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Significant Change to H-1B Visa Process

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Good Morning UVA Colleagues,

As part of our continuing effort to support and ensure that the University community is fully aware of changes to immigration regulations that impact our faculty and staff, we share the information below regarding changes to the process of applying for H-1B status.  We hope this allows hiring units to prepare and adjust petition filing plans as we work together to navigate this challenging immigration environment.

On Friday evening, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the suspension of the premium processing service for H-1B status. Many of you rely on premium processing in order to recruit and onboard new faculty and staff in a timely manner. Because the suspension of premium processing may disrupt your usual recruitment plans, we are providing the following information and advice on how you can adapt to the situation. 

The suspension, effective April 3, 2017, will be in effect for up to six months.  Premium processing provides a decision in 15 calendar days, and has been a valuable option when near-term hiring of a foreign national employee is a necessity.  Without premium processing, H-1B petitions are processed based on volume at USCIS Service Centers.  Currently, this process takes approximately 8 to 9 months.  This significantly impacts hiring that takes place over the spring and summer for both July and August start dates.

How does this impact the H-1B process at UVA?

  • Newly hired Faculty and Staff:  New hires presently outside the United States, and individuals moving from another visa category to H-1B status are impacted by the suspension.  Unless the H-1B petition can be filed prior to the April 3, 2017 deadline for premium processing, the petition will process at the standard 8 to 9 month pace.
  • Existing Faculty and Staff Needing an Extension of H-1B status:   Extension petitions, unless filed prior to the deadline, will also take approximately 8 to 9 months to process.  The individual will continue to have work authorization within the United States based on the extension, but until extension approval, does not have the necessary documentation for a successful visa application, necessary for entry into the United States after travel abroad.  In other words, they cannot leave the country and expect to return.

What immediate actions can I take?

  • Hiring units seeking to petition for H-1B status using the premium processing service for new or extension H-1B petitions must submit application materials to HRCIS by March 20, 2017.  The H-1B packet is attached.
  • Consider other visa options:
  1. J-1: In some cases the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program may be an option for departments looking for alternatives to the H-1B.  The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of fostering educational and cultural exchange.  The J-1 program sponsors international students and scholars to engage in a program of teaching, research, observation or consultation for a limited or temporary duration.     The J-1 is a non-immigrant visa status.  Eligibility for this status requires that at the time of appointment, the expectation is that the Exchange Visitor will return home upon completion of the activity.    Due to this requirement tenure track positions are ineligible for the J-1.  For more information on the J-1 option and process, please contact the International Studies Office, 434-982-3010 http://iso.virginia.edu  
  2. TN:  Employment-based visa available to citizens of Canada and Mexico, limited to certain occupations
  3.  E3:  Employment-based visa available to citizens of Australia
  4. O-1: must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Cannot be obtained in the U.S. Individual must travel to U.S. embassy to obtain O-1 visa, and then re-enter in the U.S. To qualify for O-1 classification, individual must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievements in the field of expertise (evidence may include, but is not limited to receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards, judging the work of others, and numerous publications of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals).

We realize that the immigration compliance landscape is changing very quickly and that these changes can be frustrating. We are doing our best to keep you informed of these changes as they happen. Please contact HRCIS if you have any specific questions.

Best,

Timothy J. White | Manager, Compliance & Immigration Services, University Human Resources
914 Emmet Street North,  PO Box 400127, Charlottesville, VA 22904
Office: 434.982.2735 | Fax: 434.924.4125 | tjw5x@virginia.edu