Guidelines for H-1B Employees

This is a summary, for your use, of some of the terms and conditions of your H-1B status in the United States. For more detail, please visit other pages around the website. If you have questions not answered by the information found on the page, please feel free to address questions to OIA (by email international- affairs@uchicago.edu or by phone 773-702-7752).

Harsh Penalties for Late Departure

H-1B specialty workers and H-4 dependents are only permitted to remain in the U.S. until the date shown on their electronic I-94 record/paper I-94 card (details below) or until the H-1B employee's work assignment ends, whichever comes first.  There is no grace period in H-1B status. Overstaying your time may subject you to three penalties: 1) automatic cancellation of your entry visa if it has not already expired; 2) permanent ineligibility to apply for a U.S. entry visa anywhere but a U.S. consulate in your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence; and 3) your continued presence in the U.S. will be unlawful.  If you remain unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days, you will be barred from re-entering the U.S. from abroad for three years.  360 days of unlawful presence increases the bar to ten years.

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Your Electronic I-94 Record or Paper I-94 Card

When you arrive in the United States, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officer at the airport (or sea or land port, depending on your mode of travel) will create your electronic I-94 record, which indicates your non-immigrant status, authorized duration of stay, and serves as evidence of lawful status in the United States.  On April 30, 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began phasing out paper copies of the I-94 and started using an automated computer process to track admissions into the U.S.  This means you will not receive a paper copy of the I-94 card when you enter the U.S. unless you enter by land.  Instead, you will receive an admission stamp in your passport noting the date of admission’, the ‘status admitted in’, and the ‘admitted until’ date.  The officer will also give you instructions on how to print a paper copy of your electronic I-94 record, which will be required when applying for immigration or public benefits, such as a driver’s license or Social Security Number.  

Before you step away from the counter, please take a moment to review the stamp and information recorded in your passport.  Your admission stamp should list your date of entry, H-1B, and an end date that should match the end date listed on your Approval Notice.  For your dependents, the admission stamp should list the date of entry, H-4, and an end date that matches the end date listed on your Approval Notice.  If you notice a mistake, politely inform the officer.  Checking your admission stamp before leaving the inspection area can prevent future problems and delays.  Electronic I-94 record can be accessed online.

Please safeguard your H-1B Approval Notice, as it is required for re-entry into the U.S. after a trip abroad.  You should keep copies of all of your H-1B documents permanently.  After your arrival, it is advisable to photocopy the identification pages of your passport, your visa stamp, admission stamp and Approval Notice and keep the photocopies separately from the originals, for use in applying for replacements if the originals should be lost or stolen.

Note: By mail, in approving a change of status (for example from F-1 Optional Practical Training to H-1B) or extension of permission to stay, USCIS issues a one-page Notice of Approval, with a "tear- off" I-94 at the bottom.  Any time that you receive an I-94, in either the card or "tear-off" format, it supersedes the earlier ones.  Thus, the expiration date shown on your newest I-94 is the one you must honor.

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Check In with OIA

Upon arrival in the U.S., you must submit an electronic check in form to OIA as soon as possible.  OIA’s check-in process requires electronic copies of your visa stamp, admission stamp, and your residential address in Chicago.  The check-in process cannot be completed without these documents and information.  If you do not have access to a scanner, please check with your Department Administrator for information regarding on-campus resources, or, if you have a Smartphone, try downloading a free app such as CamScanner for Android or iPhone.  If you do not have a way to scan your documents yourself, you can check-in with our front office during our regular office hours (M-F, 9-4pm).

No appointment is required to check-in with our front office and the process will only take a few minutes.  Please be sure to bring your documents with you.  If you have dependents, please submit their immigration documents at the same time.

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Employment

In the eyes of the U.S. government, the purpose of an H-1B worker’s presence in this country is to work for the petitioner and only the petitioner.  In your case, the petitioner is the University of Chicago.  You have permission to stay in the U.S. until the expiration date listed on your electronic I-94 record or card.  However, you may only work during the validity dates of the H-1B Approval Notice and only for the employer who filed the petition.  If you cease your employment with the University of Chicago before the expiration of the H-1B status, you are expected to leave the country immediately, unless you have applied for a change of status or another employer has filed an H-1B petition for you.

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Concurrent Employment

An H-1B worker may work for more than one employer provided each employer files an H-1B petition with the supporting documents.  This holds true for brief employment such as lectures or consultations.  NOTE: if you have a valid H-1B Approval Notice for work at the University of Chicago (and you are maintaining your status here), you may begin working for a second employer once the new petition has been filed and you have the Receipt Notice.  You do not have to wait for the official Approval Notice to begin the additional job.

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H-1B Time Limits

Initially, H-1B status may be valid for up to three years and is renewable for a total of six. This includes time spent in L-1 status.

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Extending Your H-1B Status

If your department asks OIA to extend your H-1B status, you may continue working while the application is pending at USCIS as long as the application reaches the USCIS Service Center by the expiration date shown on your admission stamp. Please see your departmental administrator to initiate an extension.

Starting May 26, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions until July 27, 2015. During this time frame, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of the stay for an H-1B nonimmigrant.  USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions filed with Form I-907 premium requests prior to May 26, 2015.

USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and 
  • USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.

Premium processing remains available for all other Form I-129 H-1B petitions, including petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of nonimmigrant status or consular notification.

This temporary suspension will allow USCIS to implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule in a timely manner and adjudicate applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulations.

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Changes in the Employment

Certain changes in the conditions of your employment will require your department or school to repeat the H- 1B process.  The entire process can take several months to complete.  A new petition may not be necessary if you change departments, but it will be required if you receive a promotion to a new rank with a higher professional qualification than your current one position.  Please speak to your departmental administrator to discuss changes to your position in advance and ask that they consult OIA on these changes.  Regular, annual salary increases do not require a reapplication of your H-1B petition. However, a wage reduction will require reapplication if the salary falls below the actual or prevailing wage level shown on your Labor Condition Application.  Please inform OIA prior to any changes taking place in your employment (such as: promotions, salary changes, new title or position, and new location of employment).   It is also important to inform OIA if you obtain a new status (green card, O-1 status, etc.).

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Return Transportation

If an employer terminates the employment of an H-1B worker prior to the expiration date shown on the I-797 Approval Notice, that employer must pay for return transportation to the worker's last place of residence outside the U.S.  The cost of transportation for dependents and the H-1B worker’s household goods are the worker's own responsibility.  

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Certified Labor Condition Application (LCA)

The University is required, as your employer, to provide you with a copy of your certified LCA no later than your first day of employment.  The LCA is filed with the Department of Labor as part of the application for your H-1B status and indicates the minimum salary you can be paid.  Providing employees with a copy of their LCA is done in an effort to prevent underpayment of H-1B workers.

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Dependents

The spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of an H-1B worker are eligible for H-4 dependent status.  Dependents are not eligible for employment under any circumstances, but they are free to study if they choose.  If you and your dependents are already in the U.S., it is possible to change your dependents’ status to H-4, or extend their H-4 status, by filing Form I-539 along with the H-1B petition.  This form is available online under the section labeled “Immigration Forms.”  If your dependents are not in the U.S., Form I-539 should not be filed.  Instead, your dependents will take your H-1B documents to a U.S. consulate and apply for H-4 visas before joining you here.  Please visit partners and spouses page for practical information and resources at the University. 

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Travel

When traveling outside of the U.S, remember to bring the following documents to show to the USCBP Inspector at the port of reentry: (1) the original Form I-797, Notice of Approval, (2) a letter from the department verifying your employment at the University, (3) a travel letter from OIA, and (4) a copy of the H- 1B petition filed on your behalf.  The letter should say that you hold H-1B status as a result of a petition filed at the USCIS Service Center by the department, institute or school.  The travel letter from OIA will confirm that you hold H-1B status as a result of a petition filed at the USCIS Service Center by your department, institute or school.  In addition, the letter will specify your position or job title, verify that the employment remains in effect, and confirm that you will be returning to the job following the trip abroad.  An H-4 dependent spouse or child who travels without you must also carry your Form I-797 along with their Form I-797 (if they have it), a copy of the H-1B petition, and a travel letter confirming that the H-4 dependent is returning to you after their trip abroad.  If you no longer have the original Form I-797, you must apply to USCIS on Form I-824 for a replacement.  This form is available online under the section “Immigration Forms”.

Whenever you or your dependents travel outside the U.S., it is important that we obtain a copy of your new electronic I-94 record/s or paper I-94 card/s. Pease submit OIA’s Travel Re-Entry form along with a copy of your electronic I-94 record or paper card immediately upon your return to the U.S.

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Entry Visa

The purpose of a visa stamp is to gain entry into the U.S. Visa stamps can only be obtained or renewed outside of the U.S.  Once you are in the U.S., you only need to obtain a visa if you leave the U.S. and the current visa in your passport has expired or the visa stamp in your passport is from a previous status (i.e. F-1 or J-1).  There is no abbreviated process for individuals who apply for a “renewal” visa.  You will need to apply for a visa while abroad if: 1) You do not currently hold a visa stamp in H-1B category (H-4 for dependents); 2) you do not have at least one entry remaining (if your visa indicates “M”, you are valid for multiple entries); and 3) the expiration date on the visa stamp has expired.  If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need a visa to come into the U.S.

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Automatic Visa Revalidation

H-1B workers and H-4 dependents may reenter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico after a visit of less than 30 days by presenting (1) a valid passport containing a U.S. entry visa (even if the category of that visa is not H-1B, and even if the visa has expired), (2) a valid electronic I-94 record or paper I-94 card, (3) a Form I-797 Approval Notice, and (4) a travel letter from OIA.  Depending on your nationality, you and/or your H-4 dependents may need a Canadian or Mexican visa stamp to enter either of those countries.  It is important to note that an H-1B status holder and their dependents cannot travel to the Caribbean Islands using the automatic visa revalidation program. 

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Taxes

By law, the University must withhold state and federal income tax from your salary unless you qualify for exemption under a treaty between your home country and the U.S. The University must also deduct U.S. Social Security taxes from your salary. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service usually considers H-1B workers "Resident Aliens for Tax Purposes," which means that your U.S. tax liability includes your income worldwide. Contact the Financial Services office for details or clarification via finserv-help@lists.uchicago.edu

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Change of Address

It is the responsibility of the H-1B worker to update their address with USCIS within 10 days of a move to a new address by filing Form AR-11. This form can be completed online or can be sent to USCIS via mail.  Please be sure to retain a copy of Form AR-11 for your files.  Filing this form is free of charge and you can find the most recent Form AR-11 on the USCIS website.  Please also provide your updated address information to the human resources administrator in your department and OIA.  You may do so by sending e-mail to international-affairs@uchicago.edu.

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