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Hiring H-1B Scholars

H-1B scholars are international employees who hold specialty occupations requiring a specialized body of knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. H-1B is an  employment-based nonimmigrant status used for temporary workers. At UMSL, it is used for full-time tenure-track faculty. Very rarely, it is used for non-tenure track faculty, academic researchers, or professional staff.

Although H-1B is designed for temporary workers, it carries a provision for dual intent. This means the H-1B scholar can work while intending to obtain permanent residency.

H-1B status is available in increments of up to three years and limited to a maximum total duration of six years. Hiring departments must consult with the HR Coordinator for Immigration before changing any aspect of an H-1B scholar’s employment, including job title, salary, hours, work location, or job duties.

The HR Coordinator for Immigration is Lauren Ellington, lpryt3@umsystem.edu

UMSL’s H-1B process

Department contacts the HR Coordinator in advance to request H-1B

Position postings, interviews, eligible start dates, offer letters, and obtaining employment authorization are all important parts of hiring someone in H-1B status. It is helpful for the hiring department to contact the HR Coordinator before beginning the search process, in part, to assist with confirming whether the position and proposed wage would meet the prevailing wage component of the H-1B visa process.

Once a decision to hire has been made, Academic Affairs will assist with drafting the job offer letter and will work with the HR Coordinator regarding appropriate offer language. Academic Affairs will provide a copy of the offer letter to the HR Coordinator. The HR Coordinator will begin to coordinate the H-1B process after receiving a copy of the offer letter signed by the candidate.

Once the signed job offer letter is returned, the HR Coordinator will send the hiring department required preliminary forms to complete and return to start the H-1B process. The hiring department will need to provide basic information about the candidate employee. The information provided on these preliminary forms will be used to determine if the candidate is eligible for an H-1B status and to confirm that the hiring department can meet the prevailing wage requirement.

The HR Coordinator reviews case, works with department, candidate and university-approved law firm to file for an H-1B visa

If the candidate is eligible to apply for H-1B status and the department agrees to meet the prevailing wage requirement, the HR Coordinator will work with the hiring department and candidate to compile the H-1B petition. The HR Coordinator will coordinate with a university-approved law firm and the candidate to file the necessary forms.

Summary of H-1B fees

Amount Description Charged by Paid by
$460 I-129 application fee USCIS Department
$500 Anti-fraud fee USCIS Department
$2,500 Optional premium processing fee USCIS Department (if advised by the university-approved law firm) or Candidate
$370 I-539 dependent application fee USCIS Candidate


USCIS receives H-1B petition, begins adjudication period

The HR Coordinator will be notified by the law firm that USCIS has received the H-1B petition.  The HR Coordinator will in turn notify the candidate and department.

Processing times for adjudication of the petition vary greatly depending on many factors and can take six to eight months. The candidate maintains their current nonimmigrant status during this period, but the candidate may not have employment authorization. If their current nonimmigrant status will expire during the adjudication period, the candidate should contact the HR Coordinator. The HR Coordinator will coordinate with the law firm to address the situation as the department may desire to premium process the petition.

For extension and amendment petitions, the receipt notice serves as employment verification that allows the scholar to continue to work for 240 days past their current approval’s expiration date, or until the end of the requested extension if it is less than 240 days.

For portability petitions, the receipt notice serves as employment verification that the scholar can begin work in the new position. However, the portability rules are very specific, and the law firm should confirm when the candidate may begin working for the University.

Scholars who think they may need to leave the U.S. during the adjudication period should discuss travel in advance with the HR Coordinator, who will discuss it with the law firm. There are occasions when departing the U.S. after the petition is filed may adversely impact the adjudication. This issue also applies to travel by the candidate’s family members.

USCIS makes decision on case

When the petition is approved, the HR Coordinator will receive from the law firm the I-797 approval notice, and will notify the candidate and department that the new I-94, which serves as proof of H-1B status, is available and can be obtained at the UMSL HR office.

Scholars outside the U.S.

Once the H-1B petition filed with USCIS has been approved, scholars who are outside the U.S. will need to apply for an H-1B visa at an American embassy or consulate prior to entering the United States.  Please note that Canadian citizens do not need to apply at an American embassy or consulate and may instead obtain H-1B visa status at a port of entry from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Step-by-step instructions for applying for an H-1B visa are available on the U.S. Department of State website. The documents required for the visa application will be provided to the scholar by the HR Coordinator in collaboration with the law firm. The H-1B petition and Labor Condition Application will be sent as a PDF by email, and the I-797 approval notice will be mailed at the scholar’s expense.

Candidates currently in the U.S.

Candidates already in the U.S., and candidates who have recently arrived after obtaining their H-1B visa, will need to report to UMSL HR to complete or update their Form I-9.  The Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process cannot begin until after the offer is made and accepted.  The University must complete and sign Section 2 of the Form I-9 within 3 business days of the employee’s first day of employment (meaning the first day of work for pay). The employee must complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 no later than the first day of employment.