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International Services Office

Faculty Considerations for J and H Visas

The following information is intended to assist Faculty in selecting the best course of action when sponsoring foreign Postdoctoral Fellows at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI):

The J-1 Visa

  1. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program approved for TSRI by the Department of State is focused on scientific research for post-doctoral fellows, visiting researchers, visiting faculty, and guest scientists. A J-1 visa is not intended for long-term employment according to standards set forth by the US Department of State and US Department of Homeland Security.
  2. The J visa status is flexible in its terms and conditions, including
    • At-will appointment;
    • Easily transferable from one J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsor to another;
    • Salary ranges are subject only to TSRI policies and guidelines;
    • Funding is possible from a variety of sources, including grants and fellowships.
  3. Individuals in J visa status can benefit from certain tax exemptions and may also qualify for tax benefits under certain Tax Treaties. See IRS publication 109 available online at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p901.pdf.
  4. Unlike most other visa types, the J-1's dependant spouse (J-2) may apply for a work permit and work in any type of employment provided that the employment is not the primary reason for coming to the US and that the income is not needed or used to provide the family's primary care.
  5. J-1 visa status for postdoctoral research can be valid for a maxium of five years.
  6. J-1s from certain countries with defined skills or who have received direct government funds are subject to a two-year home residency requirement. This requirement is explained on the back of the DS-2019 document.

The H-1B Visa Status

The information below is a general summary of the key points of H-1B visa status. It is not meant to be a complete explanation of all aspects of both the H-1B status and TSRI policies. Please contact the ISO with any questions about specific circumstances.

  1. When is the H-1B sponsored at TSRI? The H-1B visa category is used at TSRI for full-time, long-term employment of nonimmigrants, where no other visa status is available and the position offered requires a PhD. The H-1B immigration regulations also require that the employment be in a “specialty occupation,” which is defined by federal regulation as “an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.”
  2. Wage Requirements: If a lab would like to sponsor an H-1B worker who is eligible under both TSRI policies and immigration regulations, the lab must be able to meet both the “prevailing wage” and “actual wage” requirements for the position, as set by the Department of Labor (DOL). 

    a. The “actual wage” is defined as the "wage rate paid by the employer to all other individuals with experience and qualifications similar to those of the H-1B nonimmigrant, for the specific employment in question."

    b. The “prevailing wage” is determined when the ISO reviews the job description and requirements of the position (such as whether supervising, traveling or teaching are job requirements). The job description is then matched with a “Standard Occupational Classification” (SOC) code from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), and the wage is determined based on that code and a review of the Department of Labor Online Wage Library (OWL), which is updated each year on July 1, and lists salaries for both commercial and non-profit industries, based on job description, geographic area, and type of employer (for profit or non-profit).
  3. Wage Determination: If the “prevailing wage” as determined by the DOL is higher than the “actual wage” paid at TSRI, federal regulations require that the lab pay the H-1B worker the higher wage.
  4. Fees: Federal regulations require the lab to pay all USCIS fees associated with an H-1B petition. As of 12/23/2016, those fees are the following:

         a. New H-1B Status: $960
         b. Extension of H-1B Status: $460
         c. Expedited Processing: $1225

  5. Premium (Expedited) Processing: If the ISO determines that expedited processing is required to meet the start date of the H-1B status, the lab must also pay the expedited processing fee. In addition, labs can choose to pay for expedited processing at any time, as a courtesy to the H-1B beneficiary. The H-1B beneficiary may need an expedited approval even in cases where they can be legally employed without expedited processing, in order to qualify for benefits, such as a driver’s license or the ability to travel outside the US and have a valid visa to return.
  6. Work Location: The H-1B visa status is employer - and location - specific. This means the H-1B employee must be physically located at TSRI for work to be performed only at TSRI. Any deviation from this requires an amended petition to be submitted to DHS. This would include any plan to work part-time or full-time from home.
  7. Amended Petitions: “Material changes” to the terms of employment during the period of an H-1B visa status require the submission of an amended petition to DHS. Please consult with the ISO before making any changes, to confirm whether an amended petition would be required for the particular situation.
  8. Outside Employment: Since the H-1B visa status is employer-specific, all H-1B employee wages must be paid by TSRI. The H-1B employee is not allowed to receive any other funding except from TSRI. 
  9. Termination or Layoff: Federal regulations require the lab to pay for return transportation home if the H-1B employee is terminated or laid off prior to the end of their H-1B approval period at TSRI, even if the layoff is the result of funding issues.  
  10. Maximum Length: The H-1B visa status can be requested for up to 3 years, with a possibility of an extension for up to 3 more years, for a total maximum of 6 years. There are some exceptions to this limit for pending immigrants.
  11. Site Visits: Once an H-1B is approved, the employee or the lab/TSRI can be subject to random site visits by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers, to verify the H-1B employment.
  12. Taxes: Individuals in H-1B visa status are generally taxed as US residents. Some H-1B employees from countries with tax treaties may qualify for exceptions. Employees should visit the IRS website for more information at irs.gov.
  13. Dependents: H-1B dependents use H-4 status. They may attend classes full-time or part-time but they may not work unless they petition for their own work status (if eligible).
  14. Traveling: Travel while an H-1B petition is pending can cause issues with getting the H-1B petition approved, unless the petition was filed specifically to obtain a visa from abroad.
  15. New Visa: Visas cannot be granted inside the US. If the employee will change to H-1B status while inside the US, an approved petition will only grant the new H-1B status that allows for employment in the US; any travel outside the US after approval will require that the international employee apply for a new H-1B visa to return to the US. The visa application outside the US can sometimes take 2 months or more. However, unlike the J-1, F-1 or other non-immigrant statuses, the H-1B status allows an individual to state an intention to immigrate when applying for an H-1B visa and/or entering the US at any port-of-entry without any fear that this will affect the ability to obtain an H-1B visa stamp in the passport and/or the ability to be admitted to the US. This provision in the law is called “dual intent.”

Revised: 04.12.2017