The International Student & Scholar Services office manages the Exchange Visitor Program and facilitates the hiring of international faculty and staff who need a visa sponsorship. If you are hiring a foreign national who is NOT a permanent resident or U.S. Citizen, please read the following information:
Inviting a Foreign National
There are many non-immigrant visa classifications. The categories most frequently used to permit an international scholar to be appointed at SMU are the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa and the H1-B Temporary Worker visa. The ISSS advisors will make recommendations on the appropriate visa to use for each individual scholar. The type of visa chosen depends on many factors: the source and amount of the scholar's salary or funding, the nature and duration of the appointment, how soon the appointment will begin, whether the individual is currently in the U.S. or has recently been in the U.S. and is therefore subject to certain restrictions. Scholars must not plan to enter the U.S. without the appropriate visa documents processed by SMU and/or USCIS.
For an in-depth comparison between the J-1 and H1-B visa, please see the "Differences Between H1-B and J-1 Status" form.
For those with temporary academic appointments at SMU, the University provides visa sponsorship to enable scholars to enter the U.S. and to remain at SMU for the time required to fulfill the intended purpose of the visit. In general, the University provides visa sponsorship for post-doctoral researchers and faculty members only. It is the University policy that in exceptional circumstances visa sponsorship will also be provided for high level administrative and staff positions. If you are uncertain whether an individual’s appointment would be eligible for visa sponsorship at SMU, please reach out to the ISSS Office and/or HR.
Please notify the ISSS office whenever a non-U.S. citizen who is not a U.S. legal permanent resident (green card holder) accepts an academic appointment by having the scholar complete Visa Type Determination Questionnaire.
Any non-U.S. citizen who is not a U.S. legal permanent resident, and who needs a visa sponsorship whether presently living in the U.S. or outside the U.S., must have some visa action taken on his or her behalf before they begin their activities at SMU.
The H-1B Visa Overview
- The H-1B visa category is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation is defined as an occupation which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor's degree or higher for the specific specialization. The University normally only files H-1B visa petitions for faculty and research scholars. It is the policy of the University to process H-1B visa petitions only for academic appointments.
- The Department of Labor (DOL) regulates that employers bear a certain liability when filing H-1B petitions. Employers must make attestations about the wages for H-1B positions, and they must guarantee the return fare home if employment is terminated before the end of the period of authorized stay. Willful violation of the regulations can result in the assessment of fines and the prohibition of filing H-1B and permanent residence petitions for one year.
- A Labor Condition Application (LCA) must be filed by the Law Offices of Richard A. Gump, Jr. on behalf of SMU, and approved by DOL. The LCA requires that departments certify that the salary being paid by the department to the H-1B applicant is the higher of the prevailing and actual wage.
- The prevailing wage is the average of the rate of wages paid to workers similarly employed in the area of intended employment. "Similarly employed" means having substantially comparable jobs in the occupational classification in the area of intended employment. The University uses prevailing wage data provided by the Department of Labor (DOL) and cannot file H-1B petitions for positions that do not meet the prevailing wage as determined by the DOL.
- The actual wage is the amount paid by the employer to all others in the department with similar qualifications and experience as the intended H-1B worker.
- It is not possible to file an H-1B petition for scholars supported by personal funds, by fellowships, or outside sponsors. In addition, individuals who already hold H-1B status may not apply for extensions of their status unless the salary meets the prevailing wage.
Once a decision to pursue H-1B status has been made by Human Resources under the advice of the Gump Firm, the academic department should follow instructions for the H-1B visa processing. Please contact Ana Giron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Characteristics of the H-1B Visa
- The H-1B visa is employer-specific. Since it is possible to be employed in a part-time position as an H-1B visa holder, a scholar holding appointments at two or more institutions would need an approved H-1B petition from each employer.
- Once a scholar is in H-1B visa status sponsored by SMU, the Human Resources and ISSS Office must be informed in writing of any substantial changes in the scholar's employment, such as a new location, different duties, a change in the source of funding, or a change of hours. The HR Office may be required to file a new prevailing wage application, a new Labor Condition Application, and an amended visa petition.
- The initial H-1B visa can cover a period of up to three years. It can be extended for a maximum period of three additional years. In general, the maximum amount of time a scholar may spend in H-1B status is six years.
- J-1 visa holders are not eligible for the H-1B visa if they are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement and have not yet received a waiver of this requirement.
The dependents of an H-1B visa holder are classified as H-4 and are not eligible for employment under any circumstances.
Step 1: Prospective scholar will need to complete the Visa Determination Questionnaire.
Step 2: The ISSS office will provide recommendation on the most appropriate visa type based on answers provide by the foreign national.
Step 3: If the ISSS office has determined that the H1-B visa is most appropriate for the foreign national, the hosting department will receive an email with the contact information of their liaison at Human Resources.
Step 4: If the ISSS office has determined that the scholar will come to SMU as an J-1 Exchange Visitor, the hosting department or Human Resource (if scholar will be benefits-eligible employee) will need to complete and submit the following documents:
- DS-2019 Request/Sponsoring an Exchange Visitor through DocuSign
- Copy of Appointment Letter (See Sample Appointment Letter) will attach to request
- English Proficiency Requirements
- Financial Evidence (scroll down to “Required Funding for J-1 Scholars” for more information)
Visa Determination Questionnaire
DS-2019 Request Form (Sponsoring Department will begin this process)
DS-2019 Request Form (Exchange Students ONLY)
English Proficiency Interview Assessment form (SMU STAFF/FACULTY ONLY)
The U.S. Government expects the University to verify that a J-1 Exchange Visitor has sufficient funding to maintain a minimal decent standard of living before issuing a Form DS-2019.
If you are sponsoring a J-1 Exchange Visitor who will receive benefits, please contact Human Resources for salary requirements. J-1 Exchange Visitors who are NOT funded by SMU will have to provide financial evidence with the following amounts:
- Living Expenses (1 year) + Health Insurance: $29,000 USD or $2416 per month.
- 1st Dependent (spouse or child under 21): $7,000 USD
- Each additional dependent: $4,000 USD
- All funds must be at least 51% non-personal funds.
If there is any anticipation of payment to the foreign national, please initiate the Non-Payroll Payment Process with Human Resources.
Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to work in their field of study for 12 months. Those who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for an additional 24-Month STEM Extension.
Responsibilities and Obligations
There are numerous employer requirements to which SMU must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 and the employer information located here. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verify program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.
- Must be E-Verify employer; SMU is an E-Verify employer
- Must develop a training plan for the student
- Complete Form I-983
- Provide two evaluations for the student
- Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits
- Have a job offer related to their U.S. STEM degree
- Work for an E-Verify employer
- Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
- Complete student part of Form I-983
- Submit the completed Form I-983 to the school that issued the Form I-20
- Responsible for completing validation reports every six months via their school
- Submitting evaluations to the school that issued their I-20
SMU F-1 Students
In addition to the I-9 requirement with Human Resources, F-1 students for which SMU has issued their I-20, must get approval from the ISSS office by having the On-Campus Work Eligibility Form completed. Once the On-Campus Work Eligibility has been approved, the F-1 student is responsible for also completing the OPT Employment Verification Form and submitting to ISSS office.
Note: It is the student’s responsibility to verify that employment is related to program of study. Furthermore, it is also the responsibility of the student to report employment to the ISSS office by completing and submitting the OPT Employment Verification form.
About Form I-983
The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.
The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s international student advisor. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.
Questions in regarding the completion of this form can be directed to Human Resources.