Visa Quick Guide for Department/Area Chairs
The most important thing to know when any visa question comes up, including plans to hire a foreign national, is to contact the Office for International Services (OIS) at x-3145 or x-6270. Salvatore Longarino (firstname.lastname@example.org), the director of OIS, is the University SEVIS senior officer. He and his staff have a deep knowledge of visa intricacies and complex federal regulations for non-immigrants. His office handles most visa matters for the University.
Most foreign nationals who come to Fordham will fall into one of four categories:
Short Term Visitors: These would be seminar speakers or other short term visitors. Fordham generally doesn’t have any visa involvement with this group. Reimbursing them for expenses is possible. If you wish to provide an honorarium, check with OIS as only certain visa types are eligible.
Students Enrolled at Fordham: These are handled through OIS on F-1 visas. Fordham has fairly stringent reporting requirements through the SEVIS computer system which links directly to Homeland Security. If a student stops attending class, the University is required to provide notification through the system. Students may apply for a one year extension beyond their degree for Optional Practical Training (OPT). They remain Fordham’s responsibility even if they are taking their OPT at another institution as a post-doc. The application process takes about three months.
Exchange Visitors/Scholars: These are handled through OIS on J-1 visas using the SEVIS system. We again have reporting requirements to Homeland Security. Visitors must have a Fordham sponsor. The sponsor will start the application process with their Department /Area Chair or dean. While most such positions are unpaid, J-1 visa holders can teach courses and receive pay. They fall into two groups:
1. Students from another institution who are not enrolled in a degree program at Fordham must be approved by the Department /Area Chair, and the appropriate dean. The student’s home institution must agree that Fordham is providing an educational experience that advances the student’s educational goals in their degree program. The dean will issue an appointment letter to the student with a copy to OIS. OIS will gather the necessary information from the Fordham faculty sponsor and the foreign visitor via e-mail. If the foreign student is being sponsored by an outside agency (e.g. Fulbright), they will handle the visa based on the information from OIS. If Fordham is sponsoring the student for a visa, OIS will issue a Form DS-2019 through SEVIS and express mail it to the student. The DS-2019 will allow the student to obtain a J-1 visa from the US Consulate. To obtain an id and e-mail access, the department should have the student complete a copy of the Electronic Access Form and forward it to HR along with a copy of the appointment letter so that the student can be entered in Banner as a guest.
2. Post-graduate scholars and researchers must be approved by the Department/Area Chair, the appropriate Dean of Faculty/Dean, and the Office of the Provost. The Office of the Provost will issue the invitation letter and OIS will again gather the necessary information for the outside agency or for Fordham to issue a DS-2019 through SEVIS.
Full Time Employees (Post-Docs, Lecturers, Assistant Professors, Visiting Professors, etc.): These are handled primarily through the Office for International Services under a variety of visa types. Odd situations can arise so contact OIS as soon as you know that you are going to hire a foreign national and provide as much information as possible. Important considerations include country of origin, current visa status, and past visa
history. Two examples: someone who had a prior visit on a J-1 visa with government funding might be subject to a requirement that they spend 2 years in their home country, someone who is here on a diplomatic visa as a spouse would require a significantly longer process to receive work authorization through diplomatic channels. Visa categories for new hires include:
1. F-1 OPT: Students who have just graduated can apply for one year of Optional Practical Training. They must apply through their original F-1 institution and approval takes approximately 3 months. They should apply as soon as they know that they are coming to Fordham to work.
2. H-1B: This is the most common type of visa and is handled by OIS for all members of the instructional staff. For post-docs and lecturers we apply for the length of their contract. For faculty we can apply for up to three years with at most one additional three year renewal for a total of six years. The process starts with a Labor Condition Application to the Department of Labor which typically takes about two weeks. Among other things, we must demonstrate that we are paying prevailing wage as established by the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center. Once our Labor Condition Application is certified, we can apply for the H-1B visa through Homeland Security. The visa application typically takes about 2 months so the sooner we know about your new hire the better. There is a premium processing option which costs the university around $1000 extra. This option guarantees an answer within 15 days or they return the $1000.
3. O-1: This visa is handled through the Office of Legal Counsel and is used very rarely for new hires that are not eligible for the H-1B visa. A foreign national who visits the U.S. on a J-1 visa with government support may be subject to regulation 212e, which states that they must return to their home nation for two years before they can obtain an immigrant or H1B visa unless they receive a waiver. The O-1 visa allows them to work in the US although they must still eventually meet the two year requirement through periodic stays in their home country. For an O-1 visa we must demonstrate that the foreign national has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
4. TN: Canadian citizens who fit the NAFTA professional category of College Teacher can apply for entry at the border provided they have specific documentation. In this case the Office of the Provost can prepare a letter describing the position we are offering which the Canadian citizen can use along with other required documents to enter the US under TN status. This letter should only be issued by the Office of the Provost as there are specific requirements that must be met or entry may be denied. The TN visa is not valid for tenure/tenure-track positions.
Start Date: Visas start on the first day of employment. At Fordham, the contract year starts on September 1, so that is generally what we use for new visas. The employee is allowed to enter the country up to 10 days ahead of the start date of the visa. Fordham begins payroll on August 1, so if we know that a new employee plans to start earlier when we apply for the visa, we can request an earlier date.
Leaving the Country: When the visa application is approved, the employee can begin to work, however, the actual visa can only be obtained at a US consulate outside the country. If the employee leaves the country, they must travel to the US consulate abroad and apply for the actual visa. OIS advises employees on the documentation that they will need to obtain the actual visa. On rare occasions, a problem may occur which will delay the return of our employee. It is important that OIS be notified immediately should this occur. OIS may be able to speed up the process either directly or through our local congressman.