Non-immigrant visa options range the alphabet from A to V. Though only a handful of visa types are available to TSRI scholars and students, we have a broad selection of visas in our toolkit. For this reason, it is important that our office carefully consider a scholar's and lab's situation and needs to determine the most appropriate visa status for entry to the U.S. The following is a guide to the visa options available to TSRI international scholars.
Significant factors for determining the most appropriate visa include:
Eligibility for a particular visa classification is determined by federal regulations. No person(s) at TSRI is legally authorized to promise, offer, or sign for a visa of any type except the International Services Office staff.
B-1 visa status can be used by visitors who will receive no TSRI salary or payment other than reimbursement for expenses and will be in the U.S. for a short time. (If certain conditions are met, B-1 visitors can receive an honorarium.) The visa must be obtained from a U.S. consulate abroad supported by a letter of invitation from the PI/Lab. Please refer to sample invitation letters.
A B-1 Visa is not to be used by students.
This program allows citizens of 38 countries (listed below) to enter the U.S. without a visa. Visitors must receive WB status at the U.S. port of entry, not stay in the U.S. longer than 90 days or change to any other visa status, and not engage in employment or receive a U.S. salary. WB visitors can receive reimbursement of expenses and, if certain conditions are met, receive an honorarium. Prospective WB visitors must have an invitation letter from a TSRI PI/Lab. Please refer to sample invitation letters.
A Visa Waiver is not to be used by students.
Please note the special passport requirements listed at the Department of State's Visa Waiver Program site.
Citizens or nationals from ALL Visa Waiver Program countries are required to obtain travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to be eligible for travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. In order to apply for an ESTA, travelers must go to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/, follow the instructions to answer all of the required questions, and submit an application for travel authorization. Travelers must submit an ESTA request online prior to travel. There are two fees are required in order to complete an ESTA request, a processing charge and an authorization charge.
These options are available only to current students or recent graduates of U.S. universities. They may obtain permission to accept employment in their area of study. F-1 students can receive 12 months of practical training and may extend for an additional 24 months. J-1 students can receive 18 months of academic training and extend for an additional 18 months for postdoctoral research. Authorization is granted either by USCIS or by the student's sponsoring educational institution, depending on the type of employment and visa status. When this status expires and TSRI wants to continue employment, the scholar must change to a different status. Labs should request a new visa classification six months before F-1 OPT or J-1 academic training expires.
J-1 visa status is the most frequently used and the most appropriate status for international postdoctoral scholars, visiting professors/researchers, and Ph.D. student interns. Lengths of stay vary by category.
Documentation and processing time for prospective J-1s are usually minimal. Funding sources for individuals in J-1 visa status can come from TSRI or an outside source (excluding personal funds). Some J-1 researchers may be subject to the two-year home residency requirement (212e).
J-2 spouses may apply to the USCIS for work authorization, which takes 90 days or longer to obtain. Income from J-2 dependents, however, may only be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and cannot be used to support the J-1 exchange visitor.
H-1B visa status is a temporary employment status for professionals in specialty occupations. At TSRI, the H-1B status will be sponsored if the international employee does not qualify for any other visa status; the position is full-time; the position requires a PhD; and the lab is willing and able to pay the required wage and all USCIS fees. The H-1B status is specific to a single employer and location, and cannot be used as work permission for any other employment or location. The status can be granted for up to 3 years and extended for up to an additional 3 years, for a total of 6 years.
H-1B petitions can take 3-8 months (or sometimes, even more) for processing at USCIS. Once a completed application is received from the lab, the International Services Office requires 4 weeks to prepare the petition before it can be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In most cases, our office notifies labs and scholars many months in advance of the need to file a change of status to H-1B, for current employees at TSRI. Nonetheless, it is often necessary for labs to pay a premium processing fee of $1225 to USCIS, to meet the deadline for the required start date of the H-1B.
Dependents of H-1B employees have H-4 status. H-4 visa holders can go to classes full-time or part-time but cannot work. There are some rare exceptions when an H-4 spouse can apply for a work permit if the H-1B has applied for permanent residence. If the H-1B has filed for permanent residence, ISO can discuss options for H-4 spouses.
The H-1B allows for “dual intent,” which means that a person can intend to immigrate and/or apply to immigrate and still receive an H-1B visa at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. However, H-1B applicants are often required to have “administrative processing” when applying for a visa and this can take 2 months or more at the US Consulate or Embassy.
Citizens of Canada or Mexico who would otherwise obtain J-1 or H-1B visa status may obtain TN visa status to be employed at TSRI. Paperwork and processing time for TN visa status is considerably less than other visa options. Canadians, in lieu of a visa stamp, can obtain a TN visa status at the port of entry. TN visa status applies only to certain professions. TN visa status may be granted in increments of up to 3 years. Extensions are also granted in increments up to 3 years.
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom (citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man). Updated February 2015.
Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
For additional information, please see the Department of State's Visa Waiver Program site.