Foreign Worker Visa Information
The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals to work in the United States in specialty occupations. Specialty occupations are essentially professional positions.To begin the process of a visa petition for a foreign national employee, please complete and submit the H-1B Department Initiation Request Form.
Initial Information about Working in the United States as a Foreign National
When a department is considering offering a job to a foreign national, it must be verified that the potential employee has legal permission to work in the United States.
If the foreign worker has the following status, then they are ready to work.
- U.S. Citizenship
- Legal Permanent Residency (green card)
If they do not fall into one of these categories, then a specific visa must be applied for before employment can start.
If a visa petition needs to be processed, please contact Drew Keegan at the Office of International Programs (OIP) at [email protected] (Phone: ext. 7926) and submit the H-1B Department Initiation Request form. Upon review, he will put you in touch with the Montana University System contracted immigration law firm. MSU-OIP serves as a liaison between the hiring department and law firm.
Working with an immigration attorney presents the most efficient means for processing these important employment-based petitions and an immigration attorney is better able to respond to current and future changes to immigration laws and regulations. Given the added expense of working directly with the attorney, the Office of the Provost will provide up to $1,500 of the processing cost, per faculty hire only, to assist colleges and departments with the fees that will be charged by the attorney. Please contact Julie Heard in the Office of the Provost at [email protected] with questions or to request this funding.
Determining an Appropriate Employment Visa Category
MSU- OIP is responsible for ensuring that Montana State University is in compliance with all U.S. immigration regulations. Although hiring departments may determine and request the employment-based visa category needed for a particular position, OIP is the final and official authority for determining appropriate visa categories for MSU positions.
H-1B Visa: Temporary Worker in Specialty Occupation
The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals to work in the United States in specialty occupations. Specialty occupations are essentially professional positions.
To be eligible for H-1B status, the applicant must have:
- a minimum of a Bachelor's degree or equivalent (or higher if job requires)
- theoretical and practical application of a highly specialized body of knowledge
- an offer of a professional-level or specialty job
Note: persons who hold, or have held, J-1 or J-2 status and are subject to the two-year home country residency requirement are not eligible for H-1B status until the two-year requirement is either fulfilled or waived.
- Postdoctoral Researchers
- Research Associate
- Research Scientists
- Assistant Research Professors
- Tenure-track Assistant and Associate Professors
It is the responsibility of the employer (petitioner) to complete all required paperwork and file the petition for the prospective employee (beneficiary). The employee does not actually complete or sign any immigration forms. The visa petition will be adjudicated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Issuance cannot be guaranteed by the OIP. All related fees are non-refundable.
Note: MSU must file the H-1B petition; prospective employees cannot obtain H-1B visas on their own
Contact Drew Keegan if you are thinking about offering a position to a foreign worker.
Once the job is offered to you, your department will be in contact with the OIP office, and if it is determined that the H-1B visa is most appropriate, then the petition process will be started.
No. The petition for H-1B status is filed by the prospective employer. The work permission (H-1B status) is then granted only for that specific job with that specific employer.
Note: An employee may have more than one H-1B approval at a time. This is called "concurrent employment." Thus, with H-1B status, the employee may work in two or more jobs at the same time as long as each employer has obtained approval of an H-1B petition for the specific job.
If there are any substantial changes in the job such as a new job title, changes in required qualifications, significant change in job duties, new location, etc, then the employer must file an H-1B amendment petition.
The Office of International Programs must be notified if there are any changes to employment
- Increase or decrease in hours
- Changing departments or labs
- Change of title and responsibility-- such as from post-doc to professor
- Termination of employment for any reason
- Change in personal status such as marriage leading to a green card
If the employee wishes to change jobs to a new organization, the prospective employer must file an entirely new H-1B petition. This must be done prior to the expiration of the first H-1B, or prior to terminating current employment, whichever comes first. In most cases, having one H-1B petition approved will not make it any easier to get a second approval.
Note: "Portability"- According to immigration law which went into effect October 17, 2000, the employee may begin working as soon as the new employer files the H-1B petition with the USCIS. There is no need to wait for the petition to be approved. This is only true for change of H-1B employer if the employee remains in the U.S. For change of STATUS to H-1B, the employee must wait for the approval notice.
If the employee's dependents are outside the U.S., the employer does not need to include any information about them in the petition. After the petition has been approved, they may apply for H-4 visas at a U.S. Consulate. In addition to the items mentioned above for an H-1B application, they should present a marriage certificate (for spouse) or birth certificate (for children). Always check on the consulate website for additional requirements.
Note: A person with H-4 status may not be employed in the U.S.
If the position is a professional level and the employee has a degree in a related field, the chances are excellent that the petition will be approved. There are sometimes delays if the USCIS has questions. This may result in a "request for evidence" (RFE). OIP will assist the department and employee deal with this situation if it occurs.
Note: MSU and other universities may file for an unlimited number of H-1B visas, but private companies are limited by a national "cap" on H-1B visas that can be issued each year. Individuals who transfer from an exempt institution (like MSU) to a non-exempt employer will become subject to the cap.
Note: If an individual is currently out of status, note that he/she may not change to H-1B status in the U.S. The individual will be required to return to the home country to apply for a visa after the H-1B petition is approved.
Advantages of the H-1B visa
- Dual intent- can lead to permanent residency.
- Portability- current H-1B visa holders can apply for other university employment and start work there as soon as the new petition is filed.
- Universities are exempt from the H-1B visa cap.
- The wage is regulated by the Department of Labor (DOL)- (protects the foreign worker)
Disadvantages of the H-1B visa
- The wage is regulated by the DOL- (employer must comply with the wage)
- The H-4 dependents of the H-1B cannot work
- The processing fees are high
As stated in the NAFSA advisor manual- "
” Offering an "honorarium" to an individual invited to campus is a long-standing tradition in academe. Until ACWIA was passed, however, INS and DOS had traditionally characterized honorarium payments as "compensation for services," and therefore prohibited such payments unless the alien had employment authorization, or where it could be shown that the amount of the honorarium did not exceed an amount needed for reimbursement of expenses".
Immigration laws prohibit the payment for services by an employer to an H1B sponsored by another institution. Please be advised that accepting payment for services from an institution which is not your sponsor can put you in violation of your visa status.
Note: H1-B, E3, TN and O-1 visa holders may receive an honorarium in the form of reimbursement for travel and/or incidental expenses only.
Additional Statuses that Permit Work
F-1 students are usually eligible for 12 months of practical training after (and sometimes before) graduation. F-1 visa holders who earned a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field may be permitted to work for up to 24 months in their field, as long as the employer participates in the E-Verify program. MSU is currently not a participant in this program.
J-1 students are sometimes eligible for a period of academic training. Those who complete a doctoral program may work for up to 36 months in a post-doctoral research position with permission from the J-1 visa program sponsor.
A J-1 scholar may be employed as a non-tenure track teacher or researcher at his/her host institution, usually a university or research laboratory. The J-1 scholar visa is to be used for exchange visitors coming from their home countries and returning to their home countries. The scholar may be subject to Section 212 (e) - Foreign Residence Requirement.
Used by employees of a multinational company who are temporarily transferred to the U.S. This status is not usually available to a person already in the U.S.
E-(1 or 2)
Person employed by an international (foreign-owned) company in the U.S. where the treaty allows for E visas.
The E-3 classification applies only to nationals of Australia. Employee must be coming to the United States solely to perform services in a specialty occupation.
Used by persons of extraordinary ability.
P-(1, 2 , or 3)
Used by performing artists and athletes.
(NAFTA Treaty) This status can be used by professional employees from Canada and Mexico and is similar to H-1B. However, there is no requirement for the employer to pay or to document the prevailing wage, and the application procedure is much faster than an H-1B. The occupations covered are restricted to those allowed under NAFTA. The duration of three years is renewable. The TN visa cannot lead to the "green card" as it does not have dual intent.
Note: Mexican nationals need to apply for the H-1B visa stamp in the passport while Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa stamp requirement.
Present the following documents to the Trade NAFTA Officer at the United States' USCIS Port of Entry:
- Proof of qualifying employment offer
- Proof of relevant credentials
- Proof of citizenship
- Filing fee of US $50 (subject to change)
(Always check on fee updates and further processing details at www.uscis.gov as well as current regulations on the TN)
For more information please contact Drew Keegan in the Office of International Programs:
Office of International Programs
Montana State University
Strand Union Building 183
Bozeman, MT 59717-2260