Hiring an Employee in H-1B Status

ANNOUNCEMENT: Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions Temporarily Suspended by USCIS.  See "Timeline" section below for further information.

H-1B Overview

Key Resources

The H-1B visa category applies to persons coming temporarily to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation for a total of up to six years, but in increments of no longer than 3 years.  This visa category is frequently used for long-term employment such as teaching and research, including those positions on the tenure-track. The University of North Texas may sponsor an employee for H-1B authorization for a period of up to three years at a time.  H-1B workers must be paid a salary that equals at least the U.S. Department of Labor-determined prevailing wage.  To sponsor an H-1B worker, the University of North Texas, through International Student & Scholar Services, must file petitions with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicating that the university will appoint and pay the individual the prevailing wage.

If your department is interested in pursuing an H-1B petition on the behalf of an employee, please contact ISSS at internationalemployment@unt.edu. Processing of an H-1B status request can take six months or more, so the process should be started with International Student & Scholar Services at least six months in advance of the intended start date, if possible.

Eligibility
In general, in order to qualify for H-1B sponsorship, the position must be a full-time faculty, professional, or technical staff position (“specialty occupation”) for which attainment of a baccalaureate or higher degree is a minimum requirement for entry into the occupation. Part-time positions including teaching fellows, teaching assistants, adjunct faculty, and lecturers are not eligible. A review of the employee’s immigration history will also be conducted by ISSS to fully determine if they meet the qualifications for an H-1B.

The employee must be a professional or otherwise possess highly specialized theoretical and practical knowledge in his/her field. The employee must possess the specific knowledge for the position offered. The minimum entry-level requirement of a bachelor's or higher degree in a specific occupational specialty is required. The position offered must be one for which the employee possesses qualifications at least matching that minimum requirement.

The position must require a person with highly specialized qualifications. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will scrutinize the job duties to determine whether the position requires a professional-level employee. The employer's stated requirement of a bachelor’s or higher-level degree will not suffice if the generally recognized requirements for that position are below a professional level.

Prevailing Wage
In order to sponsor an employee for an H-1B, the university must pay at least the prevailing wage or the actual wage (the rate paid to similarly situated employees), whichever is higher. The prevailing wage is based on external wage data, provided by U.S. Department of Labor, and takes into account the requirements for the position that the Department of Labor considers typical for the occupation. Many occupations, as defined by the Department of Labor, are very broad and allow for little flexibility. In some cases the prevailing wage is higher than the actual wage offered by the university. If the prevailing wage is higher than the actual wage, the wage offered to the employee by the university must be increased to meet or exceed the prevailing wage.

Timeline
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. USCIS will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Please note that this announcement means that ALL H-1B petitions will be subject to standard processing times which are currently listed around 6-8 months. UNT ISSS needs at least 4 weeks to prepare and submit petitions to USCIS making the overall time to receive an approval notice approximately 7-9 months. Please take this information into consideration as you prepare for Fall 2017 new hires and for current employees that may require a change of status to H-1B.

USCIS processing times vary anywhere from 6-8 months. International Student & Scholar Services can only provide an estimate of the timing for a petition based on the time of year and USCIS’ current processing times. We ask that departments initiate the H-1B process as early as 6 months before the desired start date, which is the earliest USCIS will accept an H-1B petition. In certain situations, expedited processing or “premium processing” is available for an additional $1,225. This guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days. ISSS requires at least one month to process and submit an H-1B petition from the time the department and individual submits all required documentation. This is due to the time it takes to make a prevailing wage determination, obtain all necessary signatures, and work with the Business Service Center to obtain payment for the application fees.

Changes in Employment or Termination
Departments MUST consult with ISSS prior to changing an H-1B’s terms of employment, including changes to job duties or department, to determine whether an amended USCIS petition must be filed.

Departments MUST inform ISSS immediately if an H-1B’s employment is terminated for any reason. ISSS is required to notify the Department of Labor and USCIS in order to withdraw the H-1B. If the department terminates employment, the department must pay the reasonable cost of return transportation to the H-1B’s last place of foreign residence. The department will continue to be liable for paying the individual’s full salary and benefits if the H-1B is not withdrawn.