H1-B Scholar Status Information


H-1 applications must be filed by the employer, not the employee. USCIS will accept an application for the H-1 extension of stay up to six months in advance. As H-1 processing can take many months, it would be wise to begin discussions with your supervisor six months before the expiration date of your current H-1 Approval Notice to ensure there are no lapses in your employment eligibility. Note that those currently holding H-1 status may continue working for a period of 240 days based on a "timely filed" application for H-1 extension. However, return from international travel is not possible on a pending H-1 application. Return from international travel requires an unexpired H-1 Approval Notice and a valid H-1 visa except as noted in the "Travel Outside the United States" section.


An H-1B extension petition and approval process can take several months to complete. Iowa State University can initiate the extension process up to six months prior to the end date of the current H-1B status.


All requests to extend H-1B status are initiated by the hiring department. Scholars who are interested in extending their H-1B status based on employment at Iowa State University should discuss this with their supervisor. The supervisor must then notify the departmental representative who prepares H-1B extension request and submits it electronically to ISSO.


Maximum Period of Stay

The maximum period of stay in H-1 status is generally six years. (There are some exceptions to this six year maximum in cases where an application for permanent residence has been pending for at least 365 days or for those with an approved Immigrant Petition in a category for which visa numbers are not currently available.) USCIS will not accept an H-1 application for more than three years at a time.

The H-1B classification is an employment status for individuals who will perform services in a specialty occupation. Specialty occupations are those that require at least a bachelor's degree. Requirements for H-1B status are as follows:

  • The job must require at least a bachelor's degree in a particular specialty to perform.
  • Beneficiary must have a bachelor's degree or minimum degree required for the specialty occupation.
  • Individuals cannot self-petition. Iowa State University must file the H-1B petition.

The H-1B petition and approval process can take four to five months to complete. Iowa State University cannot initiate the H-1B petition process earlier than six months before the employment starting date. Individuals who have been in the United States in J-1 or J-2 status and are subject to the two-year home residency requirement must either fulfill the two-year requirement or have the requirement waived prior to petitioning for H-1B status.


All requests to file an H-1B petition are initiated by the hiring department. Scholars who are interested in obtaining H-1B status based on employment at Iowa State University should discuss this with their supervisor. The supervisor must then notify the departmental representative who prepares H-1B requests and submits them electronically to ISSO.


Length of Stay

First time H-1B applicants arriving from overseas cannot enter the U.S. more than 10 days in advance of their employment begin date. An individual can maintain H-1B status for a maximum of six years. Employers can only petition for H-1B status for three years at a time, meaning an extension petition would be necessary. When an individual reaches the six-year limit they must leave the United States and live abroad for one year before they are eligible for H-1B status again.


Employment Limitations

If you are offered new or different employment or consulting opportunities please remember that your permission to work is limited to the employer and the duties described in your approved H-1B petition. If you anticipate a change in job title, job duties, number of hours worked each week, or location of your employment, even if these changes are within Iowa State University, contact us before making any change. We must follow Department of Labor procedures outlined for changes in employment and in some cases we may need to assist you with an amended H-1B petition. H-1B employees cannot legally work for or receive income from an employer other than the entity that filed the H-1B petition on their behalf. Although you may be reimbursed for expenses related to professional activities conducted outside Iowa State University, you cannot earn income (including honoraria or fees for consulting) from other entities for services performed within the United States.


Promotions, Demotions, or Switching Departments:

The H-1B petition is tailored for each individual in each specialty occupation. Any changes in your employment status, such as job duties, title or changing departments should be reviewed by the International Students and Scholars Office. Your petitioning department should contact ISSO prior to any anticipated changes in your terms of employment so that we may determine if an amended H-1B petition is necessary.


Engaging in employment not covered in the approved H-1B petition is a violation of status.


Termination of Employment:

H-1B status does not typically grant a "grace period" at the end of employment. Upon termination of employment, legal H-1B status ends, even if the petition was approved for a longer period. H-1Bs reaching the end of their status must do one of three things on or before the last day of employment:

1. File for an extension of H-1B status with a different department at Iowa State University or a new employer

2. File for a change of status to another non immigrant category

3. Depart the United States

While in H-1B status you may travel outside the United States to conduct personal and/or professional business. In order to re-enter the United States you must have a valid passport with a valid H-1B visa. You must obtain an H-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to return from international travel. The exception to this rule is for visits to Canada or Mexico lasting 30 days or less for those who have a U.S. visa of some kind in their passports and a copy of the most recent I-94 electronic record. (Unfortunately this visa exception does not apply to those who travel on Iranian, Syrian, Sudanese, or Cuban passports. If you travel on a passport from one of these countries, you must always obtain a visa to enter the United States.)


Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirement and should use the H-1B Approval Notice (I-797) and Canadian passport to enter the U.S.


It is not necessary for the name of the employer on a valid H-1 visa to match the name of the employer on the current H-1 Approval Notice. If you have an unexpired H-1 visa in your passport for another employer, you may use that visa to return to Iowa State University after international travel. Please budget time in your next international trip to apply for a visa if you do not have a valid H-1 visa in your passport. Consult the website of the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will apply for your visa to learn what you will need for a successful application and let us know if we can assist you.


Regulations do not require those in H-1B nonimmigrant status to obtain a travel signature. We suggest traveling with a recent letter from your employer confirming your continued employment in addition to a copy of your H-1B Approval Notice and a copy of the H-1B petition.


Prior to visiting another country, it is advisable to determine whether you will need a visa to enter that country.


I-94 Record:

Whenever you travel internationally please check the end date in your I-94 electronic record when you return to the U.S. The end date entered in your most recent I-94 electronic record determines the end date of your H-1B status and work permission, regardless of what is stated on your H-1B Approval Notice. So, for example, if your H-1B Approval Notice is valid through June 30, 2017, but your most recent I-94 record indicates your status expires September 1, 2016 (perhaps because your passport expires in September 2016) then your H-1B status and permission to work end on September 1, 2016, not on June 30, 2017. If this happens to you, we can help you correct the end date if you let us know BEFORE your I-94 end date. Check your end date each time you return to the U.S. If the end date on the I-94 card does not match the end date on your most recent H-1B Approval Notice, contact us immediately for assistance.


H-1B Visa Stamp:

If your H-1B petition was filed for consular processing rather than as a change of status, you must obtain an H-1B visa stamp from a United States Consulate abroad. H-1B visa stamps cannot be issued within the United States. Applicants need the following documents to obtain the H-1B visa stamp:

  • Original H-1B approval notice (I-797)
  • Current letter from sponsoring department confirming employment, position title and salary
  • Photocopy of H-1B petition (I-129)
  • Photocopy of Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • Documentation of legal immigration status in the United States, if applicable (I-20, DS-2019, I-797)
  • USCIS Waiver Approval Notice for persons previously in J status
  • Paystubs or other proof of employment

In some instances H-1B petitioners may require a background check before the visa stamp will be issued. Background checks can take 2-6 weeks, or longer, to complete. Please keep this in mind when making travel plans.

Eligibility:

Persons who are already present in the United States in another nonimmigrant status (other than WB, WT, C, D, J subject to 212(e), K and S) are eligible to change status to H-4 nonimmigrant status as long as they have been maintaining their legal status.


Immigration regulations allow only the spouse of the H-1B holder or unmarried children under age 21 to be classified as H-4 dependents. Once a child reaches his or her 21st birthday, they are no longer considered to be a dependent and must change to a different immigration status or leave the United States. Please contact us at least six months before your H-4 child's 21st birthday for assistance.


Benefits:

H-4 dependents may attend school either full or part time. The majority of H-4 dependents are not permitted to work in the United States. New regulations, as noted below, allow a very limited number of H-4 spouses to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for work authorization.


Effective May 26, 2015, H-4 spouses of certain H-1B temporary workers may apply for work authorization. This eligibility extends only to H-4 spouses of H-1B temporary workers who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status. Specifically, eligible individuals include H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B workers who:

  • Have an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted H-1B status in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.

If the H-1B temporary worker does not meet the above criteria, the H-4 spouse may not apply for work authorization. Children in H-4 status are not eligible to apply for work authorization under any circumstances.


Obtaining H-4 Status and Visa Stamp:

Persons who are not already present in the United States, or persons who must obtain a new visa stamp in order to enter the United States must obtain an H-4 visa stamp from a United States Consulate or Embassy abroad. Applicants will need the following documents to obtain the visa stamp:

  • Original H-1B approval notice (I-797)
  • Current letter from sponsoring department confirming employment, position title and salary
  • Photocopy of H-1B petition (I-129)
  • Photocopy of Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • Documentation of having resided legally in the United States, if applicable (I-20, DS2019, I-797)
  • USCIS Waiver Approval Notice for persons previously in J status
  • Birth and marriage certificate to document family relationship to the H-1

In some instances applicants may require a background check before the visa stamp will be issued. Background checks can take 2-6 weeks, or longer, to complete. Please keep this in mind when making travel plans.

Within 10 days of any move, you must report your new address to USCIS. (We'd appreciate it if you also update your address on Access Plus so that our records will be correct, too.) Each time you move, even if it is temporary or for a short period of time, be certain to file a change of address via the USCIS website here. Make and keep a photocopy of your completed change of address form with your immigration records.