Overview

UAB has temporarily paused invitations to international Visiting Scientists, Visiting Scholars, and volunteers until July 1, 2021 across all schools. This includes internationals invited to campus for appointments in the 02, 04, and 60 job categories, whether funded by themselves, UAB, their home government, or any combination of the three. This policy does NOT apply to 20/21 postdoc appointments.

This policy is based on the current COVID situation in Alabama and nationally and is in line with UAB's Campus Visitor Protocol, which highlights the university's commitment to protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff on our campus while serving the Birmingham community. The policy will be reviewed in early summer and reevaluated based on the public health situation at that time. We hope to resume international invitations soon. In the meantime, if you need to withdraw an opportunity pending further review, please use the template below.

Download Template

Anticipated Process Once Pause Is Lifted

UAB is creating an office that will be the starting point for all invitations to international visitors--this term includes 02, 04, and 60 appointments, regardless of the source of funding. The same process will apply to initiate campus entry for anyone who is not an enrolled student at UAB or a UAB/HSF employee. Therefore, it will include anyone who would eventually come to campus on a B tourist/business visa, J-1 exchange visitor visa, the ESTA visa waiver program, or any other possible immigration status other than H-1B, E-3, O-1, or TN.

The invitation process will be administered in collaboration between the Office of the Provost and Compliance and Risk Assurance Office and will require completion of all HR information and review before the request is submitted to ISSS for assistance with any immigration paperwork needed. In the meantime, please direct all questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Background on B visas and the ESTA Program

It is possible that, after the international invitation process described above, ISSS determines that the international visitor could come to the US on a B visa or through the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver program instead of on a J-1 or other visa. Remember, any visa is just a “ticket” to enter the US for a specific purpose. The visitor must be coming to the US to engage in activities commensurate with the intent of the B visa and ESTA visa waiver programs. These options are most likely in the following scenarios:

  • Consult with business associates
  • Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • Negotiate a contract

Generally, the B visa is for business visitors and tourists and does NOT confer work authorization. Like every visa, the B visa is a physical sticker placed in an individual’s passport after an interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad. ESTA is an electronic document issued to citizens of specific countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. It does not require an interview at a US consulate or embassy abroad and is not a physical sticker in the passport. It does NOT confer work authorization.

Common examples of appropriate use of the B visa and ESTA are: an international expert invited to give a lecture at a UAB conference or grand rounds, an international scholar briefly needs to access a particular UAB library collection or piece of equipment to complete their independent research not funded by or in collaboration with UAB, a prospective international student or employee is invited to campus for an interview and/or campus visit.

B visa/ESTA may also be appropriate for short-term observerships organized by the Office of International Medical Education. ISSS and IME must first confirm if the proposed visit is appropriate.

In any case, a B visa or ESTA is NOT appropriate, regardless of the length of the visit in the following circumstances:

  • If the visitor is coming to UAB to engage in collaborative research with UAB
  • If the visit will benefit UAB in any way
  • If the visit is sponsored by the visitor's home government
  • If the visitor will be appointed in any category other than 60

A Word on Volunteering

Just because an opportunity is unpaid does not mean that is qualifies as "volunteering" under internal UAB definitions, the FLSA, or federal immigration regulations. For example, the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 C.F.R. § 274(f)] defines “employee” as “An individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration.” “Other remuneration” can encompass items such as housing, childcare, transportation, etc.  The Department of Labor (DOL) defines a “volunteer” as an “individual who performs hours of service ... for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.” The DOL has two concerns: protecting jobs for US workers and preventing exploitation of all workers. USCIS considers “work” to include performing a job that is normally paid, or if other people performing the same or similar jobs are compensated. Basically, anything done for UAB’s benefit (including for a UAB faculty member’s benefit) on a consistent or daily basis is considered “work.” The only true "volunteer" activities that would clearly be allowed under the regulations are those performed for charities, religious or community organizations, or other similar entities during an international visitor's free time.

When reviewing a request for a volunteer appointment during the international visitor invitation process, in addition to the above definitions, UAB units will consider the following analysis:

  • Are the international visitor’s prospective duties ones that are normally performed by a paid employee?
  • Are there other individuals in the department who perform such tasks without pay?

Many spouses of UAB employees who have J-1 and H-1B work authorization are established, talented scientists in their own right and seek opportunities to “stay active” in the field or keep up their CV while in the US accompanying their J-1 or H-1B spouse. However, as stated above, "volunteering" cannot displace a US worker and should be reserved for truly charitable opportunities. J-2 and H-4 dependents cannot “volunteer” to help in a lab, with research or literature review, or any other activity in any capacity that would displace a paid worker or result in a benefit to UAB. Any such opportunity offered to someone in J-2 or H-4 status would need to be reviewed under the international visitor invitation policy described above.