Immigration Strategies for Universities and Colleges

by David H. Nachman, Esq., Ludka Zimovcak, Esq., Snehal Batra, Esq. and Samantha Chasworth, Esq.


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 publications, such as newspapers, etc., about the applicant and his or her work in the field in which the applicant wishes to teach
• Membership in associations (relevant to the field for which the applicant seeks classification) that requires exceptional achievements, judged by experts in the field that are recognized nationally or internationally
• Original scholarly, scientific, or business-related contributions that have significant importance in the field
• A high income or other benefits for the candidate’s services (reliable evidence required)
• Wrote scholarly articles published in professional journals or other relevant media relevant to the field for which the applicant seeks classification in
• Participation on a panel, or being a judge of others’ works in the same field (relevant to the field for which the applicant seeks classification) or one of specialization allied that’s related to it
• Employment in an essential capacity for establishments and organizations with noteworthy reputations

An O-1 approval is typically granted for an initial period of three (3) years. It can be incrementally extended for one year ad infinitum. The process of acquiring permanent residency process can take a few years.

E-3 – Australian Professional

Faculty candidates with Australian citizenship who qualify for H-1B status may seek E-3 status.

H-1B1 – Chile and Singapore Professionals

Faculty candidates of Chilean and Singaporean citizenship who qualify for H-1B status may seek H-1B1 status.

B-1 Visa - Business Travel

Foreign nationals that must temporarily visit the US for business may be eligible for the B-1 visa category. The business travel period is specific and limited for this visa category.

Business activities permitted under this visa category include but are not limited to:

• Consulting with faculty and colleagues
• Attending professional conferences or conventions
• Participating in training that’s categorized as short-term
• Negotiating a contract

Note: The Visa Waiver Program allows professionals from specific countries to enter the US without needing a temporary visa.

A visitor with B-1 status is prohibited from participating in productive, hands-on work of any kind. In most cases, the visitor will not be employed in the US nor be paid. However, in some rare circumstances, the B-1 visitor may receive honoraria for engaging in academic activities, including lecturing.

F-1 Students

Typically, F-1 student visaholders (i.e., international students in the US), can work in limited circumstances only. These students are typically permitted to work in Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is for a year after graduation. Mostly, the student can only work for positions in OPT related closely to the field he or she has studied in university or college. STEM field students can seek 24 months of additional OPT work authorization in specific circumstances.

If you have questions or want to access additional information about US or Canadian Immigration and Nationality Laws, please feel free to get in touch with the immigration and nationality lawyers at the NPZ Law Group. If you have more questions about how these laws in the US may impact you or your family, contact the lawyers specialized in US Immigration and Nationality laws at our law firm. You can always send us an email at info@visaserve.com, or you can call us at 201-670-0006 (x104). In addition to that, we invite you to find more information on our website at www.visaserve.com


About The Author

David H. Nachman, Esq. is one of the Managing Attorneys at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C., a pre-eminent International Immigration and Nationality Law Firm dedicated to providing a wide array of business and family immigration law services for skilled U.S.-and Canada-bound workers. The Attorneys in our Law Firm assist clients with waivers, marriage cases, citizenship applications, I-130 sponsorship for family, etc.


Ludka Zimovcak, Esq. is a Managing Attorney at NPZ Law Group, PC. Mrs. Zimovcak's passion for excellence in immigration law derives from her own family's first-hand immigration experiences. She is fully licensed to practice as an Attorney in Slovakia and New York.


Snehal Batra, Esq. is Managing Attorney of our Raritan, NJ office at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C., a pre-eminent International Immigration and Nationality Law Firm dedicated to providing a wide array of business and family immigration law services for skilled U.S.-and Canada-bound workers. Ms. Batra is an Indian-American attorney with a passion for immigration law which derives from being an immigrant herself. Having been born in India and raised in New Jersey, Ms. Batra understands firsthand the many difficulties and challenges that immigrants commonly experience while engaged in the U.S. immigration process. As such, she is eager to help families, businesses and individual immigrants to realize the American dream.


Samantha Chasworth, Esq. is Counsel at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C., a pre-eminent International Immigration and Nationality Law Firm dedicated to providing a wide array of business and family immigration law services for skilled U.S.-and Canada-bound workers. Ms. Chasworth earned a Juris Doctorate (JD) from the St. John's University School of Law in Queens, New York, where she was an editor on the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and participated in numerous immigration and family law clinics and internships including time at the US-Mexico Border at the Karnes County Civil Detention Center.




The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.