Instructions for H-1B Specialty Worker Employment Petitions
H-1B specialty workers are employed in many positions at the University of Cincinnati including:
- Professors (tenure track or adjuncts)
- Post-doctoral fellows
- Research Assistants/Associates
- Many other positions
The position must require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field of study. Jobs that don’t require a degree in a specific field (i.e. Liberal Arts or a wide range of fields), do not qualify for H-1B specialty worker status.
The application process for hiring an international visitor on H-1B specialty worker status is a cooperative effort between the hiring department, UC International Services and the H-1B beneficiary. The most important thing to keep in mind about the H-1B process is that it is time consuming. Normal USCIS processing time is 90-120 days if everything goes smoothly. We recommend that you start the process early.
H-1B petitions can be submitted to USCIS 6 months in advance of the desired start date. Whether a new hire or extension, you should submit the required documents specified below to UC International Services 6 months in advance. This will ensure that the international visitor will begin/continue employment as anticipated.
An applicant may not begin work at the University of Cincinnati until an H-1B is approved for UC. There is an exception for individuals who currently hold H-1B status as detailed in the "Portability of H-1B Status" section later in these instructions. H-1B specialty workers have a maximum stay of 6 years no matter how many different employers they have. There is an exception to the 6 year limit as described in the "Extensions Beyond 6 Years for H-1B's Awaiting Permanent Residence" section. An I-129 petition can request H-1B employment in increments of up to three years. There is no minimum.
All H-1B requests should be submitted electronically by the hiring department through the UC International Services istart system. To submit an H-1B request please go to https://ibearcatsglobal.uc.edu. Click on the "Administrative Services for University Departments" link. You will then be asked to enter your University 6+2 login information. Next you will click on the "Departmental Services" link from the menu. If you don’t already have iBearcatsGlobal access you will need to click the "Departmental Access Request" link. Once you have department access you will click the "H-1B Employee Application" link to start the process. If not already a UC employee or student, you will need to use the "Add new person" link first to get to the employee into the istart system. Follow all instructions and provide all the requested information. The required supporting documents should be supplied in PDF format. Give specific information, such as information about your position, a support letter from your department and information about your employer.
Requirements for the H-1B Status
In order to obtain H-1B status, UC must be able to establish that the position meets the requirements of a "specialty occupation". "Specialty occupation" is defined as an occupation which:
Requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in fields of human endeavor including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology and the arts, and which requires the attainment of a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in a specific specialty, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
Therefore, the UC position must satisfy one of the following criteria:
- A baccalaureate degree or higher in a specific field of study must be the minimum academic entry requirement for the position.
- The degree must be common among organizations in the industry.
- The particular duties of the position must be so specialized and complex that the knowledge necessary to execute the duties is normally associated with the attainment of a baccalaureate degree or higher.
The individual being hired must be able to demonstrate his/her qualifications for the position offered through documentation of the following:
- A U.S. baccalaureate degree or higher which is specifically related to and required by the specialty occupation.
- Work experience can help fulfill the baccalaureate degree requirement, but the work experience must be directly related to the proposed duties at UC. In such cases, three years of direct work experience counts for one year of education. A professional credential evaluation must document this equivalency.
- A foreign degree which has been evaluated by an accredited firm or organization to be equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree which is specifically related to and required by the specialty occupation, this is required for all foreign degrees except those obtained in Canada or the United Kingdom.
- An unrestricted state license, registration or certification, authorizing the H-1B nonimmigrant to practice the specialty occupation in the state of intended employment (for positions requiring a license, such as medical doctors primarily).
UC must attest that, for the entire period of employment, the wage paid to the H-1B specialty worker will be the greater of:
- The actual wage rate paid to workers at the place of employment with similar skills and qualifications in the occupational classification in question. When appropriate, factors including education, work experience, job responsibilities and function, specialized knowledge and other legitimate business factors may be taken under consideration to substantiate higher wages paid to similarly situated workers.
- The prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of intended employment as established by the U.S. Department of Labor. We are required to pay at least 100% of the Prevailing Wage Determination.
Departments should take care to ensure that the prospective H-1B employee will be paid at least the average of what others in the department with similar duties, skills and qualifications make.
The Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) will be obtained by UC International Services once the H-1B request and all supporting documents established in Steps I and II below are submitted. The Prevailing Wage Determination is obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor. The determination of the wage is based upon a comparison between UC’s requirements as to the degree, training, skills and work experience and the requirements considered by the U.S. Department of Labor to be normal for the occupation.
The number of employees to be supervised by the foreign national is also a factor in the wage determination. If the department requires additional years of experience above the required degree, the PWD may be significantly higher, depending upon what DOL considers normal for entry level for the occupation in question. DOL processing time varies greatly, from one week to two months.
The application fee for H-1B specialty worker petitions is $325.00. This fee must be paid by the hiring department.
Fraud Prevention & Detection Fee ("New" Cases Only)
A fraud prevention and detection fee of $500 is required for all "new" H-1B cases. A "new" case is defined as the first H-1B petition filed by UC for the benefit of a specific employee, it would include someone being hired at UC for the first time (even if they hold H-1B with another employer) or someone who currently holds another nonimmigrant status (J-1, F-1) and wants to change status to H-1B. This fee does not apply to H-1B extension petitions for individuals currently working at UC. The hiring department must pay this fee when it’s applicable and two checks made payable to the Department of Homeland Security (one for $325.00 and one for $500.00) must be submitted.
Fee for Dependents
If dependents will be included in the petition, an additional fee of $290.00 made payabel to the Department of Homeland Security and an I-539 application must be submitted. This is a flat fee regardless of how many dependents the prospective employee has. This fee can be paid by the prospective employee or the hiring department. Please note that an I-539 application is not necessary in consular processing cases. A draft I-539 and supporting documents (passport bio/extension page, front and back of I-94 card, current visa, all prior H-4 approved notices, all prior J documents) should be submitted with the H-1B request. You need to submit a photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card if your most recent entry to the U.S. was prior to April 30, 2013. If your most recent entry occured after April 30, 2013, print out an electronic copy of the I-94 at http://www.cbp.gov/i94.
Premium Processing Fee (Optional)
A premium processing fee is an optional fee of $1,225.00 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security that may be paid when circumstances warrant a quick approval. Payment of the premium processing fee will ensure that a decision on the H-1B petition or notification from USCIS as to a need for additional evidence is made within 15 calendar days. It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks for UC International Services to receive the formal answer (approval or denial) in the mail. To expedite receipt of the original notice regarding the USCIS decision, the department can include an express mail label (which contains the dept’s account number) and packaging addressed to our office for use by USCIS in sending the approval notice.
Any department wishing to use the premium processing option must notify UC International Services of the intention when submitting the request for H-1B status by including an additional $1,225.00 with the fees. The premium processing fee must be paid by the hiring department, not the individual being hired, unless the need for expedited processing is personal, not business related. Business reasons would include, but are not limited to, the worker’s current status expiring before the petition would normally be approved. Personal reasons would include the H-1B specialty worker needing to travel in the near future. The attached "H-1B Premium Processing Policy and Employee Attestation" must be completed and submitted by the employee only in cases where the employee wants to pay the premium processing fee for personal reasons. The attestation is not required if the department is paying the premium processing fee.
Exemption from the H-1B Cap
There is an annual cap that limits the number of new H-1B petitions that can be approved each year. Individuals employed at institutions of higher education and their related or affiliated nonprofit entities are exempt from being counted toward the annual H-1B cap. As such, H-1B petitions for employment at UC are exempt from the cap and can be submitted at any time.
Portability of H-1B Status
H-1B non-immigrants may change jobs or employers upon the filing of a new petition by the new employer as long as the individual is in lawful H-1B status at the time of filing and has not engaged in any unauthorized employment since his or her last lawful admission. Prior to the filing of such an application, the prospective employee must complete the attestation provided with these instructions. The employee cannot begin working at UC until the USCIS receipt notice is received.
Petitions filed for individuals currently in the U.S. in another non-immigrant status such as F-1, J-1 or TN typically request a change of status to H-1B. In such situations, the individual may not travel outside of the U.S. while the petition is pending because the departure would result in abandonment of the petition. If the H-1B worker has a need to travel, it may be necessary to request consular processing, which could result in a delayed return date due to availability of visa appointments at the Consulates and possible lengthy background checks. Our office should be advised of travel plans to ensure that the appropriate processing is requested.
Extensions Beyond Six Years for H-1B’s Awaiting Permanent Residence
H-1B non-immigrants can extend their status beyond the six-year limitin one year increments if 365 days or more have passed since the original filing date of their Application for Alien Employment Certification (i.e. Labor Certification) or their Form I-140, if they are exempt from the labor certification process. A copy of proof of filing and status of the Alien Employment Certification application or the USCIS receipt notice for the I-140 is required when such a request is made.
There is also an exemption for H-1B specialty workers with approved I-140’s regardless of the file date, but who cannot file an I-485 application for permanent residence due to per country ceilings. For those workers, H-1B extensions can be granted in three-year increments until a final decision is reached on their adjustment of status or consular processing application. A copy of the I-140 approval notice is required for such an extension.
Export Control Issues
When hiring an H-1B Specialty Worker UC is required to certify that we have received various export control regulations to determine whether an export license is required before controlled technology or technical data is released to a foreign national during the course of their employment. In response to this regulation hiring departments will be required to complete a "Checklist for Export Control Issues For Hiring International Workers" form and submit the form as part of the H-1B process. The form will need to be certified at the Department/Division Head level.
Additional Instructions For Hiring H-1B Specialty Workers In The College Of Medicine
- If the position is a dual position that provides teaching for the COM and clinical services for UC Physicians, Inc., both UC and UCP are required to provide separate materials, as described in 1-6 above. In addition, UCP needs to provide a $750 processing fee payable to the University of Cincinnati. The COM staff member coordinating the UC piece of the petition will need to collect the documents from UCP and submit them with the H1-B request.
- If the position is a dual position that provides teaching for COM and clinical services for UCP the Information About the Position form must be completed and attached to the request.
- If the H-1B specialty worker will be providing patient care or receiving clinical training, a license to practice medicine in the State of Ohio is required and must be submitted with all Step I documents.
- If the H-1B specialty worker will be providing patient care and is not a graduate of an American medical program, evidence that the H-1B specialty worker passed the Federal Licensing Examination (FLEX) or the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Parts I, II and III or the National Boards of Medical Examiners Certifying Examinations, Parts I, II and III must be submitted with all Step I documents.
Upon receipt of the H-1B request and the required documents, UC International Services will
- Obtain a Prevailing Wage Determination from the US Department of Labor. Once UC International Services receives the PWD from the State we will be in contact with the hiring department if there is a wage problem. A PWD is not required if the position is covered by AAUP
- Obtain a Certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from theUS Department of Labor. For non-union positions the LCA will be sent to the hiring department for posting (10 consecutive business days, 2 locations). The hiring department will be required to complete a memo indicating the dates and locations of the postings. Do not include holidays in the 10 day calculation. For union positions, the LCA will be provided to the AAUP. A copy will also be provided to the hiring dept. but the dept. need not post the notice. US DOL LCA processing time is 7 calendar days.
- Complete and sign the I-129, and provide a preaddressed mailing envelope to the USCIS. The beneficiary or a departmental staff member will be contacted to make an appointment with UC International Services for final processing of the petition when the LCA is returned certified from the Department of Labor.
UC International Services will contact the hiring department/beneficiary when approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is received. The beneficiary must report to UC International Services with his/her passport to complete the International Visitor’s interview sheet before beginning employment at UC.
Please be prepared for this process to take three to four months, for collection of necessary letters, documents, etc. and processing time at USCIS. Please allow enough time!!! If at any time during the period of authorized employment, you wish to relocate or change the title or duties of an H-1B specialty worker, a new H-1B petition will need to be submitted to USCIS prior to making the change.
Use this form as a compliance tool to certify the hours worked weekly for H-1B specialty workers who are working part-time (i.e. not 40 hours per week) and who are salaried (i.e. hours worked are not being tracked in Kronos).