H-1B Pre-Arrival

Scholar check in is held by appointment in 3241 Memorial Union. All international scholars visiting for any length of time are required to check in with ISSO. Scholars on J-1 status (professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, specialists, and student interns) are all required to attend.

Scholar Check-in Sessions are held on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings and last for approximately one hour. H-1B employees [scholars] will attend the session which starts promptly at 10:15 a.m. These sessions are group check-ins. Scholars that arrive after the scheduled start time will be asked to reschedule for the next available session.

During the check-in session our office will collect your address information, scan your immigration documents, and provide the information necessary to obtain your ISU card, computer network access, work permission, and Social Security number, if applicable. You will receive maps of Ames, and the ISU campus. You will be provided information regarding Ames businesses, transportation, recreation services, "what's happening" in Ames, and much more about Iowa and the surrounding states.



Registration for Scholar Check-in is handled electronically through our sigunupgenius.com site. H-1B scholars register for a session here


Documents and Information:

Scholars should bring the following documents and information with them to their check-in session:

  • Passport
  • I-797 Approval Notice (if it was sent to you)
  • I-94 Record (obtain here)
  • If your dependents arrived with you please bring their passports, I-94 records and DS-2019 forms
  • Local, home address in Ames (or temporary address in Ames if you have not yet secured housing)
  • Name and contact information for a person ISSO would contact should you have a personal emergency

We look forward to meeting you!

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

Scholars in H-1B status must be employed by Iowa State University, and cannot receive pay from any other employer unless that employer has had an H-1B petition approved by USCIS on behalf of the alien. Any change to your employment must be reported to ISSO to determine if a new H-1B petition must be filed. This includes changes to salary, work hours (part-time, full-time), hiring department, and job title. An Employment Authorization Document from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is not required for H-1B temporary workers.

Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form)

All new international employees must complete Form I-9 with ISSO on or before their first day of work. ISSO staff will assist new international employees to complete Form I-9 during Scholar Check-in. Please visit the ISSO Homepage for Scholar Check-in times and registration procedures.

Certain documents are required in order for an I-9 to be processed. A list of documents an individual can use to complete Form I-9 can be found here (see page 9). Please note that effective July 1, 2019, the I-9 process will begin with an electronic form accessed through the employee's inbox in Workday.

Do not work without prior authorization from ISSO!

A detailed description of the Scholar Health Insurance Plan can be found here.

Taxes and Social Security

Navigating the income taxes rules can be challenging for scholars working in the United States. Please review the following tax information on some of the basic tax-related issues you might experience while in the United States.

Tax Information

Iowa State University requires all H-1B employees to be covered by health insurance for the duration of their stay in the United States. If the H-1B has dependents traveling with him or her, those dependents must be covered by insurance as well.

H-1B employees at Iowa State University are eligible for employee health insurance benefits if their positions are at least half-time. The exception to this policy is for postdoctoral research associates. All individuals employed as Postdocs are eligible for health insurance benefits.

Health Insurance Requirements: Scholars who will be employed by ISU

If you will be employed in a benefits-eligible position at Iowa State University, please be aware that you must enroll yourself and your accompanying dependents in the ISU employee health insurance plan (the “ISU Plan”) upon arrival at the university. For more information about this requirement and the ISU plan, please visit: https://www.hr.iastate.edu/benefits/insurance/isu-plan#medical or contact the ISU Benefits Office at benefits@iastate.edu.

Study and Work

H-4 dependents are permitted to study 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.

Health Insurance

Iowa State University requires all H-4 dependents to be covered by health insurance for the duration of their stay in the United States. Please review the information on the Health Insurance page for more information on this subject. There is generally a limited time (less than 30 days) to enroll dependents in the health insurance plan when the dependents arrive later than the H-1B employee.

This page includes links to information about where you will live during your time in Ames, how you might get from the airport to Iowa State University, and information about the Ames community.



Community Information

Iowa State University has many multicultural students organizations on campus. Click the link to view a list of the organizations and to find more information on each one. You have the opportunity to request to join an organization as well as learn about details and events of each group. It is a great way to get involved and meet people!

ISU Multicultural Student Organizations