Penn most commonly uses the H-1B temporary professional worker category for tenure-track faculty members and research associates, as well as certain staff positions such as data analysts and research specialists.

  • The H-1B category is available to any person in a “specialty occupation,” that is, a position “which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a baccalaureate or higher degree or its equivalent in the specialty occupation as a minimum requirement.”
  • The H-1B employee must meet the minimum qualifications for the position, including experience, degree, any license or certificate, and any special requirements, at the time of filing the H-1B petition.

The hiring departments and the foreign nationals are not authorized to file their own H-1B petitions. 

The H-1B category has been organized into 3 sections:

  1. Application & Process
  2. Conditions & Reminders
  3. H-4 Dependents

Application & Process Information

  • H-1B Process Overview
  • Preparation and filing of the H-1B nonimmigrant petition is a three-step process:

    Step 1

    ISSS must first obtain an “H-1B required wage” by comparing the prevailing wage determination from the Department of Labor (DOL) to the actual wage data provided by the hiring department.  An H-1B employer is required to pay the higher of the two wages. If Penn’s wage offer is found to be inadequate, the amount must be increased, or the H-1B process for the position must be abandoned.  This process may take 30-60 days at DOL.  Please note that DOL may increase the processing time without advance notice.
     

    Step 2

    After receiving a satisfactory prevailing wage determination, ISSS files a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with DOL affirming that Penn will meet the prevailing wage and other legal requirements of the H-1B.  This process may take seven business days or more.

    The hiring department will be asked by the ISSS advisor to immediately post a notice of LCA filing for 10 consecutive business days in a conspicuous place. The posting will not delay the H-1B processing. 
     

    Step 3

    After receiving LCA certification, ISSS files the H-1B petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The hiring department will be notified when ISSS receives the approval notice from USCIS.

  • ISSS Deadlines & USCIS Processing Times
  • ISSS Application Deadlines

    • To allow for sufficient government processing time, hiring departments should submit H-1B request materials to ISSS for a prospective H-1B employee 6-7 months in advance but no later than 90 days prior to the anticipated start of H-1B employment.
    • Usually within 6-12 weeks of receiving the complete request packet, including checks and all supporting documents, ISSS will submit the H-1B petition to USCIS.
    • If a complete H-1B request packet is not submitted to ISSS in a timely fashion, ISSS cannot guarantee that the application will be processed and/or filed in a timely manner or at the requested time. Please note that ISSS processing times may vary depending on volume.

    USCIS Processing Times

    • A department may request USCIS to process an H-1B petition under regular or premium processing. Under regular processing, USCIS usually takes 3-6 months to adjudicate the petition.
    • If a department chooses premium processing, USCIS will adjudicate the petition within 15 calendar days of receipt at USCIS.
      • This does not include the time needed by ISSS to review the H-1B request materials, to receive approval from the DOL, or the time it will take for delivery of the printed approval notice. Note that premium processing does not guarantee approval. USCIS could respond within 15 calendar days with a request for additional information, approval or denial.
  • H-1B Application Instructions
  • You must first request access to iPenn.  The same authorization gives access to submit H-1B and J-1 Scholar applications.  If you are a new BA or have not been authorized for H-1B eform, please complete the authorization form and contact ISSS for requisite training.

    After completing the training, you will receive an email with detailed instructions, summarized here:

    1. Log into iPenn Services for University Departments.
    2. Choose "Add New Case" to add the person to Your iPenn Case List.
    3. To begin the H-1B employee application, click the person's name in Your iPenn Case List.
    4. After you enter the employee's name and email address for the Employee Data Form, an email will be sent to the employee with instructions to complete this form within 3 days.
    5. After completing all online forms, you must also submit the following supporting materials to the ISSS office within 5 days.  Please note that the case will not be assigned to an ISSS advisor until the required paper documents are received at ISSS.
  • Penn Internal Processing and Government Filing Fees
  • Internal Processing Fee

    • The Penn Internal Processing Fee is $1,300.
    • Penn Departments must pay the Penn Internal Processing Fee using the 26-digit budget code. UPHS units may either provide a 6-digit cost center code or a check payable to the “Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.”

    NOTE: The Penn Internal Processing Fee will not be refunded once the internal processing begins at ISSS even if the department/scholar decides to withdraw the request for any reason at any stage of the process.

    Government Filing Fees

    H-1B Petition Filing Fee $325
    Premium Processing Fee (optional) $1,225
    Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee $500 (initial H-1B at Penn only)*
    Form I-539 Fee $290 (for H-4 dependents in the US, if needed)
    • The hiring department is responsible for paying all filing fees with the exception of the fee for Form I-539.
    • The employee may pay the Premium Processing fee only if expedited processing is requested for personal reasons unrelated to employment. In such cases, the H-1B request packet sent to ISSS must come with a letter signed by the employee giving the reason for expedited processing.  All such requests are subject to review and approval by ISSS.
    • All fees should be paid by separate checks made payable to “Department of Homeland Security.” Questions regarding the process of requesting a university check should be directed to the Office of the Comptroller.
    • * The antifraud fee is not required to extend H-1B employment at Penn or change H-1B employment within Penn.
  • Required Items from the Hiring Department
  • After completing the online form, the hiring department must review and submit the supporting documentation and items from the employee listed below as one complete package to ISSS. Please save a copy of materials and forms, including checks, submitted to ISSS for your records.

    Printable materials from the iPenn H-1B Employee Application (available on form (4) after the application is completed)

    • H-1B Position Description
    • Actual Wage Worksheet and Declaration
    • Department Request Summary and Understanding of H-1B Employment
    • Export Control Attestation Form (if SOM, SEAS, SON, SODM, SVM, SAS-Biology, SAS-Chemistry, SAS-Physics, SAS-Astronomy)
    • For initial H-1B for post doc, a copy of the J-1 Postdoc Policy waiver/exception approval notice
    • Copy of Request for Employment Form if staff position (aka Requisition Form) (Note: if the position was filled prior to January 2014, send a copy of HR-1/2 instead)

    Checks payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".  To avoid danger of checks expiring, checks should be valid for at least 75 days after submission to ISSS.

    • $325
    • $500 (The antifraud fee is not required to extend H-1B employment at Penn or change H-1B employment within Penn.)
    • $1225 (Optional, refer to the H-1B instructions)

Conditions & Reminders

  • Length of Stay
    • An H-1B petition may be approved for an initial maximum period of 3 years. Extensions of up to an additional 3 years may be obtained. Under normal circumstances, the maximum stay permitted in H-1B status is 6 years. This time limit is for all employment in H-1B status, regardless of employer. 
    • Note: H-1B periods requested should not exceed periods of funding availability.
    • It may be possible to request an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit for any time spent outside the US.  If applicable, a list of dates and location of travel with documentation, such as copies of entry and exit stamps in passport (preferred), travel itineraries, or frequent flyer mile postings, should be provided.
    • It may also be possible to request an H-1B extension for up to one year beyond the 6-year limit if a Labor Certification Application or I-140 Immigrant Petition was filed on your behalf at least 365 days ago. 
    • An extension for up to 3 years may be possible if the I-140 has been approved. A copy of the receipt or approval notice for any I-140 filed on the H-1B employee’s behalf and copies of any I-485 applications filed for him/her or any dependent family members should be provided.
  • Export Control Attestations
    • Per federal rules, all H-1B and O-1 petitions must include attestations regarding deemed exports. 
    • Penn must certify whether the University needs a license from the Federal government in order to allow the prospective H-1B or O-1 employee to access certain controlled technology or technical data. 
    • The licensing requirement affects only a small percentage of Penn's international employees because most types of technology and technical data do not require a "deemed export" license or because one or more exemptions will apply.
    • For more information on export control click here.
  • Employment Restrictions
  • H-1B employment is specific to the employer, the particular position, department, location, number of hours worked, and duties.  The department must contact ISSS as soon as possible prior to any anticipated changes in the terms and conditions of employment.

    • H-1B employment authorized for Penn does not automatically allow employment with another department at Penn, at another location, or for a different employer.  Consult ISSS prior to changing the individual’s employment (even within Penn), such as change in title, degree required for position, number of hours worked, department, location, or position duties.  In most cases, an amended petition will have to be filed with USCIS. NOTE: failure to consult ISSS may put Penn and the individual employee at risk for sanctions and penalties by DHS and DOL. 
    • H-1B employees are not allowed to accept honoraria or payment from outside sources.
    • The H-1B worker must be paid the “H-1B required wage” under the Immigration Act of 1990. The “H-1B required wage” for an H-1B employee must be the higher of the two wages: the “actual wage”, the wage paid to similarly employed workers at Penn, OR the “prevailing wage” paid to similarly employed workers in the metropolitan area as determined by DOL.
    • Employment of the H-1B employee may not adversely affect the working conditions of workers similarly employed in the department; nor is there at present a strike, lockout, or work stoppage in the department affecting such workers.
    • The department must consult ISSS immediately if a decision is made to terminate employment prior to the expiration of H-1B approval. ISSS will then notify USCIS and DOL that the employment has been terminated in order to release the department of salary/payment obligations. 
    • If an employee resigns, the department must also notify ISSS immediately.  Consequences of failure to comply with H-1B Labor Condition Application requirements are severe, such as paying back wages for the duration of H-1B employment. 
    • The department must notify ISSS immediately if the employment will be terminated early for any reason.
    • Upon review of the H-1B request packet, ISSS will forward a “Notice of (LCA) Filing” to the department contact person for immediate posting within the department.  If there is a regular work location in another place, additional posting may be required.
    • To be in compliance with DOL regulations, all information provided to ISSS should be accurate and up to date.
  • H-1B Approval Documents & Employment Authorization
  • Once the H-1B petition is approved, USCIS will send a I-797 to ISSS. ISSS will notify the department contact person (usually within 2-5 days of receipt) to arrange pick up of the H-1B approval package, containing the following:

    • I-797 Notice of Approval
    • Copy of the H-1B petition sent to USCIS

    The department should read the I-797 Approval Notice carefully for accuracy and, after copying the I-797 notice for the records, send the documents to the H-1B employee to be kept in his/her possession. 

    • The department should provide the entire I-797 notice to the employee and not detach the bottom portion.

    For individuals extending, changing to, or continuing H-1B status within the US, the H-1B petition must be properly filed with USCIS prior to the end of the H-1B’s currently valid nonimmigrant status in the US. Failure to maintain one’s valid nonimmigrant status may result in denial of the extension, change, or continuation of his/her nonimmigrant status in the US.

    • Individuals currently outside the US must wait to receive the I-797 approval notice from their department for their H-1B employment confirming that USCIS has approved Penn’s H-1B petition for their employment, then obtain a US Entry Visa (citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain H-1B visa stamps) from a US Embassy or Consulate.  Upon entry to the US for H-1B employment at Penn, the individual may begin work once the start date has been reached.
    • Individuals currently working in another nonimmigrant status may only work under the terms and conditions of their current status.  Upon expiration of that authorization, an individual must be removed from payroll and may not continue to work.  The individual may resume employment only upon approval of the change of status to H-1B within the US.  The individual should not travel outside the US until the H-1B petition has been approved.  If an individual must travel while the H-1B is pending, he/she must consult an advisor at ISSS for instructions.
    • Individuals currently working for another employer in H-1B status cannot begin work with Penn until the I-797 receipt notice from USCIS has been received by Penn. The receipt notice serves to verify proper filing of the H-1B petition. Those changing H-1B employers must continue employment with their current H-1B sponsor until we file the H-1B petition with USCIS.

    One of the following documents verifies one’s eligibility to work for specific employment connected to H-1B petition:

    • Valid I-797 H-1B Approval Notice with valid I-94 card at the bottom
    • Valid white I-94 card issued at port of entry (if issued paper I-94) or US entry/admission stamp in passport  (if issued electronic I-94) for H-1B status
  • Continuation, Change & End of Employment
  • Continuation of Employment

    • If the department wishes to extend the employment beyond the current H-1B authorization and the employee is eligible for additional time, a new H-1B request must be completed and submitted with appropriate fees to ISSS. 
    • It is recommended that the department submit the extension 6-7 months in advance but no later than 45 days prior to the current H-1B expiration date. 
    • It is ultimately the responsibility of the employee and the department to be aware of the expiration date and to file an extension in a timely manner. 
    • ISSS requires 4 weeks to process H-1B extensions and cannot compensate for untimely filing on the part of the department. 
    • Note that an employee must be taken off payroll if their current H-1B expires and the extension has not been submitted to USCIS.

    Change of Employer

    • If an individual is already in the US in H-1B status but is sponsored by another employer and wishes to start employment at Penn, the Penn hiring department must submit a new H-1B request packet to ISSS.
    • In these cases, the prospective employee can begin work at Penn once the H-1B petition is properly filed with USCIS, as evidenced by the H-1B receipt notice from USCIS.
    • However, if Penn’s H-1B petition is later denied, he or she would have to stop working immediately.

    End of Employment

    • The department must inform ISSS via e-mail prior to the end of any H-1B employment if an employee resigns or his/her employment is terminated for any reason prior to the end of his/her approved H-1B employment dates.  USCIS will be notified, and the LCA will be withdrawn.
    • If the employment is terminated prior to the expiration of the H-1B employment authorization as listed on the I-797, the University is obligated by law to pay for the H-1B employee’s return fare to his/her home country. The department must bear the cost of return fare in such a case. 
    • The H-1B employee should consult an ISSS advisor if his/her H-1B employment with Penn ends for any reason, including voluntary resignation. 
    • Please note that overstaying one’s authorized period of stay in the US by even one day can have serious adverse consequences for those in H-1B status.
  • Additional Record Keeping Requirement for Part-Time H-1B Employment
    • The department is required to keep records of “hours worked each day and each week” for part-time H-1B employees, even if a fixed salary is paid. These records must be kept on file in the department for at least one-year following H-1B employment per DOL regulations.
    • If part-time wages are not enough to sustain living expenses for the individual and any dependents, documentation to demonstrate that the employee is able to cover living expenses should be submitted.
  • Travel in H-1B Status
    • H-1B employees should always consult ISSS before traveling outside the US. 
    • Employees requesting a change of status to H-1B (and H-4) within the US should not leave the US while the petition is pending at USCIS. USCIS considers leaving the US while the petition is pending to be an abandonment of the petition.
    • For more information visit the Travel section.

H-4 Dependents

  • H-4 Dependent Status
    • The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of H-1B employees are eligible for H-4 dependent status.
    • To obtain H-4 status, a dependent must either:
      • If the dependents are already in the US in another nonimmigrant status or H-4, the primary dependent (spouse or child) should complete Form I-539.  H-4 approval documents will usually be sent directly by USCIS to the home address listed on the I-539.
      • If dependents are outside the US and plan to apply for the US Entry Visa at a US Consulate abroad, a form I-539 and dependent fee should NOT be included with the H-1B petition.  Once the H-1B petition has been approved, the H-1B employee and the H-4 dependents should apply for their appropriate visas together at a US Consulate overseas. 
    • H-4 dependents are not authorized to work in the US under any circumstances.
    • H-4 dependents may study in the US, as long as their primary purpose in the US is to accompany the H-1B status holder.  However, the duration of their study depends on the H-1B’s period of stay.
    • The duration of the H-1B status holder's program is stated on the I-797 and the I-94.  If the H-1B is eligible and applies for an extension of stay, the H-4 dependent may also apply for an extension by filing Form I-539 with the USCIS. This form can be filed concurrently with the H-1B's extension or separately, as long as it is before the expiration of H-4 status.
    • A child may not continue to hold H-4 status upon reaching his or her 21st birthday.