and can take USCIS up to 15 business days to adjudicate the petition. However, the issuance of the visa stamp cannot be expedited.


23. Who pays for the premium processing fee?


Not applicable.


The employer/institution or employee.


24. Can I be employed?


Yes. 

Yes.


25. Is it possible to change employers while in this visa status? If so, what do I have to?


Available to NPA members

 


Available to NPA members

26. Do I need USCIS authorization prior to working with the new, proposed employer?

Available to NPA members

Available to NPA members

27. Regarding employment, what does the term “employer-specific” mean?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


28. Is there a limit to the number of times one can use this status?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members

29. What are the consequences of letting your immigration status lapse?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


30.Can you work while you are waiting for a change in visa classification?


Available to NPA members

Available to NPA members

31. What kind of status do I need for family members?

J-2 for legal spouse and unmarried children under 21.


H-4 for legal spouse and unmarried children under 21.

32. Are family members eligible to work on/off campus?

Family members on J-2 visas may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Form I-765 from USCIS for all types of employment. However, their earnings cannot substitute for the support of the J-1 visa holder. Cost for the EAD is paid by the postdoc.

Generally speaking, H-4 spouses do not hold employment authorization. However, if the H-1B postdoc has received an approved I-140 immigrant visa petition but cannot adjust to permanent residence owing to the backlog in the immigrant visa numbers, then the H-4 spouse can apply for an Employment Authorization Document.

33. Am I required to report to SEVIS?

 


The J-1 program sponsor is responsible for reporting you directly into the SEVIS system. Check with your international office immediately upon arrival in the United States so that you may report your residential address.


No.

 

 

 


34. If I change my residential address, am I required to report this information? If so, to whom should I report this?

 


Yes. Report your residential address to the J-1 program sponsor or the institution’s international office within 10 days of your move.


You are responsible for notifying USCIS of any residential address changes within 10 days. The form used to notify USCIS of an address change is the AR-11. This form may be downloaded at http://uscis.gov. The form also provides the mailing address. Please note that you must submit a separate form for each family member, including children.


35. Can family members travel without the postdoc?

 


Yes. Family may only enter after the J-1 (postdoc) has entered the United States spouse and minor children may subsequently be admitted into the United States in J-2 classifications. Each family member has a J-2  DS-2019 form issued in his/her own name by the postdoc’s sponsoring organization.

 

When traveling it is recommended that all family members carry copies the J-1 postdoc’s immigration documents (i.e., DS-2019, copy of visa page, I-94, if available) and their own  birth and marriage certificates (with translation, if not in English) to more easily demonstrate their relationships with the principal J-1 visa-holder.


Yes. Family may only enter after the J-1 (postdoc) has entered the United States spouse and minor children may subsequently be admitted into the United States in J-2 classifications. Each family member has a J-2  DS-2019 form issued in his/her own name by the postdoc’s sponsoring organization.

 

When traveling it is recommended that all family members carry copies the J-1 postdoc’s immigration documents (i.e., DS-2019, copy of visa page, I-94, if available) and their own  birth and marriage certificates (with translation, if not in English) to more easily demonstrate their relationships with the principal J-1 visa-holder.


36. Where do you apply for dependent visas?


U.S. embassy/consulate (unless Canadian citizen).


U.S. embassy/consulate (unless Canadian citizen).


37. If I apply for a visa while in Canada or Mexico, can I re-enter using another visa status?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


38. I would like to travel to Canada or Mexico. My passport has an expired visa stamp but my other USCIS documents have been revalidated and will be current when traveling. Can I re-enter the United States without getting a new visa stamp in my passport?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


39. How long can I stay in Canada or Mexico with an expired visa stamp but revalidated USCIS documents?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


40. What other documentation should I take to Canada or Mexico so that there will be no problem when I re-enter the United States?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


41. What do I need to travel to Canada?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


42. What is the cost of dependent visas?


Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


43. If a postdoc changes immigration status, how does it affect family members?

Available to NPA members


Available to NPA members


44. Are visa holders subject to federal taxes?


Depends on tax treaty between home country and U.S. governments. Most J-1 visa holders are considered residents of the U.S. for tax purposes if they meet the substantial presence test.


Depends on tax treaty between home country and U.S. governments. Most H-1B visa holders are required to pay federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes.


45. What do I need in order to travel to Mexico?


Available to NPA members

Available to NPA members






FOR CANADIAN AND MEXICAN CITIZENS


Question

Answer


46. What is a TN visa?


The TN (Trade NAFTA, Trade North American Free Trade Agreement) status is issued to Canadian and Mexican citizens who will be employed in a profession that is listed on the U.S., Canada or Mexico Free Trade Agreements. While Mexican citizens must first apply at a U.S. embassy/consulate for a TN visa stamp, Canadian citizens are visa exempt and need only present themselves at the U.S. port of entry. This status is granted in up to three-year increments.

 

Spouses and children of TN visa holders are granted TD visa status. The TD status prohibits employment. 


47. If qualified for both TN and J-1 visas, which is the preferred visa for a postdoc?


Institutions make the decision about whether or not the TN is appropriate for employment. 

 

A postdoc who wishes to avoid the two-year home residency requirement must determine if accepting the J-1 visa will subject him/her to this requirement.

 

If a postdoc wishes not to be subject to the two-year home residency requirement as required on the J-1 visa, it is advised that the postdoc enter the United States with a TN visa instead. 

 

Consult with your institution’s international office prior to entering the United States. 


48. Is the process for obtaining a TN visa different for Canadian and Mexican citizens?


While Mexican citizens must first apply at a U.S. embassy/consulate for a TN visa stamp, Canadian citizens are visa exempt and need only present themselves at the U.S. port of entry for adjudication of the TN application.



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