The H-1B temporary worker immigration status is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to work in a specialty occupation, which is one that requires “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 requirement.”
The Center for International Education files all official government paperwork related to H1-B petitions for UT employees in Knoxville. Click here for information about the host department’s responsibilities and procedures to request a H-1B.
All non-immigrant visa holders are required to notify USCIS within ten days of a change of residential address.
H-1B visa holders may report a change of address by completing Form AR-11 or Form AR-11SR or by reporting the address change online. Please follow the instructions on the USCIS change of address section of the USCIS website.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-1B visa holders are considered dependents and are eligible for H-4 status. H-4 visa holders are only eligible to stay in the United States while their spouses or parents are in the United States maintaining legal H-1B visa status.
Persons in H-4 status are not permitted to work in the United States. They may apply to change their immigration status to H-1B if they qualify for the specialty occupation requirement and find an employer who is willing to file a petition on their behalf. Although a person in H-4 status may not obtain a Social Security number, he or she may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead of a Social Security number. This will be needed, for example, if the H-1B employee will claim a tax exemption for the H-4 dependent.
H-4 visa holders may study in the United States, full-time or part-time, for the duration of the H-1B’s period of stay. As employment is not permitted, they are not able to hold graduate assistantship positions.
Ending Employment at UT
If an individual in H-1B status leaves UT before the end date on his or her H-1B approval notice, ISSS is required to notify the US Department of Labor and USCIS. Hiring departments must inform ISSS of the date of employment termination, using the CIE Departure Notification form. If this form is not received by ISSS, the hiring department may be responsible for paying the continued salary of the employee, even if the person is no longer working. In addition, if UT has ended the employee’s employment before the end of the H-1B approval period, it must offer to pay the cost of the employee’s return to the home country.
Remaining in the United States
Individuals intending to remain in the United States after leaving UT should take the initiative to prepare and submit proper paperwork to maintain lawful immigration status. This may involve applying for H-1B status with another employer or changing to a different immigration status.
Moving from the United States
Individuals in H-1B status are required to leave the United States on or before the end date on their Form I-94, unless an application for extension or change of status has been filed.
When an individual is admitted to the United States in H-1B status, a grace period of ten days may be given at the discretion of an immigration officer at the port of entry. The ten day grace period is indicated on the individual’s Form I-94.
The H-1B extension process is almost identical in paperwork requirements as it is for an initial H-1B application.
A petition must be filed before the current H-1B status ends in order to allow an individual to maintain status and continue to remain on payroll. The earliest an extension can be filed with USCIS is six months prior to the end date of the current H-1B status, but paperwork can begin one to two months before that. If a petition is filed in a timely manner, an individual in H-1B status is authorized to continue to work and be paid for up to 240 days after the expiration of his/her current H-1B status.
ISSS will notify the hiring department and the employee once the extension petition has been filed with USCIS to verify an individual’s eligibility for continuing work authorization.
Once the extension petition is approved by USCIS, individuals traveling abroad may need to visit a US consulate to get a new H-1B visa stamp before returning to the United States.
H-1B Quota and Length of Stay
Six-year Maximum Length of Stay
- H-1B visa holders are normally eligible for a total maximum stay of six years.
- The six-year limit includes time spent on the H-1B visa with another employer.
- Each H-1B petition may cover a period up to three years.
- Any number of petitions may be submitted to extend the employee’s status until the six-year limit has been reached.
- After the individual has spent at least one year outside the United States, it may be possible to begin another six-year period with an H-1B visa.
- In some cases, extensions beyond six years are permitted, if an application for permanent residence has been initiated. Contact CIE to discuss this possibility.
The US government has set a limit on the number of H-1B petitions that can be approved each year. This limit or “quota” is known as the “H-1B cap”. As universities are “cap exempt”, the University of Tennessee can file an H-1B petition at any time, even if the annual limit has been reached. However, H-1B employees at UT should be aware that they may be subject to this “cap” if and when they later wish to transfer to a non-university employer.
A person in H-1B status must normally be continuously employed, with salary. The employment must begin no later than thirty days after entering the US or 60 days after a change of status is approved. If employment ends, the H-1B status also ends. In most cases, leave without pay is not permitted. In some cases, such leave may be requested by the employee, such as leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Please discuss your situation with ISSS advisors if you think leave without pay will be necessary.
CIE should be consulted prior to any changes in H-1B employment such as job title, job duties, salary, percentage of time, or location. An individual’s H-1B status is dependent upon employment according to the exact terms stated in the H-1B petition. An amended H-1B petition may be required under certain circumstances. Note: Increases (not decreases) in salary are permitted without a new petition, as long as there is no change in the actual position title or duties.
Scholars may not accept compensation, including honoraria, from an entity other than the University of Tennessee. Individuals in H-1B status invited to give a lecture, collaborate, conduct research or present at other institutions may receive reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses only.
Obtaining H-1B Status
Before a person may be granted H-1B status, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve a petition which is filed by the employer.
CIE files all official government paperwork related to H1-B petitions for UT employees in Knoxville. Before this application process can begin the hiring department must submit an official request to CIE using the H-1B Request Form. The hiring department must also collect necessary documents from the prospective employee, and submit additional forms to the offices of Human Resources and Export Control. Before initiating an H-1B request, we ask that the hiring department contact Wendy Syer, main H-1B advisor at ISSS. Prospective (and current) H-1B employees are also free to contact ISSS with questions and concerns.
Transferring to H-1B at UT
If a prospective employee already has H-1B status for employment with another employer, UT must file a new petition with USCIS before UT employment may begin. The H-1B request procedure for the hiring department is exactly the same as it is for a person without H-1B status. However, in most cases, the employee may begin working at UT as soon as we receive the receipt from USCIS. ISSS will notify the hiring department and the employee when UT employment is permitted.
Travel Inside and Outside the US
While traveling inside the US we urge you carry with you your original I-94 showing H-1B or H-4 status, plus a photocopy of the petition approval.
If traveling outside the United States the following documents are required for re-entry:
H-1B Visa Holders
- Valid H-1B Visa (obtained from a US consulate outside the US)
- Valid passport
- Form I-797 ( H-1B Approval Notice from the USCIS) which is valid for a period beyond the anticipated travel. If you already hold a valid H-1B visa, a photocopy of the I-797, plus the employee’s section of the original approval (the bottom left portion) is adequate for re-entry.
- Copy of Form I-129 (the H-1B visa petition). This is given to you by CIE, along with your H-1B approval notice.
- Copy of the LCA (Labor Condition Application). This is provided by CIE with your H-1B approval.
- Recent letter from hiring department verifying your current and continuing employment. The letter should include your title and salary.
If you must apply for a new visa while you are outside the US, you should also carry with you, in addition to the above documents:
- Original I-797 H-1B approval (you may borrow it from CIE and return it to us when you come back)
- Highest level diploma (original if possible, but photocopy will probably be accepted; an alternative is a photocopy of the diploma plus an original transcript showing the degree). If diploma is from a non-US university, also carry a copy of your degree evaluation.
- If you will be working in a potentially sensitive academic field and you think you may be subject to a background check, carry a letter from your supervisor giving some details about the nature of your work. If you are not sure if this will be necessary, feel free to discuss this with a CIE advisor. Note: A background check can delay the issuance of your visa for one month or more.
- Valid passport
- Valid H-4 visa
- Copy of l Form I-797 (Approval Notice from the USCIS) for the H-1B principal
- If traveling separately from H-1B principal, documentation of H-1B principal’s H-1B visa or immigration status.
- To apply for H-4 visa, submit original I-797 approval notice for the H-1B principal and copy of marriage certificate (for spouse) or birth certificate (for child)