Most international scholars will either come to the United States as a J-1 Exchange Visitor or as an H1B1 Temporary Employee.
This section will provide a brief overview of these visa statuses and the requirements and limitations of these visa options.
The J-1 visa status is the visa status associated with the Exchange Visitor Program. The general purpose of the program is to foster the exchange of ideas between Americans and foreign nationals and to stimulate international collaborative teaching and research efforts.
There are several categories of J-1 Exchange Visitors. The definitions and requirements for each category differ. It is important for prospective exchange visitors to understand that it is difficult to change from one J-1 category to another. Below you will find a description of the various J-1 exchange visitor categories:
A professor is a person coming to UT for the purpose of lecturing, observing, or consulting. A professor may also conduct research, in addition to his/her teaching responsibilities.
A Research Scholar is an individual primarily coming to UT to conduct research, observe, or consult in connection with a research project at UT and our affiliated research institutions. The research scholar may also teach or lecture, but generally that teaching is usually not the central purpose of the person’s visit.
Short Term Scholar
A short-term scholar is a professor, research scholar, or a person with similar education or accomplishments who is coming to the United States and UT on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills.
A Specialist is an individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to UT for the purpose of observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills.
A student is someone intending to study in the United States pursuing a full course of study at UT in a program leading to or culminating in the award of a degree or who will be engaged full-time in a prescribed course of study of up to 24 months duration.
Students are eligible for the Exchange Visitor Program if at any time during their college studies in the United States:
- They or their program are financed directly or indirectly by: (i) The United States Government; (ii) The government of the student's home country; or (iii) An international organization of which the United States is a member by treaty or statute;
- The programs are carried out pursuant to an agreement between the United States Government and a foreign government;
- The programs are carried out pursuant to written agreement between: (i) U.S. and foreign educational institutions; (ii) A U.S. educational institution and a foreign government; or (iii) A state or local government in the United States and a foreign government; or
- The exchange visitors are supported substantially by funding from any source other than personal or family funds.
J-1 Exchange Visitor requirements
For details on the requirements of the J-1 program, and required applicant requirements, you can read the U.S. Department of State regulations at: http://exchanges.state.gov/education/jexchanges/about/22CFR62.pdf
Additional information in easy to understand language is also available on the U.S. Department of State web site at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html
The Two Year Home Country Residency Requirement
Under specific circumstances, an Exchange Visitor (EV) may incur a “two-year home physical presence requirement." This means that when an EV completes his/her J-1 program, s/he may not change immigration status to H-1, L-1 or Permanent Residency until s/he first returns to his/her country for 2 years, or s/he obtains a waiver of this requirement. The J-2 dependents are subject to this same two year home country residency requirement if the J-1 principal participant is subject to that requirement. If this provision applies, change of status to another non-immigrant classification such as F-1 or H1B1 in the United States is prohibited. For more information about this requirement, click here.
UT has established certain procedures to facilitate the entry into the United States for someone who wishes to come here as an International Scholar. Those procedures require that the prospective International Scholar, regardless of the intended purpose of his/her visit, first make contact with the academic department with which s/he wishes to be affiliated. Thus, if you want to come to UT to teach, conduct research, or collaborate with colleagues here in the College of Business Administration (CBA), you should first make your request to the CBA.
The CBA, at a minimum will ask you to send your C. V./resume and copies of your academic credentials as well as proof of funding (unless you will be paid a salary or supported financially by UT).
The CBA will then contact the UT Center for International Education to initiate the procedures to secure the documents necessary for you to obtain a visa. The Center for International Education will provide you with information about visa processing, fees, and the like.
Once you have been accepted as an International Scholar at UT, the Center for International Education on campus will issue you a form known as a DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (EV). You should then take the DS-2019 and proof of your funding such as a bank statement or letter of offer to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad in order to obtain a J-1 visa at an American Embassy or Consulate abroad to enter the U.S. You may also be asked to provide proof that you will return to your home country at the conclusion of your temporary stay in the United States. Please note that J-1 exchange visitors will generally be required to pay a SEVIS and other visa fees prior to scheduling a visa interview. For more information about this fee, click here. http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/i901/index.htm
At the border of the United States the inspecting officer will ask you to show your valid passport (which should be valid for six months beyond the date you intend to remain in the U.S.), your visa stamp, and your DS-2019. You will be issued a cream colored form known as an I-94 “Record of Arrival/Departure,” which should be marked “D/S” for “duration of status.” Your DS-2019 will also be stamped in red. Please make sure you have both of these stamped documents before you leave the immigration inspector as they are proof of your legal status in the United States.
U.S. law requires that J-1 exchange visitors “check-in” immediately (within ten days) at the Center for International Education, obtain health insurance or provide proof of qualifying insurance, and complete the CIE orientation program.
The University of Tennessee has some on campus housing available for J-1 Exchange Visitors, however, housing is allocated with priority given first to students, and then scholars may be considered for any unoccupied units. There are a limited number of apartments available for married housing. If University housing is unavailable, you can obtain off campus housing near campus. For housing information, click here:
The H-1B is a temporary visa category for nonimmigrant workers that includes specialty occupations which require a bachelor’s degree or higher and distinguished merit and ability.
Although the minimum requirement for a specialty occupation is one that requires highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor's or higher degree in the specialty occupation, most positions at the UT College of Business Administration (particularly teaching positions) require a minimum of the equivalent of a U.S. Ph.D.
Initially, the maximum period of admission for an H1B1 employee is three years, which may be extended for an additional three years.
H-1B extensions beyond the usual six-year limit can be obtained in two limited situations:
- Extensions beyond six years are allowed, in one-year increments, for those H1B visa holders for whom an I-140 immigrant visa petition has been filed, and whose labor certification or I-140 was filed at least 365 days before the extension is requested. Extensions will be permitted until a decision is made on the person's lawful permanent residence. Please note that the filing of an I-140 is a prerequisite for acquiring an extension under this provision.
- A second provision permits beneficiaries of approved employment-based first,second, or third preference immigrant petitions who would be eligible for permanent residence except for per country limits to obtain an extension of H-1B status until the adjustment of status application is adjudicated. This would be a one-time extension, and this provision is intended to help individuals from countries for which visa numbers are oversubscribed, such as India and China. The Form I-140 petition must be approved to benefit under this provision. Notice of the approval would have to be included as a part of the petition package.
The H1B1 visa status and employment at UT
On October 17, 2000 the President of the United States signed into law, the "American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000.” This legislation exempted from the annual H-1B cap those individuals employed at higher educational institutions and their related or affiliated non-profits, as well as individuals employed by non-profit or governmental research organizations. This exemption is permanent, and cannot be changed without further act of Congress. The new law also exempted from the cap H-1Bs granted to physicians who have obtained a Conrad 20 waiver of the foreign residence requirement.
The process of obtaining an H1B1 through UT will generally take anywhere from two to four months or more. If you are currently in H-1B status you may begin new employment as soon as UT files an H-1B petition, rather than waiting for adjudication of the petition. It is important to understand that the new law requires that your new employer's petition must be filed prior to the expiration date of the current H-1B approval notice. Therefore, you should not begin employment at UT until you/CIE have received the receipt from the USCIS verifying receipt of the application for a change of H1B1 employers.
The H1B1 process
There are several steps involved in obtaining H1B1 status. Like the J-1 Visa category, the Center for International Education must determine if this is the appropriate visa category and they can only do so after receiving a request from an employing department. Unlike the J-1 category, which allows personal funding and funding from outside institutions and organizations, the H1B1 visa category is limited to professional employment positions at UT.
The process of obtaining an H1B1 visa is:
1) the employer (CIE) obtains a prevailing wage determination either through the State Employment Security Agency or through a survey
2) UT then files a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor
3) When the LCA is returned from the Department of Labor, the UT CIE can file the I-129H petition and the necessary supporting documents. This stage of the process can take anywhere from 30 to 120 days. Typically, as part of the H1B process, the following materials are also required of the College of Business Administration by the Center for International Education:
- letter of offer including job description, dates of proposed employment, and salary;
- evidence that the wage offered is the prevailing wage;
- evidence that the employer is paying similarly employed workers the prevailing wage;
- evidence the employer is able to pay the offered wages;
- a letter in support of the filing summarizing the position offered and the alien's credentials
- evidence that the foreign national (if in the U.S.) has maintained status including: copies of passport, I-94, and other current and previous immigration documents; and
- evidence of the alien's credentials, .including a credential evaluation if the degree was earned abroad
4) The USCIS adjudicates the H1B1 petition. If approved and the foreign national is in the United States and entitled to a change of non-immigrant status, his/her status will be changed to H1B1. If the foreign national prospective employee is abroad, he or she will proceed to the U.S. Consular Office listed on the H1B petition to pick up his or her H1B1 visa and proceed to the United States.
5) When the new employee begins work, the employee must complete the I-9 process at the Human Resources Office as required under IRCA.
Medical Doctors and the H1B1. Generally, physicians teaching in the MBA Physician program may be granted H1B1 status only if their employment involves only research and teaching, with any patient care incidental to such duties. The bar on rendering patient care has been eliminated for physicians with an appropriate state license, and who have passed the FLEX examination or USMLE Parts I, II, and III and ECFMG English test if applicable.
For more information about obtaining an H1B1 visa status for CBA employment, visit the Center for International Education web site at:
If you need any additional information about coming to the UT College of Business Administration as an International Scholar, please feel free to contact the Global Business Institute at 865-974-6110.