H-1B visas are used to accommodate temporary employment in professional occupations. The references to “specialty occupation,” and the additional language used in the H-1 regulations referring to the requirement of a Bachelor’s degree can be misleading. The H-1 program requires employers, when they compile H-1 petitions, to establish a very specific relationship between a job that normally and customarily requires the holder to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and a candidate who has at least a Bachelor’s degree, or its foreign equivalent, IN THE FIELD specific to the job.
There are many staff positions at Stanford that are formally described as needing a Bachelor’s degree “or equivalent education and experience.” If Stanford has the discretion to hire a candidate who does not have a Bachelor’s degree, the job is not H-1 eligible. Likewise, if it’s possible for someone to do the job without a Bachelor’s degree IN THE FIELD specific to the job, the job is not H-1 eligible.
H-1B sponsorship also requires that employers pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher. The prevailing wage is determined from a schedule of occupations published by the US Department of Labor, and is not a Stanford or Bechtel function. Bechtel is not able to determine the prevailing wage until a Workflow transaction and paper documentation has been received at Bechtel. Stanford sets salaries on the basis of internal policies and criteria; occasionally, the prevailing wage is higher than the salary Stanford has calculated as part of the offer of employment. Prevailing wage schedules are updated every July.
Stanford University most commonly uses the H-1B temporary professional worker category for regular academic staff positions such as tenure-track faculty members or research associates. Other regular staff positions such as programmer/analysts and research specialists may also be eligible. Only Bechtel International Center can submit H-1B visa applications on behalf of Stanford University. Stanford does not sponsor part-time H-1B positions. Individuals who are subject to the two-year home residency requirement are not eligible for H-1B status unless they have received a waiver or fulfilled the two year home country residency requirement. Prospective employees should direct all questions to their sponsoring department.
Post Docs: In rare circumstances, post-doctoral scholars may be considered for H-1B sponsorship. The J-1 visa is the appropriate visa type for most Stanford postdoctoral scholars. The university prohibits receipt of fellowship support to employment visa holders such as H-1B, O-1, TN. The host department needs to contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs before initiating the H-1B process on behalf of a postdoc.
H-1 regulations impose restrictions on the use of H-1 status by most nonimmigrant physicians with patient care responsibilities over 20% of FTE. Although there are limited exceptions for FMG physicians who have passed all three parts of the Medical Licensing Exams, and USMGs who graduated from a US medical school, significant complicating factors remain for placing physicians off-site. The use of O-1 status is recommended for Stanford clinical faculty. A valid California license or exemption has to accompany H-1 petitions for clinical faculty; which may complicate timing. See the California Medical Board site for information about licensure.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) accepts H-1 petitions six months prior to the start date noted on the petition. The use of Premium Processing, which guarantees a response from CIS in fifteen days, normally makes it unnecessary to submit petitions that far in advance. Departments should be aware, however, that CIS can and does suspend the Premium Processing Service, sometimes on very short notice. When this occurs, departments put heavy pressure on Bechtel International Center to submit petitions in very short lead times, and also ask for assistance with expedite requests and other extraordinary measures. Since these suspensions tend to happen in the spring, departments are asked to anticipate, in the fall, the distinct possibility that Premium Processing will be suspended the following spring, and to make plans for requesting H-1s well in advance of spring start dates.
Such lead time is always welcome, but when Premium Processing is available, departments should initiate H-1B procedures at least two months before the employee’s scheduled start date. Proposed start dates less than two months from the point at which Bechtel has a documented transaction are considered emergency applications, and require extensive justification.
Bechtel cannot begin working on the H-1B until we receive an approved workflow transaction, which is initiated by the Stanford department, and complete, up-to-date documentation. Other offices, such as the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs or the Dean of Research, must first approve the transactions. Transactions and approvals can take a week to several weeks. Once we receive it, it can take another two to three weeks for the petition to be prepared and sent to USCIS. USCIS processing time ranges from almost six months with regular processing to about three weeks with premium processing, when it is available.
Departments and other employing units seeking to accelerate Bechtel's schedule for its work on an individual case will be asked to formally explain the factors that created the emergency situation, for consideration by the employment visa team and Bechtel management. Bechtel reserves the right to decline to process a case out of sequence.
The Workflow environment is available in Axess. Representatives of departments and other units filing an employment visa will need authority in the relevant organizational code, and should be familiar with the functions of appointing, hiring and paying the type of employee to be sponsored. After being granted authority to use Workflow, users are strongly encouraged to attend a training session in its use. Training sessions on H-1B workflow for department administrators are offered monthly at Bechtel International Center.
Appointments or offers of employment must be approved by the relevant authorities before a transaction can be approved.
An H-1B petition can be approved for an initial period of no more than three years. It can be extended as required but the maximum stay permitted in H-1B status is no more than six years. There is no minimum period. A Stanford H-1 approval may not exceed the term of employment or appointment offered.
New Employees Within the U.S. Changing Status to H-1B or Porting to Stanford: New employees within the U.S. changing status to H-1B or porting (transferring) to Stanford may begin work no earlier than the approved date on the Stanford I-797 and no later than 60 days from the start date on the I-797.
Employees Outside the U.S.: Employees applying for H-1B status from outside the U.S., may not enter the U.S. more than 10 days before the start date on the I-797. Employees who enter in H-1 status must be on payroll no later than 30 days after the start date on the I-797.