H-1B Professionals in Specialty Occupations

How is H-1B Processing Handled at USC?

H-1B status is used at USC for degreed professionals in specialty fields, where the university wants to employ the person for several years.  How we handle H-1B sponsorship is informed by both Federal regulations and USC’s internal institutional policies and systems.

At USC, all H-1B requests must be submitted by the department to FSVS.

The USC Job Offered Must Qualify for H-1B Status

  • Must be Listed in the USC Job Codes or the Faculty Handbook
  • Must Meet the Minimum Education Requirement
    • Per Federal regulations, the job offered must require a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and must require that the degree be earned in a specific field, or closely related group of fields (e.g. Electronic Engineering or Computer Science, not Electronic Engineering or Business).
  • Must Pay the Required H-1B Wage
    • The H-1B wage will be analyzed by FSVS once the completed request is received.  The regulations require the department to pay either the “actual wage” paid to similar positions in the department or the “prevailing wage” established by U.S. Department of Labor Data, whichever is higher.
  • Must be Fully Benefits-Eligible
    • The position must be eligible for full, regular USC benefits for faculty and staff.
  • Must be full-time

The Person Must Qualify for H-1B Status

The individual must posses the minimum education and experience required for the H-1B job, and have no background issues that would prevent them taking up H-1B status.

Duration

  • H-1B status can be requested for up to three years at a time.
  • An individual may remain in H-1B status for up to 6 years. To extend beyond the 6th year, permanent residence processing for the person must have reached an advanced stage that allows the H-1B to be extended.

H-1B Processing Times at USC

Requests are submitted by the department to FSVS.  Processing cannot begin until all of the required information and materials are complete.  We advise departments to submit to FSVS a full 6 months prior to the needed start date.  Later submissions carry an increasing risk that the need cannot be met.

Total processing time varies, depending on the factors each case presents.  Typical cases with no special issues, with the individual remaining in the USA throughout processing, average from 10-12 weeks, starting when required materials submitted to FSVS are complete.  A projected processing timeline will be sent to the individual and the department when processing begins.  General H-1B processing stages are:

  • Stage 1:  Pre-Filing Processing at FSVS:  Approximately 6 weeks from time request materials are complete.  Specific case issues may require additional processing, for example to obtain a prevailing wage, an Export Control determination, or address other issues. This can delay processing from 2 weeks to 3+ months.  Every effort is made to spot issues early in processing, so that they can be factored in to the estimated processing timeline for the individual case.
  • Stage 2:  Government Processing:  All USC H-1B cases are submitted via the USCIS Premium Processing Program.  Typically, this takes 15 days.  However, in some cases, the USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).  This can delay processing, commensurate with the nature of the RFE.
  • Stage 3:  Approval Document Delivery:  The USCIS mails the original approval notice to FSVS, which can take 7-14 days from the time of decision.  If the individual is abroad, the notice must then be sent to them so that they can go to a U.S. Consulate to obtain a visa stamp in their passport and enter the USA in H-1B status.  This can take an additional 2 weeks or more.

Maintaining H-1B Status

  • H-1B employment is limited to what is described on the H-1B petition.  If the person’s employment is changing, or the person is changing employers, a new petition must be submitted to the government before the change can take place.
  • Sometimes, a person may work for two H-1B employers if both have approved H-1B petitions to employ that person.
  • H-1B extension requests should be made to FSVS a full 6 months in advance.

Visa Stamps and Traveling as an H-1B

H-1B Dependents:  H-4 Status

H-4 status is available for the spouse and children (under 21) of the H-1B visa holder.  This will be discussed at the outset of the case.

Generally, H-4 dependents are not authorized to work.  The exception is where permanent residence processing is underway for the H-1B holder, and has advanced to a stage that allows the H-4 to apply for work authorization.