The following information is provided as a guide to the various visa options available to international visitors. Immigration laws are complex and federal regulations change continually, so please consult with the department's Academic Affairs or Human Resources Coordinator's prior to pursuing any course of action. For detailed, up-to-date information, see the UCSD International Center web site.
Visa Options for International Faculty and Researchers at UCSD
J-1 Exchange Visitor
J-1 visa status is usually the most appropriate visa status for international visitors who come to UCSD temporarily to teach or to engage in research as long as the position is not a tenure-track position. There is a three-year limit in the J-1 research scholar / professor status. Documentation and processing time for this status are minimal. J-2 spouses are allowed to apply for work authorization; J-2 is the only dependent status in which work authorization may be granted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
B-1 Visitor for Business
B-1 visa status can be used by visitors who will not receive payment from UCSD other than reimbursement of expenses and who will be in the U.S. for a short period (usually less than six months). CSE must issue a letter of invitation to the visitor. In order to obtain a B-1 visa at the U.S. Consulate, the visitor will also need to show strong ties to his/her home country or place of permanent residence.
Visa Waiver Program
This program allows citizens of 29 countries to enter the United States without visas. Visitors receive either WT status (visitor for pleasure) or WB status (visitor for business). They cannot be paid by UCSD, although visitors in WB status may receive reimbursement of expenses. These visitors cannot remain in the U.S. for more than 90 days and cannot change to another status.
H-1B Temporary Employment
H-1B visa status is a temporary work status for professionals in a specialty occupation. At UCSD, H-1B status may be considered only under the following conditions: the international visitor is no longer eligible for J status because s/he has reached the three-year limit; the foreign national is currently in H-1B visa status at another institution; or under other circumstances as approved by the International Center. H-1B visa status is available only for full-time faculty and academic research positions. H-1B petitions may take as long as four months to receive approval. and must be coordinated by the International Center.
TN (Trade NAFTA)
Citizens of Canada may use TN status to teach and do research at the university. The only paperwork UCSD is required to provide is a letter confirming the employment offer. TN status is valid for one year and may be extended in increments of one year indefinitely. Citizens of Mexico may use the TN visa status to teach and do research at the university but the paperwork requirements are very similar to the H-1B visa.
F-1 Practical Training / J-1 Academic Training
Current students and recent graduates of U.S. colleges and universities may be able to obtain permission to work in areas related to their field of studies. Students in F-1 status can receive up to 12 months of practical training. Students in J-1 status can receive 18 months of academic training and an additional 18 months for postdoctoral research. Authorization is granted either by the sponsoring institution or by the INS, depending on the type of employment and visa status.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
O-1 visa status is available to persons who have demonstrated a record of national or international acclaim, a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. An O-1 visa petition will be filed only under the following conditions: the international visitor meets the qualification of "extraordinary ability" and is able to provide substantial documentation required for the O-1; the international visitor is subject to the two year home requirement, is unable to obtain a waiver, and is therefore precluded from H-1B status; and the international visitor will be paid a wage that is consistent with the designation of an individual of extraordinary ability. The international visitor must realize that he/she must travel outside the United States to obtain the O-1 visa once the petition is approved. All O-1 petitions must be coordinated by the International Center.
Some faculty and researchers may obtain U.S. permanent residence through employment at UCSD. UCSD will support applications for permanent residence only if the position is permanent, full-time, and sufficiently high level (for example, appointments in the Professor and Professional Research series qualify; postdoctoral researchers, specialists and staff titles do not qualify). All permanent residence cases must be coordinated by the International Center and approved by the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.
Visa Information for Visiting International Scholars
Applying for a Visa
A visa is a stamp in a passport which is received from a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. Exchange visitors must obtain a valid J-1 visa stamp in their passport in order to enter the U.S. (Exception: Canadian citizens do not need a visa, but must obtain a Form I-94 when entering the U.S.)
The I-94 Card
Upon entry to the U.S., the Immigration Inspector will staple into the passport a small white card called the "Arrival-Departure Record" (Form I-94). The I-94 should indicate admission in J-1 status and should be marked "D/S," meaning Duration of Status. When leaving the U.S., the I-94 card will be taken and a new one is issued whenever re-entering the U.S. However, when going to Mexico, Canada, or adjacent islands for less than 30 days the I-94 should not be surrendered. In that case, the visitor will re-enter using that I-94 card and an expired J-1 visa is acceptable.
It is the responsibility of the exchange visitor to note the expiration date of his or her passport and keep it valid at all times. Passport renewals can be done by a country's consulate within the U.S.
Two-Year Home Residency Requirement
Some J-1 visitors will be subject to the "two-year home residence requirement." This means that at the end of the J-1 program the exchange visitor may be required to return to his or her home country for two years.
Legal spouses and unmarried children under 21 should apply for J-2 visas to accompany the J-1 exchange visitor to the U.S. They will need a letter of authorization from the UCSD International Center and evidence of financial resources. If the dependents would like to come after the J-1's arrival in San Diego, appropriate documents need to be requested from the International Center. Family members in J-2 status may obtain permission for employment in the U.S. The International Center can provide information about obtaining this permission after their arrival.
Immigration regulations can be confusing and can change frequently. The staff at the International Center is prepared to help with questions about immigration regulations and procedures. It is important that the exchange visitor understand his or her rights and responsibilities, especially in the areas of maintaining status, employment and travel outside of the U.S. The visitor's passport and immigration documents should be carried at all times.