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H-1B Overview

H-1B visa category :  The H-1B visa is for temporary employment in specialty occupations. This category is regulated by both the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of Labor (DOL). The H-1B category has the following key requirements:

  1. Applicant must have theoretical and practical application of a highly specialized body of knowledge
  2. Applicant must have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent related to the field the job they are offered is in. Note: If the applicant’s degree was attained at an institution outside the US it must be submitted for evaluation. 
  3. Vanderbilt Office of International Services must file the H-1B petition; prospective employees cannot obtain H-1B visas on their own

 Examples that will NOT work.

  1. The "minimum requirement" for a job is a high school diploma plus 1 year of relevant experience. The job does not qualify for H-1B sponsorship.
  2. The job requires a Masters degree in finance. The applicant holds a foreign Masters which is only equivalent to a U.S. Bachelors. The applicant does not qualify for the job.
  3. The job requires a Bachelors degree in chemisty plus 2 years of relevant experience. The applicant holds a Bachelors in nursing plus 2 years of experience in chemistry. The applicant does not qualify for the job.

The H-1B can be requested for up to 3 years at a time for a total of 6 years.  The 6 year limit applies to the applicant not the company or job

Prevailing Wage/Salary Requirement:  In order to comply with Department of Labor regulations the Vanderbilt Department must agree to pay the higher of the actual wage being paid to all other individuals with similar experience/qualifications for the specific employment or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of employment beginning on the validity date of the H-1B. GSS cannot move forward with the H-1B petition without the department’s written agreement to increase the salary if necessary.  Also, all salary or wage changes must be reported to GSS while an employee is working on an H-1B.    

Applying for the H-1B visa :  There are several steps that must be completed before the H-1B petition can be filed with USCIS.

  1. The supervisor and department chair must complete the Acknowledgement of Responsibilities and Policies Concerning the Employment of an H-1B Employee Form.
  2. The Visa Case Initiation Form must be submitted online.
  3. The supervisor must complete the Visa Deemed Export Questionnaire (VDEQ) and submit to vec@vanderbilt.edu.
  4. The employee must complete the Visa Employee Questionnaire sent by Fragomen.
  5. The posting notice must be posted for 10 days in the department.
  6. The Department of Labor must certify the LCA (Labor Condition Application) which includes the position title, salary, location and duties.

Processing Times:  Internal processing times, which include the steps listed above, are typically 4-8 weeks.  USCIS processing times vary widely throughout the year and can be checked here: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do.  Premium processing, which USIS charges $1,225 for, requires USCIS to make a decision or request additional evidence within 15 days. 

This means that an employee who is changing status (does not currently hold an H-1B) can start working no less than 6 weeks after the Visa Case Initiation Form is submitted with premium processing.  An employee currently holding an H-1B at another institution can begin employment at Vanderbilt no less than 4 weeks after the Visa Case Initiation Form is submitted.  

However, it is important to communicate with GSS regarding the employee’s start date to ensure your employee is not working without authorization. 

Extension of H-1B status at Vanderbilt :  Employees currently in H-1B status at Vanderbilt, who will continue working at our institution, may file for an extension of H-1B status up to six months before the current H-1B expires. To ensure uninterrupted employment, it is essential that the H-1B extension filing reaches USCIS before the current H-1B expires so please complete the Visa Case Initiation Form in a timely manner.

Filing the H-1B extension before the current H-1B expires allows for an automatic 240 day extension of H-1B status while in the USA. Employees who travel abroad during the 240 day extension period may have to wait for H-1B approval and obtain a new H-1B visa from a US consulate before returning to the USA to resume employment. In addition, employees who travel abroad after the H-1B extension is approved must obtain an H-1B visa from a USA consulate before returning to the USA to resume employment.

Transferring an H-1B to Vanderbilt:  If the foreign national candidate already has a valid H-1B visa, the employer is able to employ the foreign national as soon as the H-1B visa petition has been filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which issues a filing receipt evidencing that the visa petition has been received and is being processed.  As noted above, it generally takes 4-8 weeks from the time the Visa Case Initiation Form is submitted to the time the petition is filed.  During that time the H-1B employee must remain at his/her current employer.