Overview of the H-1B Visa for International Scholars
The International Scholars Office (ISchO) handles all H-1B petitions for individuals who will be employed at MIT. These petitions must be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by the ISchO. Please note that attorneys are not authorized to prepare or submit petitions to USCIS on behalf of MIT.
Please consult with an H-1B advisor in the ISchO to determine whether the H-1B category is appropriate for a particular scholar.
The H-1B visa is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation, which is defined as "an occupation which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge." USCIS requires specific documentation that establishes that the job requires a person with special qualifications and that the foreign scholar has those qualifications. USCIS makes the final decision on whether or not the scholar qualifies for H-1B classification.
Eligibility for H-1B Sponsorship at MIT
Please be aware that MIT will not sponsor an H-1B petition for every current or prospective MIT employee, and there will be cases in which an individual is ineligible for H-1B status. The international scholar must have reached a certain level of professional accomplishment and the position must be a salaried employee position such as: (1) academic staff or (2) Sponsored Research Staff, Postdoctoral Associate and above.
Scholars with Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Fellow, Visiting Scholar, Visiting Scientist, and Visiting Engineer titles are not eligible for sponsorship. Among others who do not qualify are administrative, library, technical, and support staff, undergraduates, scholars subject to the two-year home residence requirement (unless a waiver is obtained), and individuals whose salaries do not meet MIT or U.S. Department of Labor requirements.
- If the scholar is already in the United States and his/her current visa status and work authorization expire before final approval is received from USCIS, MIT cannot employ the person until approval is received (there are some exceptions for those already in the United States in H-1B status).
- If the scholar is coming to MIT from outside the United States, he/she must wait to come to the United States until the H-1B approval is received. Once USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the ISchO will notify the department, laboratory, or center headquarters; Payroll; and Human Resources of the scholar's visa status so that he/she may be employed upon arrival.
- An H-1B approval is employer-specific. This means that when the ISchO submits an H-1B petition for a particular scholar and USCIS approves it, the approval only authorizes the scholar for that particular MIT employment and affiliation. Conversely, a scholar who has an H-1B approval for another employer is not automatically eligible for affiliation at MIT.
- Once an H-1B petition is submitted and approved, Department of Labor and USCIS must be informed of any changes in the scholar's employment. Therefore, it is essential for the department, laboratory, or center to notify the ISchO of any changes, such as in the scholar's department, position, percentage of appointment, location of work, and/or source and amount of funding, or termination of employment, before the change is effective.
- There is a 6-year limit to H-1B status, including time the scholar has spent in H-1B status at another institution. An initial application may be made for a period of three years or less. Extension applications may be made for periods of three years or less, up to the six year total.
- Most spouses in H-4 status cannot work. Work authorization may be possible for certain H-4 spouses of H-1Bs with permanent residence (green card) applications pending.
- H-1B visa holders are subject to social security deductions (FICA). Holders of H-1B status are considered "resident aliens" for federal tax purposes, and are therefore taxed on worldwide income and are subject to the same tax rates, deductions, and exemptions as are U.S. citizens. Specific rules and filing requirements apply according to the date the scholar arrives in the United States and/or the date on which the scholar changes to H-1B status from another status. Tax related questions should be discussed with the MIT Payroll Office.
Please feel free to discuss any questions with an H-1B advisor in the ISchO.
Page updated March 2023