Non-Immigrant Employment Visa Types

International Faculty Advising assists all Penn State departments and campus locations in sponsoring International faculty to teach and conduct research for both temporary and tenure-track faculty. We also provide permanent resident services for tenure-track faculty. Our office stays current with all relevant U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Service (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of State (DOS), and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations and policies; and, provides education to the campus community to facilitate understanding and compliance. The most common temporary employment visa classifications used by Penn State are listed below:

H-1B Specialty Worker

Penn State will sponsor full-time academic faculty positions (professors and researchers) in H-1B classification up to a maximum of six (6) years. The H-1B visa is most used for tenured or tenure-line positions, as well as other academic positions requiring a Ph.D. 

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

  • Penn State will sponsor the following titles for H-1B:
    • Professor – all ranks
    • Lecturer
    • Instructor
    • Assistant / Associate Teaching Professor
    • Teaching Professor
    • Assistant / Associate Research Professor
    • Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Penn State will not sponsor H-1B under the following conditions:
    • staff positions
    • part-time employment
    • a period longer than the position offered (guaranteed funding)
  • The position must require a Ph.D. Requests for an exception must be forwarded to the Associate Vice Provost of Global Programs noting the exceptional nature of the request.
  • The salary offered must be the higher of either the US Department of Labor’s prevailing wage determination or the actual wage paid to similarly employed individuals within Penn State
  • If transferring from another US university already in H-1B status, the new employee can begin working at Penn State as long as they have a USCIS receipt notice showing a timely filed H-1B petition; and, has otherwise remained in lawful status
  • Permits the ‘dual-intention’ of being in a temporary immigration status while also applying for permanent residency
  • Employment cannot begin until the Form I-9 has been completed.

FILING FEES

The following filing fees are required for Penn State to file an H-1B petition.  Each fee must be paid by a separate check, and made out to:

Department of Homeland Security
USCIS California Service Center
24000 Avila Road
2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, California 92677-3401

Current Fee

Reason for Fee

Who can pay?

$460

Base fee required for all petitions

Penn State Only

$500

Fraud prevention and detection fee required only for first petition

Penn State Only

$2,500

Expedite fee optional to receive 15-day processing

Penn State or Employee

PROCESSING TIME GUIDELINES

Special Considerations*

Petition Type

Special Considerations

DISSA Processing Time

USCIS Processing Time

Consular Processing

Allow additional time for Consulate to schedule visa interview.

Enter the U.S.no earlier than 10 days prior to Approval Notice.

For initial case assessment,

20 calendar days from the date all e-forms are submitted.

 

After initial assessment,

the case is put in a queue according to start date and filed within 2 to 3 months from date received in IFA.

With premium processing,

15 calendar days for Approval or Request for Further Evidence.

 

Without premium processing,

15-19 months.

H-1B Portability

No gap in employment between previous employer and Penn State.

Complete I-9 upon receipt of the USCIS receipt notice.

Extension at Penn State

To avoid complications, coordinate all international travel with IFA.

Complete I-9 upon receipt of the USCIS receipt notice.

Change of Status

During processing, no international travel**

** Employees requesting a change of status to H-1B (and H-4) within the U.S. should NOT leave the U.S. while the petition is pending with USCIS. USCIS considers leaving the U.S. while the petition is pending to be abandonment of the petition.

HOW TO SUBMIT A VISA INQUIRY / NOTIFY IFA THAT AN OFFER HAS BEEN MADE TO A FOREIGN NATIONAL FACULTY MEMBER

  1. Go to: https://istart.gp.psu.edu/ and click Login under Students, Faculty, and Staff with active PSU email. 
  2. If accessing iStart for the first time, please email iStarthelp@psu.edu to request access. You should receive verification within 1 to 2 business days.
  3. Look-up record in iStart to ensure foreign national does not already have a record in the system.
    • Click Faculty Advising: Visa Inquiry / New Offer Notification to look-up a record (PSU ID# and DOB required);
      • If the foreign national does not have a record in iStart:
        • Click Add New Person eForm (PSU ID#, DOB, Gender, and Email are required; select ‘Scholars’ as the campus location).
  4. Click Faculty Advising: Visa Inquiry / New Offer Notification – complete and submit form.
  5. The foreign national will receive an immediate email notification directing them to click a link to access and complete their portion of the eForm. (Upload all required supporting documentation in PDF format.)
  6. Upload all required supporting documentation in PDF format where requested throughout the eForms.
  7. An adviser will review the information and documentation as soon as both portions have been submitted. They will provide a visa recommendation, estimated timeline and instructions for next steps.

TN Visa for Canadian or Mexican Citizens

Note: As of July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

The TN status was created after the signing of The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 to allow citizens of Canada and Mexico to seek temporary entry into the United States to conduct pre-arranged business activities at a professional level.

QUICK OVERVIEW

  • TN status is employer and position specific 
  • It can be awarded in increments of up to three years
  • There is no cumulative time limit for TN status provided the stay remains temporary
  • There is no specific wage requirement
  • Tenure-line positions never qualify 
  • TN physicians are limited to teaching/research and cannot engage in clinical patient care unless it is incidental to teaching/research.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS FOR PENN STATE TO SPONSOR SOMEONE FOR TN STATUS:

  1. International Faculty Advising submits a petition to the US Department of Homeland Security

or

  1. International Faculty Advising provides the prospective employee an offer letter/request for TN status and applies in person at a US Port-of-Entry 

REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL APPLICANTS

  1. Gather required documentation  
  2. An evaluation of all degrees by a professional credentialing service
  3. A Penn State offer letter containing:
    • The Penn State job title with the qualifying profession listed in the List of Professional Occupations adjacent in parenthesis
    • Your purpose of entry
    • A detailed description of your anticipated business activities or job responsibilities.
    • Your anticipated length of stay in the United States
    • Your educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status
    • Evidence of your compliance with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations and/or state laws
    • Arrangements for your pay

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR MEXICANS:

  • Must have an unexpired TN visa stamp when entering the US
  • Must always obtain an I-94 and a CBP stamp inside of the passport

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CANADIANS:

  • Never requires a TN visa stamp when entering the US
  • Must always obtain an I-94 and/or a CBP stamp inside of the passport

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ALLIED HEALTH CARE WORKERS:

Allied healthcare workers must be licensed by the state of Pennsylvania and pass a VisaScreen.  A VisaScreen is a certificate that verifies that the healthcare worker’s education and English language skills have been evaluated and found acceptable. It is issued by one of the following organizations:

  • Allied health care workers include the following:
    • nurses
    • occupational therapists
    • physical therapists
    • speech language pathologists and audiologists
    • medical technologists
    • clinical laboratory scientists
    • physician assistants
    • medical technicians
    • Clinical laboratory technicians

E-3 Visa for Australian Citizens

Penn State can sponsor an Australian Citizen in E-3 visa classification to temporarily perform services in a “specialty occupation” under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). 

  • E-3 status may be initially granted for a maximum period of up to two years. Extensions of stay may be granted indefinitely in increments of up to two years. There is no limit on the total length of stay for an E-3 although immigrant intent is not permitted.
  • A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum hiring requirement.  
  • E-3 status is employer and position specific. All possible job changes (title, salary, duties, hours, location) must be discussed first with International Faculty Advising to determine if an amended petition must be filed to permit the change.
  • The salary offered must be the higher of either the US Department of Labor’s prevailing wage determination or the actual wage paid to similarly employed individuals within Penn State.
  • The US Department of Labor requires that a posting be displayed in two conspicuous places for 15 business days; and that a Labor Condition Application (LCA) be certified in advance of the visa application.

Processing steps if out of the US:

  • The hiring department sends an e-mail to International Faculty Advising at FacultyAdvising@psu.edu three months in advance of the intended start date to request that an E-3 case be initiated for consular processing.
  • International Faculty Advising Sends a packet of documentation to the Australian Citizen to take to the US Embassy in Canberra, or the US Consulate in Melbourne, Perth, or Sydney.
  • The Australian Citizen completes an application for the visa stamp on-line and makes an appointment with the Embassy or one of the Consulates by clicking on this link:  https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

Processing steps if inside of the US:

  • The hiring department sends an e-mail to International Faculty Advising at FacultyAdvising@psu.edu three months in advance of the intended start date to request that an E-3 case be initiated for extension of stay or change of status.  
  • International Faculty Advising completes a petition and mails to the United States Department of Homeland Security, which includes filing fees that the hiring department must pay (a $460 base fee and an optional $1,225 for premium processing).
  • The Australian Citizen remains in the US and extends stay or changes immigration status to E-3.

Dependents in E-3 Status:

The spouse and children 21 years and younger:

  • derive E-3 status regardless of their nationality
  • may study without restrictions
  • may apply to US Department of Homeland Security for work authorization 

O-1 Visa Category

The O-1 status is designed for those who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.  “Extraordinary ability” is defined as a “level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor”. [8 CFR 214.2(o)(3)(II)]  

Quick Overview:

  • International Faculty Advising will consider the O-1 non-immigrant status on a case-by-case basis at the request of a Dean, Chancellor, or Department Head
  • Merely submitting the minimum amount of documentatin does not mean the O-1 is approvable
  • A postdoctoral fellow/associate is almost never approvable
  • An employer/employee relationship between Penn State and the beneficiary is required, which includes remuneration and supervision
  • Must be temporary, with initial request not to exceed 3 years
  • May request extensions in one year increments indefinitely
  • A J-1 subject to the 2 year home residency requirement can enter the US in O-1 status but cannot change status inside of the US

How to Sponsor Someone:

  • The designated department contact must enter the request into iStart
  • International Faculty Advising submits a petition to the US Department of Homeland Security
  • Upon approval, the employee either changes status inside of the US; or, applies for an O-1 visa stamp at a US Embassy and enters the US

Required Documentation

  • A written advisory opinion (consultation) from a peer group or individual(s) with expertise in the field
  • A contract or summary of the terms of employment
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:  
    • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
    • Membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought which require outstanding achievements, as judged by recognized national or international experts in the field
    • Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought
    • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
    • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media in the field for which classification is sought
    • A high salary or other remuneration for services as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
    • Participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the same or in a field of specialization allied to that field for which classification is sought
    • Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • If the above criteria do not readily apply to the beneficiary’s occupation, the petitioner may submit comparable evidence in order to establish the beneficiary’s eligibility.

Permanent Residency Applicants

Permanent Residents (often called green card holders) are authorized to live and work on a permanent basis in the U.S.  Penn State sponsors permanent residency petitions in EB-1B and EB-2 employment-based preference categories and specific infromation regarding Penn State's policy/procedures can be found at Permanent Residency.

Items of Note for Permanent Residency filers

There is a period of time after an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) has been sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) called a “grounding period.” It is not recommended that the applicant leave the U.S. until confirming that USCIS has received the I-485.

Advance Parole Document

If the applicant is in the U.S., s/he may apply for this form if s/he has a pending I-485 and according to USCIS, "...seeks to travel abroad for 'urgent humanitarian reasons' or in furtherance of a 'significant public benefit', which may include a personal or family emergency or bona fide business reasons."

If the applicant must travel (after confirmation of receipt and while the I-485 is pending), here are his/her options:

  • Travel on his/her H-1B visa, if s/he is maintaining status while the I-485 is pending;
  • Travel on an Advance Parole (form I-131) document while still maintaining H-1B status;
  • Do not maintain H-1B status, work using EAD and travel on an Advance Parole (form I-131) document

Please Note:

  1. If you leave the U.S. while your I-485 is pending, you may miss very important notices from USCIS about your application, which could include RFEs (Requests for Evidence).  USCIS may deem your application as being abandoned if the RFEs, for example, are not responded to within their given time frame.  Please make the appropriate arrangements to ensure this does not happen to you.
  2. If you leave the U.S. before USCIS has approved your Advance Parole Document (I-131), your application for Form I-131 will be considered abandoned.
  3. Leaving the U.S., even with an Advance Parole Document, may affect your ability to return to the United States.