What is an H-1B?
The H-1B is a non-immigrant status that is employment based. It is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to work in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation is defined as 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 hiring department must provide documentation to prove that the job requires someone with special qualifications and that the foreign national meets those qualifications.
How long can I hold H-1B status?
You can hold H-1B status for a total maximum of 6 years. This limit includes time in H-1B status from any employer, not only your H-1B time at UW-Madison. The University can petition for H-1B status for you for up to 3 years at a time, however, your department may choose to petition for less than 3 years at a time.
Because of the 6 year limit, you must plan accordingly. It is only possible to begin another 6 years in H-1B status after you have been outside the U.S. for one full calendar year.
There are a few exceptions to the 6 year maximum. If you are eligible for one of those exceptions, IFSS will work with your sponsoring department to extend your H-1B beyond the 6 years.
Who is eligible?
Foreign nationals from any country can hold H-1B status.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes the final decision on whether you qualifies for the H-1B classification. The H-1B status is employer specific, which means that a USCIS approved petition submitted by UW-Madison authorizes you to work only in the position specified in the petition and only at Madison. Employment outside the scope of that petition, even at another department at UW-Madison, may require additional authorization from USCIS. You cannot accept honorarium or any other payments from any other employer if you are a UW-Madison H-1B. If you have an H-1B approval from another employer, you are not automatically eligible to work at UW-Madison. You may work for more than one employer at the same time, but each employer must file a separate H-1B petition for you.
Who is not eligible?
The H-1B is not appropriate for visitors, unpaid positions, degree-seeking students, or training positions.
Individuals receiving fellowship income are not subject to income and FICA tax withholding as they are being provided funding to aid in the pursuit of study or research. Since this is not considered remuneration for services being provided to the University, they are not eligible for H-1B visa status.
Positions at UW-Madison that do not require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a particular field are also not eligible for the H-1B status. Therefore, most University Staff positions do not qualify for H-1B sponsorship.
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 U.S. while their H-1B spouse or parent is in the U.S.
Most H-4 visa holders are not permitted to work in the United States and are not eligible to obtain Social Security Numbers. Certain H-4s can work if they are far enough along in the permanent residency process. H-4 visa holders may apply to change their visa 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.
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.
H-1Bs may enter the U.S. up to ten days before the start date of employment, and may remain in the U.S. for up to ten days after the end of employment, if their current I-94 grants an additional 10 days.
You cannot work or “volunteer” to work during the grace period.
How do I request H-1B status?
The sponsoring UW Department initiates the request to sponsor an H-1B, once it is determined whether or not the position is eligible for sponsorship and that the foreign national meets all eligibility requirements for the position and status.