The H-1B visa classification is for “temporary workers” in “specialty occupations.” Many positions at the University of Pittsburgh that require a bachelor’s degree or higher will qualify as a ’specialty occupation.’ Because H-1B status is an employment-sponsored visa classification, the hiring academic department will decide if they are willing to sponsor the H-1B petition. This chart can be used to help decide which visa status to request when inviting new international employees and/or scholars to Pitt. H-1B status is initially granted for a maximum period of three years and can be extended to a maximum of six years. OIS has a standard processing time of 6 weeks for H-1B petitions. However, it is recommended that interested departments forward all of the necessary documents to OIS 4 – 5 months in advance of the anticipated start date, due to normal processing times at USCIS of 2 - 3 months after receipt. Before filing an H-1B with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), OIS must ensure compliance with Department of Labor regulations in addition to Deemed Export Control regulations. Once OIS files the petition, USCIS’ processing time begins. Their current posted processing time can be found at the USCIS website. USCIS offers Premium Processing for H-1B petitions, wherein the case is guaranteed to be adjudicated within 15 calendar days of receipt. The fee for this expedited service is $1,410, and will increase to $1,440 effective November 29, 2019. Please note that Premium Processing does not expedite OIS processing times.
H-1B employees must have completed a bachelor’s or higher, and must fulfill all job qualifications. Because H-1B status is employer-specific and position-specific, an individual may only work for the employer who sponsors his/her status and only in the position set forth in the petition. Individuals who were previously in J status and are subject to the 212 (e) /Two-Year Home Residency Requirement must either fulfill the residency requirements of this J restriction or obtain a waiver of the requirement. Information about 212(e) waivers can be found here.
How to Apply
H-1B status is an employer-sponsored visa classification. As such, the hiring department must initiate the case request and gather the required documents to be submitted to OIS. The department administrator will first determine which type of H-1B case is to be requested and gather the appropriate documents according to the corresponding cover sheet. (H-1B Cover sheets can be found in My OIS.) Then he or she will submit an online H-1B Request in My OIS. Both parts of the H-1B Request – the online portion and the paper copies – must be received in OIS to be considered complete. If you have any questions, please email OIS@pitt.edu.
Maintain Legal H-1B Status
It is the responsibility of the H-1B visa holder to maintain legal non-immigrant status at all times while present in the United States. Keep in mind the following conditions that are part of status maintenance:
- Maintain a valid passport at all times, unless exempt from passport requirements.
- Work only for the employer(s) that have obtained an approved H-1B petition on your behalf.
- Notify OIS immediately of any potential changes to the conditions of your employment BEFORE the change occurs. This includes, but is not limited to, a significant change in your compensation package, changes in your job title, academic department, or day-to-day employment activities, changes in city of employment, changes in number of hours, and/or any leave of absence.
- The processing of an H-1B petition is a complex and lengthy process involving multiple government agencies. It is your responsibility to ensure that the processing for any extension(s) of your H-1B status is started in a timely manner. You are strongly urged to start the process 6 months in advance of your current H-1B expiration date.
- There is NO grace period for foreign nationals in H-1B status after the authorized period of stay ends. You must petition for an extension or change of status prior to the expiration of your current H-1B status. If you resign from your job or are terminated, and you have no other petition currently pending with USCIS, you are considered to be out of legal status.
- Consult OIS with any questions regarding international travel.
- Report a change of address to the OIS within 10 days of the change. You should also report the change to other departments throughout Pitt. Finally, you must also notify the USCIS by completing a Form AR-11 or AR-11SR.
Please keep in mind that there is a difference between H-1B status and an H-1B visa stamp. H-1B status is granted when an employer receives an Approval Notice (Form I-797) from the USCIS approving the H-1B petition. An H-1B visa is the stamp placed in a foreign national’s passport by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and is granted for entry purposes only. Even if your visa stamp is valid, if you do not comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S., you may be considered unlawfully present in the United States and may be subject to deportation.