Immigration Strategies for Universities and Colleges: An Overview by the NPZ Law Group.

There are many visa categories for United States universities and colleges to employ faculty from across the globe. Therefore, in this article, the immigration and nationality lawyers at the NPZ Law Group explain these nonimmigrant (temporary) visa categories.

What Are the Employment-Based Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visa Categories?

Here are some of the employment-based nonimmigrant (temporary) visa categories used by US universities and colleges for hiring faculty …

H-1B – Specialty Occupation

The H-1B is for hiring professionals in specialty occupations. Therefore, these occupations require:

• theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge
• a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty (or its equivalent)

Both of these are the minimum requirements for the foreign national to be considered in a particular occupation. Under these H-1B rules, most positions for higher education faculty qualify as “specialty” occupations.

In addition to the requirements, the employer (i.e., the US university or college), must prove that it is offering the federally mandated prevailing wage for the particular occupation as is prevalent in the labor market.

An H-1B visa approval is typically granted in increments of three years. Moreover, the professional is typically limited to working in H-1B status for six years in total. However, the visaholder may be provided with more time after six years if he or she is in the process of acquiring a green card (I.e., seeking lawful permanent residency).

J-1 Exchange Visitors

The J-1 exchange visitor visa program aims to have other countries’ nationals visit the United States to share their culture with Americans and learn about American culture. J-1 exchange visitors can visit in the following categories:

• Students
• Teachers
• Trainees
• Au pairs

Faculty members in the short-term scholar, research scholar, and professor categories are considered for the program.

J-1 exchange visitors must have a designated sponsoring organization that issues the DS-2019 Form. J-1 visitors typically must return to their home countries for a minimum of two years after the completion of the US exchange program because this will facilitate the promotion of sharing cultures. There may however be waivers available.

The requirement of returning to the home country for two years minimum depends upon:

• The student’s country of citizenship,
• The subject matter of the educational program
• The source that is funding the exchange program.

As referenced above, in some cases, the J-1 exchange visitor may be able to have the requirement of the two-year home residency waived. Thus, the visa status would change to H-1B or another nonimmigrant category. They could also apply for permanent residency.

TN – Mexican and Canadian Professionals

Mexican and Canadian professionals serving in specified occupations can opt for the TN work permit classification. The occupations include, but are not limited to:

• University and college professors
• Scientists
• Medical professionals
• Researchers

With TN status, professionals have no limit on how many years they can work in the US. However, the employment is temporary and is typically granted in increments of three years.

O-1 – Extraordinary Ability

Faculty applicants who possess “extraordinary ability or achievement” in the arts and sciences and business can qualify for an O-1 visa. The applicant must present evidence that he or she has earned an award recognized internationally (the Nobel Prize, for example). The candidate can also present proof of a minimum of three of the following:

• Receipt of awards or prizes that are nationally or internationally recognized for excellence in the field that the applicant wishes to teach in
• Published material in major publicati