Nonimmigrant Worker: H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is an employer-specific visa. An H-1B specialty occupation is one that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge to fully perform the occupation and requires the attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in a specific specialty, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.

Duration of Stay

The H-1B visa can be used for a maximum of six years. The worker’s H-1B status may be extended in one to three year increments beyond the six year limit when certain employment-based conditions are met. 

Petition Requirements

The petition must be filed with USCIS by HR International Faculty and Staff Services in consultation with the university department offering employment. The university department should contact HR International Faculty and Staff Services as early as possible. Employers may file an H-1B petition as early as six months in advance of the anticipated employment date.

The petition includes specific documentation about the job and the foreign national, such as evidence of a university degree, work experience, and licenses required for performing the work. 

Fees

OU departments are responsible for the payment of all business-related expenses associated with any worker named in an H-1B petition including the petition filing fee. These costs include, but are not necessarily limited to, approved legal fees, administrative costs, filing fees, and recruitment costs. Departments must also assume the reasonable cost of return transportation for an H-1B nonimmigrant in the case of dismissal before the end of their authorized employment.

Departments cannot require the H-1B worker to reimburse or otherwise creatively compensate the university for costs connected with the H-1B petition filing. 

All family-related application and petition expenses are considered personal expenses and must be paid by the individual.

Petition Fees Paid by OU Department

Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on USCIS Form I-129

  • Initial, transfer (sequential), change of status petitions:
    $460 base filing fee + $500 anti-fraud fee = total: $960
  • Extension of current status with university
    Total: $460 base filing fee

USCIS Premium Processing Service

USCIS provides expedited processing for $1,225 in addition to the above fees. University guidelines require departments to provide justification for this cost. Review the Visa Fee Policy in the Documents section on this page for more information. 

HR International Faculty and Staff Services (IFSS) Office Fees

IFSS offers immigration services provided by an in-house immigration attorney and administrative staff. These services are currently provided at no charge to the department or participant. OU remains one of the few schools offering these services at no charge. Requests that require expedited attention or do not provide minimum notice to our office may eventually force our office to charge fees.

Wage Requirements

An OU department seeking to employ an H-1B worker is required to pay the worker the required wage rate as defined by the H-1B federal program rules. The department must offer a wage that is the higher of either:

  • The actual wage rate paid to others similarly employed, or;
  • 100% of the prevailing wage for the occupation. 

The wage rules also require offering benefits as compensation for services to H-1B nonimmigrants on the same basis, and in accordance with the same criteria, as the employer offers to U.S. workers. 

Special Circumstances When Wages Must Be Paid

If the H-1B employee is not performing work and is in a nonproductive status due to a decision by the department/employer (e.g., because of lack of assigned work), lack of a permit or license, or any other business-related reason, the department is required to pay the salaried employee the full pro-rata amount due, or to pay the hourly-wage employee at the required wage for the occupation listed on the Labor Condition Application (LCA). If the employer's LCA carries a designation of "part-time employment," the employer is required to pay the nonproductive employee for at least the number of hours indicated on the I-129 petition filed by the employer with the USCIS. In all cases the H-1B nonimmigrant must be paid the required wage for all hours performing work within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. 

Conditions of Employment

USCIS approval authorizes employment exclusively for the university in the position and the terms specified in the previously filed petition. Any material change in the current position may warrant the filing of a new H-1B petition.

Changing jobs or departments at the university, accepting additional employment, serving as a consultant, or accepting a salary or honoraria could jeopardize the employee's legal status within the United States.

Reimbursement for transportation and expenses for activities at another institution, such as giving a lecture, may be possible if the activity is incidental to the originally approved university petition.

Notify IFSS: Please consult with the HR International Faculty & Staff Services (IFSS) regarding proposed activities for any H-1B employee. Additionally, IFSS must be notified before changes in any conditions of the employee's current employment, including changes in title, number of work hours, salary, or physical work location.

In the case of dismissal before the end of the authorized employment, the OU department must assume the reasonable cost of return transportation for an H-1B nonimmigrant.

Transfer Rules

OU departments should contact HR International Faculty and Staff Services if they are planning to employ an H-1B nonimmigrant worker currently in another position.

The AC21 “Act” portability provisions allow a nonimmigrant worker previously issued an H-1B visa or otherwise accorded H-1B status to begin working for a new H-1B employer as soon as the new employer files a “non-frivolous” H-1B petition for the worker. 

The portability provisions described in AC21 relieve the nonimmigrant worker from the need to wait for approval notification from the USCIS before commencing H-1B employment with the new employer.

University departments cannot place the nonimmigrant worker on payroll without the USCIS I-797C Receipt Notice issued to the University of Oklahoma. This notice proves the university has filed a non-frivolous H-1B petition and is necessary to meet I-9 employment eligibility verification requirements. The receipt notice normally arrives approximately 2 weeks after the date when it's filed by HR International Faculty and Staff Services.

Exceptions to the Receipt Notice requirement may apply for those cases experiencing delays because of USCIS Service Center Receipt processing times.

Effective January 17, 2017, a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each petition validity period is now approved for H-1B classification.  This grace period allows H-1B workers to more readily pursue new employment should they be eligible for other employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classifications or employment in the same classification with a new employer.  While the H-1B worker will not be authorized for employment during the grace period, it allows more flexibility for those whose employment ceases prior to the end of their current validity period.  This grace period also allows US employers to more easily facilitate changes in employment for existing or newly recruited H-1B workers.

Travel

Visa applicants should prepare in advance and allow sufficient time for potential delays when applying for visas of any type at a U.S. consular post abroad. International visitors and workers on approved visas who travel outside the U.S. must review the following information:

  • Passport - Be sure that your passport is valid at least six months beyond the date of your intended stay in the US.  If your passport expires before your US visa does, the US customs inspector will limit your US admission stay to correspond with your passport's expiration date.
  • Visa - Check your visa to make sure it will be unexpired on your anticipated re-entry date. Also note the number of entries allowed on your visa. Although the visa date may still be valid, you may have used all allowable entries.
  • New Entry Visas - If you will need to obtain a new entry visa, you should notify the IFSS office no later than two weeks before your departure date from the U.S. We will provide you with a current employment letter and a petition travel packet. 
  • Petition Verification for Visa Issuance (PIMS Report): The original paper I-797 is no longer accepted for visa issuance. The approved USCIS I-129 petition must now be verified by the consulate or embassy through the online Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). 
    • At a Consulate or Embassy, the online record of your petition is called a PIMS report. 
    • PIMS is an internal government system. Neither the foreign national nor the university has access to PIMS or any way to influence the speed at which a PIMS report is produced.  
    • You may take paper documentation to an embassy or consulate, but they must access an electronic PIMS report before your visa can be granted. This process may cause potential delays in visa issuance.
    • In the case of visa delays, it may be useful for the foreign national to ask the official if the PIMS report has been completed and if the PIMS report shows that the petition has been approved. Having this information can help narrow down the cause for delays.
  • Upon Re-entry to the U.S. - When the immigration inspector stamps your passport upon re-entry into the U.S. be sure to check IMMEDIATELY that the stamp shows your correct immigration status. THIS IS CRITICAL. If the stamp does not match your visa status, you will not be able to resume your position at the university. For example, if you are a J-1 professor and the immigration inspector records a different status for your admission, for example B-2, you will not be eligible to take up your J-1 teaching position. 
  • Readmission Evidence, I-94 Number - Travelers needing evidence of readmission to the U.S. should visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to print or review an I-94 form based on the data that was electronically submitted at your entry. This data includes your I-94 number, which may be needed to prove lawful U.S. entry for benefits providers and other purposes.

Links

U.S. Embassies, Consulates, & Diplomatic Missions
Visa Appointment Check - Find our how soon you can get an appointment for visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Family

The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of the primary immigrant or nonimmigrant are considered immediate family members for immigration purposes and are defined as dependents. Many such dependents are eligible for derivative status and may be allowed to apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with USCIS.

As a courtesy, IFSS will include the dependent’s derivative application when filing the university’s petition for the nonimmigrant worker. The nonimmigrant worker is responsible for any accompanying family member’s visa status or subsequent filing fee(s). While every reasonable effort is made to provide you with guidance with job-related immigration concerns, help cannot be provided for personal or family immigration matters and may be further limited by staff resources and institutional priorities.

Consider This

Volunteering and moonlighting refer to activities outside the scope of the foreign national's employment authorization and may not be allowed. Review more information about volunteering and moonlighting

Documents

For Use by OU Departments
Representatives from OU departments use these documents for processing nonimmigrant workers (H-1B, TN, and O-1 visas).
HR129 REQUEST FOR NONIMMIGRANT WORKER
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
NONIMMIGRANT VISA DEADLINES & DESCRIPTIONS (REFERENCE GUIDE)
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa
UNIVERSITY VISA FEE POLICY
Campus: Norman, OUHSC, Tulsa

Notice

There are numerous nonimmigrant employment-based visa categories.  In all cases, the foreign national must meet specific requirements related to the occupation for which the employer is petitioning. 

Under no circumstances should the hiring department make any guarantee of sponsorship to a foreign worker for any immigration benefit.  Due to the complexity of employment-based sponsorship, it is impossible for any employer to guarantee that its efforts to secure USCIS employment authorization will be successful.

Foreign workers will be required to follow the New Hire appointment process for employees of OU. Positions that are eligible for sponsorship as a nonimmigrant worker can be found in the IFSS University Appointment Eligibility Chart.