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Information for Departments

Basic Immigration Regulations governing foreign faculty and staff hires
Note to Deans and Department Chairs
 
Per regulations of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security, all non-U.S. citizens must be in possession of a legal work document in order to be eligible for lawful employment in the US. Obviously, there are several categories of visas for lawful employment but the options for non-U. citizens to work legally at the College include:
  1. Optional Practical Training (OPT): OPT is an authorization of temporary employment related to the individual major area of study and appropriate for the degree level. Foreign students on F-1 visas are normally eligible for a 12-month period of OPT (students in STEM disciplines may request an additional 17 months of work authorization for a total of 29 months). For post-completion OPT (after graduation), the work authorization must begin within 60 days of the program completion date (normally graduation).  The request for OPT must be made through the Designated School Official (DSO) of the school from which s/he is graduating. Once the I-20  with the OPT recommendation is endorsed by the home institution, s/he must then file Form I-765 for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When approved, the “petitioner” can engage in paid employment for the duration of the EAD.
OPT is suitable for recent graduates hired for visiting faculty positions who do not intend to stay (or who you do not intend to keep) beyond a year at the College.  Most OPT holders subsequently apply for H-1B. 
 
The OPT filing fee is currently $380, paid by the applicant. Early application is strongly recommended as it normally takes 90 days to adjudicate an application. There is only limited availability to expedite an OPT request and it is granted on a case-by-case basis. No fee can be paid to expedite OPT. Unless the applicant is a recent College of Charleston international student, the Center for International Education will have no access to the OPT request.  
  1. J-1 (Visiting Scholar/Professor/Researcher):  A J-1 can be issued for short-term visiting faculty or scholars to work at the College. Typically, CIE will issue form DS-2019 to the individual upon receiving the required documentation listed on the J-1 Scholar request form. These include presentation of proof of financial resources (salary, grants, scholarships, bank statement, etc.) to support their stay while in the US, copies of immigration documents, biographical information and qualifications for the position.  Additionally, proof of employment (visiting faculty) or an invitation from the College (Scholar/Researcher) and proof of English proficiency must be provided. With very minor exceptions, the J-1 visa must be requested at an American Embassy/Consulate in the applicant’s home country. [Note: J-1 visas are also issued to students sponsored by their home governments/universities or organizations to study in the US.]
    • J-1 Professor - for individuals primarily teaching and lecturing. Conducting research is also allowed. The DS-2019 is issued based on the length of the contract. In order to remain in J-1 Professor status for one full year or multiple years, the person must be employed in some capacity during the summer(s) as well.  The maximum length for J-1 is five years.
    • J-1 Research Scholar - for individuals whose primary purpose is conducting research.  Teaching/lecturing is also allowed. The same guidelines about summer employment and maximum length mentioned under J-1 Professor apply.
    • J-1 Short-term Scholar - a professor, research scholar, specialist, etc. visiting the College to lecture, observe, consult or participate in training. Maximum stay is six months. 
  1. H-1B (H-4 for Dependents):  This is a temporary work permit and the length of time depends on the contract, but the initial authorization cannot exceed 3 years at a time.  H-1B work permits can be renewed up to a maximum of 6 years.  There are several steps involved in filing an H-1B and processing times vary depending on the time of year an application is filed.  Documents required are listed on the H-1B request form and include a signed employment contract, academic transcripts and certificates, a CV, support letter from the academic department, and data/visa pages of passport. If the person is currently in the United States, documentation of current immigration status and address are needed.  If the person is already in H-1B status in the US, documentation of employment, such as pay stubs, W2s, etc. are needed as well.
The “employer” (department/school) is responsible for the H-1B filing fee. Current fee is $825 ($325 filing fee plus $500 fraud detection fee) for first time filers; $325 for extension. Early application is highly recommended as the regular H-1B processing normally takes several months.  However, the department/school can elect to request “premium processing” of the application by paying an additional fee of $1,225. The premium processing service guarantees a 15-day response from USCIS.  This could mean an approval notice or a request for more evidence, so it is still important to apply early even if requesting premium processing.  Premium processing is strongly recommended for new foreign hires who must begin employment within 120 days of the hire date.
  1. E-3 (Special Occupation Professionals from Australia):  This visa category is available only to citizens of Australia under an act of the US Congress. To be eligible, Australian nationals must have a legitimate offer of employment and the necessary academic qualifications.  In addition, the job offer must pass the “special occupation” test. New hires can apply for an E-3 visa while in the US or at the US Embassy/Consulate in their home country with documentation and approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the College of Charleston.  E-3 visas are extended for 2-year periods with currently no limit on total length of stay.
Permanent Residence (PR) application process:  The College’s policy on permanent residency sponsorship is available on the Academic Affairs website, alongside the faculty recruitment directions.  Permanent residency applications are handled through the Provost’s Office and our Office of Legal Affairs, rather than the Center for International Education.  Chairs are asked to submit written requests for permanent residency sponsorship through their dean to the Provost’s Office.  As the policy indicates, this written request “should describe the history of the faculty member’s employment at the College of Charleston as well as visa status and any associated deadlines.”  A sample request is included below.
 
Our PR applications are handled by an outside immigration attorney contracted by the Office of Legal Affairs.  Chairs should not engage an outside attorney on their own.
 
The application for permanent residency is the most straightforward when it is made within eighteen months of our final offer to the faculty member, which we refer to as the “hire date” for PR purposes.  For this reason, your requests for sponsorship are best made within nine months of this “hire date.” That allows ample time for preparation and submission of the permanent residency application within the eighteen-month window.  When sponsorship requests are made later, but within twelve months of the “hire date,” while we increase our risk of not making the eighteen-month deadline, we can usually manage to do so.  When sponsorship requests are made fourteen or more months after the “hire date,” we are likely to miss the eighteen-month window, and a new search will be necessitated.
 
SAMPLE sponsorship request:
In accordance with the College’s procedure for sponsorship of a faculty member’s permanent residency application, the Department of XXXX requests that the College initiate the application process for permanent residency for Dr. XXXX, who was recruited through a national search conducted during the XXXX academic year and began her/his employment with the College of Charleston as an Assistant Professor of XXXX on August 16, XXXX.  Dr. XXXX’s current visa status is XXX, which started on XXXX and expires on XXXX.  Our final offer to this new faculty member was made on XXXX.
 
Social Security Number (SSN): Independent of the visa category, an employee must possess a SSN in order to be paid their salary. New non-US citizen hires must therefore apply for the SSN at the Social Security Administration. The nearest office is located at 1463 Tobias Gadson Blvd in the West Ashley area and their hours of operation should be available on their website. Applicants will need to bring their passport, Form I-94 (hard copy or printed from website), immigration documents (I-797 approval notice or DS 2019), signed offer letter from the College and a completed copy of Form SS5, which can be downloaded at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf.
 
Final Notes:  This list of visa options is not comprehensive or exclusive and reflects only those that have commonly been used at the College of Charleston. To avoid any confusion about any of these processes, it is advisable to notify the Center for International Education when job offers are extended to non-US citizens and also notify the Provost’s Office when making a hire for which permanent residency sponsorship is anticipated.
 
Contact: Questions may be directed to Melissa Ochal (ochalm@cofc.edu) or Andrew Sobiesuo (sobiesuoa@cofc.edu) or with the exception of permanent residency sponsorship questions, which may be directed to Deanna M. Caveny-Noecker (caveny-noeckerd@cofc.edu) or, as needed, our Office of Legal Affairs.