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United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers several visa options to foreign nationals seeking to work at a university like Lehigh, depending on the work they will do.

OISS will help determine the appropriate visa. Almost all international scholars at Lehigh are on J-1 or H-1B visas. Learn more about specific visa classes and their requirements and application processes below.

Once Lehigh agrees to sponsor you and process your immigration paperwork, you will receive documents from the Office of International Students and Scholars and from your department. These documents include an offer letter or invitation letter and a DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice, depending on your visa category. You should begin the process of applying for a visa four to eight months before you plan to arrive at Lehigh, depending on your visa class. Read about possible reasons for visa delays.

Evaluating Foreign Credentials

In order to review and approve employment visas, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires credential evaluation for all transcripts and diplomas from institutions outside the United States. To have your credentials evaluated, contact one of the organizations on this list.

Visa Interview Tips

J-1 and TN visas are temporary worker visas that allow you to come to the United States for a specific professional purpose and you need to demonstrate that you do not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently.

H1-B and O-1 visas are dual intent visas, which means that you can stay in the U.S. and pursue permanent residency before your visa expires.

The following tips can help when you meet with the embassy or consular officer for your visa interview.

Expect the officer to interview you in English, not in your home country’s language.

Have all your documents organized and ready.

Know about what you will do at Lehigh University and your plans after your position here.

Keep your answers short but complete and maintain a positive attitude. Officers are busy and interview many people in a day.

Section 1

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program “promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges.” Administered by the U.S. State Department, it gives international students and foreign scholars first-hand experience of the U.S. educational system and culture.

J-1 exchange visitor visas are not appropriate for permanent employment such as tenure-track positions.

Departments should review OISS’s Visa Guide before inviting a scholar to Lehigh University. It includes information such as how long a J-1 exchange visitor can stay in the United States and the timeline for processing the required immigration documents.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Categories

There are several J-1 exchange visitor categories. Five apply to scholars at Lehigh University:

  • Student Interns are undergraduate students participating in an internship program for up to 12 months in the U.S. that will fulfill the educational objectives of their current degree program at their home institutions. Student interns must be currently enrolled and pursuing a degree in an academic institution outside the US.
  • Short-Term Scholars come to Lehigh to lecture, observe, consult, train or collaborate on research for up to six months. They can transfer to another program within a period of six months, but cannot extend their stay beyond six months. They do not have to meet the three-week minimum length of program requirement.
  • Research Scholars come to Lehigh primarily to conduct research or consult for at least three weeks and up to five years. Some teaching or lecturing is also permitted.
  • Professors come to Lehigh to teach or lecture for at least three weeks and up to five years. They may also engage in research.
  • Specialists are experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skill who come to Lehigh to observe, consult or demonstrate special skills for up to one year.

Short-term scholar, research scholars, professors and specialist must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Research scholars and professors cannot be candidates for tenure. Read more about restrictions on these categories.

Choosing the right category depends on the purpose and length of the visit and funding issues. Our office can help.

Length of Stay

J-1 scholars typically stay at Lehigh for six months to five years, depending on their category. The U.S. Department of State does not allow back-to-back J-1 stays. Foreign nationals need to leave the United States for at least one academic year following a J-1 stay before returning for a new program.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

J-1 exchange visitors are often required to return to their home country for at least two years following the end of their program, unless they request a waiver from the U.S. Department of State.

Health Insurance

The U.S. Department of State requires that all J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents carry health insurance from the time of arrival and until the end of their program at Lehigh University. This is a mandatory requirement and failing to provide proof of health insurance to OISS upon arrival will result in a loss of your immigration status in the United States.

If you are employed by Lehigh University, you may purchase health insurance through the university at a discounted rate. However, you need to purchase repatriation and medical evacuation insurance separately on your own. Or ​​​​you can purchase insurance that meets the J-1 health insurance requirements from an outside provider.

J-1 exchange visitors at Lehigh who are sponsored by an outside organization such as Fulbright should check with their program sponsor to make sure they have health insurance coverage.

Dependents

J-1 exchange visitors can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States as J-2 dependents.

The U.S. government allows J-2 dependents to apply for work authorization or study in the United States.

Getting a J-1 Scholar Visa

Your Lehigh University department typically issues the immigration documents that you will need to enter the United States at least four months before you plan to arrive. Learn more about applying for a J-1 visa.

Section 2

H-1B Temporary Worker Visas

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa is for foreign nationals who come to the United States to work in a specialty occupation temporarily. Lehigh currently has about 32 H-1B status holders who are here as faculty members, researchers and administrators.

To qualify for an H-1B nonimmigrant visa:

  • you must have a higher education degree or equivalent, and
  • the job must require specialized and complex knowledge.

All H-1B petitions are processed by Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs.

Length of Stay

An H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years and it can be extended for up to six years.

H-1B visa holders can enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the start date on their I-797 approval notice and generally have a 10-day grace period following the end date listed on the I-797. The grace period is discretionary, so check with OISS before you overstay your visa. Employment is not permitted during the H-1B grace period.

Dependents

H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States as dependents. H-1B dependents can study in the U.S. but they cannot work.

Getting an H-1B Visa

Your department at Lehigh should start the process of issuing your immigration documents at least eight months before your start date.

OISS will contact you for the following documents:

  • Completed H-1B Applicant Questionnaire (pdf)
  • Copy of your highest degree diploma (with translation if not in English)
  • Copy of your transcript of degree course work 
  • Copy of your degree evaluation (if degree is from an institution outside of the United States)
  • Copy of your CV/Resume
  • Copy of identity page (s) and expiration date page of your passport
  • Copy of your DS-2019 and J-1 or J-2 visa (if you have ever held J-1 or J-2 status)
  • Copy of USCIS Approval of Waiver of Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement (on Form I-612), if applicable
  • Copy of U.S. Department of State Letter to USCIS recommending waiver of Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement, if applicable

If you are currently in the United States, please also include:

  • Copies of any immigration documents pertaining to your current status (example: I-20, DS-2019, I-797, etc.)
  • Copy of most recent visa
  • Copy of most recent I-94 (arrival/departure card)
  • Copy of Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable
  • Copy of three most recent earning statements/salary records (if current status is H-1B)

If you have dependents (spouse and children) who are in the U.S. and need to change their status to H-4 dependent status:

  • USCIS Form I-539 “Change of Status Application,” completed by your dependent(s). Download from USCIS:
  • Check payable to “Department of Homeland Security” in the amount of $370
  • Copy of identity page (s) and expiration date page of spouse and/or children’s passports
  • Copy of spouse and/or children’s most recent visas
  • Copy of spouse and/or children’s most recent I-94 cards (arrival/departure cards) and other immigration documents
  • Copy of marriage certificate (for dependent spouse) and/or birth certificate (for each dependent child) with English translation if the original is not in English

OISS will process your H-1B petition through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once it is approved, you will receive a copy of your I-797 approval notice and supporting documents in the mail. After you receive these documents, schedule a visa appointment with your local U.S. embassy or consulate.

Take the following documents to your interview:

  • Form I-797 approval notice
  • DS-160 confirmation receipt
  • A passport that is valid for at least one year
  • Employment offer letter from your Lehigh department
  • Passport photos
  • Visa application fee
  • Visa reciprocity fee if applicable

Section 3

O-1 Temporary Worker Visas

The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is a temporary status for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics who are recognized nationally or internationally in their field of expertise. O-1 visa holders come to the U.S. temporarily to continue their work in the area of extraordinary ability.

Lehigh University departments can use the O-1 option to invite a researcher, faculty member or administrator, but they must prove that the individual is nationally or internationally recognized in his or her field of expertise.

Length of Stay

An O-1 visa is initially granted for three years and one-year extensions are allowed indefinitely. However, since the O-1 visa is a temporary visa, foreign nationals should think about other status categories if they plan to extend beyond six years.

O-1 visa holders can enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the start date on their I-797 approval notice and generally have a 10-day grace period following the end date listed on the I-797. Employment is not permitted during the O-1 grace period.

Dependents

O-1 visa holders can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. O-3 dependents can study in the U.S. but they cannot work.

Getting an O-1 Visa

Lehigh University uses outside counsel to process O-1 visas. Contact us for more information

Section 4

TN Temporary Workers Visas

The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadians and Mexicans to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in certain professions.

To qualify for a TN visa, you must:

  • Be a citizen of Canada or Mexico per NAFTA agreement
  • Have a job with a U.S. employer (Lehigh University)
  • Meet the position qualifications as defined by the NAFTA agreement

Length of Stay

A TN visa is initially granted for three years and three-year extensions are allowed indefinitely. However, since the TN visa is a temporary visa, foreign nationals from Canada or Mexico should think about other status categories if they plan to extend beyond six years.

TN visa holders can enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the start date on their I-797 approval notice and generally have a 10-day grace period following the end date listed on the I-797. Employment is not permitted during the O-1 grace period.

Dependents

TN visa holders can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. TD dependents can study in the U.S. but they cannot work.

Getting a TN Visa

Your department at Lehigh will send you a letter that includes the following:

  • Job title and profession as defined in the NAFTA agreement
  • A detailed description of the job duties
  • Salary, including benefits
  • Length of employment (not more than three years) and a statement that the employment is temporary
  • Hours of work per week (40 hours)
  • Brief information about Lehigh University such as type of institution, the year it was founded, gross income, number of employees, etc.
Canadian Citizens

You can apply for the TN visa at an embassy or consulate or at the port of entry as long as you have your passport, diplomas, transcripts, professional licenses if required, and offer letter from Lehigh. You will need to pay the application fee first.

If your port of entry is a Canadian airport, you will get a date stamp in your passport and a TN annotation, proving that you entered the U.S. on the correct visa. Your Form I-94 will be electronic and OISS help you print it when you get here. If you drive through a U.S. port of entry, you will get an I-94 card.

Mexican Citizens

Schedule a visa appointment with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • DS-160 confirmation receipt
  • A Mexican passport that is valid for at least one year
  • Employment offer letter from your Lehigh department
  • Diplomas and transcripts
  • Professional license or certificate if applicable
  • Passport photos
  • Visa application fee
  • Visa reciprocity fee if applicable