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International Center

Immigration Assistance

Winthrop University Faculty and Staff Immigration Information

J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa can be used for temporary guest faculty or researcher for up to five years.  If a guest stays over 6-months they can not return on a J visa for 2 years. The USCIS form required for the J-1 visa is the DS-2019.  The fees associated with the J-1 visa are the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180 and the cost for the person to apply for the J-1 visa. 

The recommended Winthrop policy and relevant law as it applies to the J-1 program is for the International Center (IC) to produce the DS-2019 for the hiring department.  The hiring department to cover the $180 SEVIS fee.  If the J-1 is coming as part of a University-based exchange, then the IC will pay the SEVIS fee.

H1-B Visa

The H-1B "work" visa is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.  The H1B visa is held by the employer with the employee being the beneficiary of the visa.  To be sponsored for an H-1B the beneficiary is required to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Universities are not subject to the numerical cap/quota, for either faculty or staff, which otherwise limits the number of H-1B’s granted per year. The H-1B petition requires:

  1. Obtaining a judgment of prevailing wage (this can take several weeks);
  2. On-line filing for a Labor Condition Application from DOL (can take several days to receive approval from DOL);
  3. Posting Notice of the LCA for 10 business days;    
  4. Compilation  the I-129, related attachments, required supporting documentation, and required fees; 
  5. Filing the I-129 and supporting documents with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  

This process can take several months. We recommend hiring departments begin the process 6 months in advance of the desired start date.  "Expedited” processing is available from USCIS for an additional $1,225 which reduces the USCIS reply time (the reply could include either a decision or a request for evidence) to 15 calendar days, though total time from start to finish will likely still be several months. We recommend that hiring departments considering candidates who may require H1B visa sponsorship discuss this with Human Resources as early in the process as possible.

H-1B visas are valid for 3 years and can be extended once only for another 3 years, so it is available for 6 years total. The application process for extension is the same as the initial petition except the $500 Fraud Detection Fee is not needed again. The forms and fees required for the H-1B application process are the -

  1. Prevailing Wage Application (no cost).
  2. On-Line LCA (no cost).
  3. I-129 ($325 fee).
  4. Fraud Fee ($500 fee).
  5. I-907 for premium/expedited processing (optional $1,225 fee).

H-1B filings and extensions can usually be handled by Winthrop unless unusual circumstances arise in which case the filing may need to be handled by an immigration attorney. The hiring department will be responsible for covering the expenses related to the filing including attorney's fees.

The exception regarding fees is if the employee desires “expedited” processing and the University itself is not interested in expediting and the costs associated with visas for the employee's dependents.   The employee should pay the $1,225 fee to expedite. 

Law requires that Winthrop pay the H-1B employee at least prevailing wages and cover the cost of return home if the employee is terminated prior to the expiration of their H-1B visa.

TN Visa

The TN visa is available only to citizens of Canada and Mexico for approved professions on the NAFTA list, which includes University professors.  For staff positions it depends on the particular job.  Both Canadian and Mexican citizens can be admitted to the United States in TN status in increments of up to 3 years. Extensions of stay may also be granted in increments of up to 3 years.  The TN visa is applied for by the beneficiary at the US/ Canadian or US/Mexican border with the persons diploma and an employment letter from Winthrop.  

The TN visa is used mainly because it is quick and convenient, especially for Canadians. The recommended Winthrop policy and relevant law as it applies to TN visa applicants is that those on TN visas should consider changing to H-1B if the intention is to stay more than a year or two.  Winthrop will reimburse the faculty for the visa fee associated with the TN visa.

The U.S. State Department provides extensive information on the Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker or TN visa including cost of the visa and the qualifying requirements.

Permanent Residency or "Green Card"

The final status is Permanent Residency (or “green card”) status that changes the individual from “non-immigrant” to “immigrant” status; from temporary to permanent.   It is the first step towards citizenship.  Permanent residency never expires, but one must spend a certain number of months per year in the USA. To apply for Permanent Residency there are several forms that must be completed -

1.  PERM (no cost)
2.  I-140 ($580 fee)
3.  I-485 ($1,070 fee)
4.  Attorney (unknown/varies)

Permanent Residency is a personal decision and the burden is on the individual to process this application.  However, effective 7/16/2007: Winthrop must pay all advertising and attorney fees associated with the labor certification process. 

The preparation of the I-140 and I-485, including the fees and any attorney fees, are the responsibility of the green card applicant.

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CONTACT INFORMATION
International Center
701 Oakland Avenue
218 Dinkins Hall
Rock Hill, SC 29733, USA
803/323-2133
803/323-2340 (fax)
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