Generally, UAB employees in the 01, 04, 07, 20, 21, and employment categories will need to be sponsored for work authorization directly by UAB/HSF through either filing a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security) or generating an immigration document that must be reviewed by the US Department of State at an embassy or consulate outside the US.

The type of work authorization UAB/HSF can sponsor depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the amount of time the prospective hire has been in the US in a certain immigration status, minimum education requirements as defined in the UAB job description, completion of all three steps of the USMLE, country of citizenship, and amount of clinical contact. The most common types are outlined below.

*Prospective hires in possession of a “work card” or “EAD” are discussed on the “Hiring International Employees with Work Authorization Independent of UAB/HSF” page.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Work Authorization

Overview:

H-1B work authorization is available to international employees who are offered a job in a "specialty occupations" which require highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Obviously, it is not hard to meet these threshold requirements 99% of the time at UAB. However, if you anticipate hiring someone into a Researcher I, II, or III role or any role involving information technology, please contact ISSS for an early assessment. The wage offered must meet or exceed the published wage for the position in this geographical area as determined by the Department of Labor.

An international employee can spend precisely six years in H-1B status, but petitions can request a maximum of only three years at a time. In other words, you can request H-1B status for one, two, or three years at a time depending on how you expect to have funding, when the contract will be renewed, etc.

Employees who are the beneficiaries of an approved I-140 petition to begin the path to permanent residence are eligible for extensions of their underlying H-1B status beyond six years.

Documents needed

There are two phases in the H-1B petition process: obtaining a certified electronic Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor, and then mailing the petition itself to USCIS. To begin the process, the department must complete and send to ISSS all documents in the appropriate packet below. If you need to prioritize, send the LCA form first.

The information requested on the LCA form is critical to informing the DOL about the physical location(s) where the employee can be found working on a daily basis in the event of a site visit by the DOL, ICE I-9 auditors, and/or Homeland Security’s Fraud Detection and National Security unit (FDNS). We cannot begin the H-1B process until we have the information requested on the LCA form.

Every document and piece of information requested in the above packets is necessary and relevant to our ability to file an accurate and timely petition. Please provide complete information in as few emails as possible. We collect any documents needed from the employee separately.

When can the employee begin working?

That depends on several factors, including whether the employee is currently outside the US and will need a visa appointment or is currently within the US and changing immigration status. The earliest an H-1B petition can be filed is six months before the anticipated start date (if a new hire) or the expiration date (if an extension).

A general, absolute best-case timeline for the entire H-1B process, depending on how quickly and accurately the necessary information is provided by both the department and the physician, is:

  • 7 business days for the Department of Labor to electronically certify the LCA (cannot be expedited)
  • 10 business days to finalize the H-1B forms and obtain necessary signatures across campus
  • 15 calendar days for USCIS adjudication with premium processing
  • 7.5-9 months for USCIS adjudication without premium processing (NOTE: If the employee is currently in H-1B status with another employer and is “porting” that H-1B status to UAB/HSF, the employee can begin working with us as soon as USCIS receives the petition (we do not need to wait for an approval notice) and can work for up to 240 days while the extension petition is pending
  • 7-10 business days to receive the hard copy Approval Notice from USCIS (unless USCIS actually uses the return UPS/FedEx envelope we include with the petition)

Again, the above timeline is valid only to the extent we receive all information in a timely and complete manner. Depending on volume, it can easily take six weeks to two months to prepare the entire filing.

How much will it cost?

A check request memo is included in the ISSS packet you receive. H-1B anti-fraud and filing fees must be paid by the sponsoring department. As discussed below, you can ask the employee to pay the premium processing fee (except in the School of Medicine).

Initial H-1B H-1B Extension HSF and Valley Petitions
$500 USCIS anti-fraud fee $460 USCIS Form I-129 filing fee  USCIS filing fees, plus additional $750 ISSS processing fee (billed to HSF Accounting Unit quarterly)  
$460 USCIS Form I-129 filing fee
$1,440 USCIS Form I-907 Premium Processing fee $1,440 USCIS Form I-907 Premium Processing fee
Total: $2,400 Total: $1,900  

Premium processing requires USCIS to adjudicate (i.e., approve, deny, or issue a request for evidence on) a petition within 15 calendar days. Per School of Medicine policy, School of Medicine hiring departments/divisions must pay the $1,440 premium processing fee. In other UAB schools, the department can discuss with the employee about who pays the premium processing fee.

After the H-1B Petition is Filed and/or Approved:

ISSS is responsible solely for filing the immigration petition necessary to secure work authorization and does not play a role in subsequent HR and onboarding processes such as creating or amending ACT documents, ensuring I-9 completion, arranging housing, or ensuring that international employees attended Discover UAB or any departmental orientation sessions or trainings. When we receive a document essential to an HR process, such as a USCIS approval notice (for initial H-1B petitions) or receipt notice (for extension petitions), we immediately share it via email with the department. The Guardian system is responsible for emailing all new hires with instructions to complete Section 1 of Form I-9. ISSS does not “kick off” the I-9 process. Employees can complete Section 2 of the I-9 either with the central HR Records office in the AB, here in the international center on the second floor of Sterne Library, or with the designated I-9 POC (point of contact) for your school or unit. You will receive an automated email with instructions as soon as we receive the hard copy document necessary to continue your work authorization. Please do not contact us constantly for updates. We communicate with you and your department administrator as soon as we have any news or receive any essential documents.

TN Work Authorization for Canadians and Mexicans

Overview:

This immigration status is available only for certain Canadian and Mexican citizens. Please see this list for qualifying occupations. TN status is initially valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely in one-year increments. PLEASE NOTE: physicians with patient care/clinical contact responsibilities are not eligible for TN status. Only physicians whose primary effort will be devoted to teaching and/or research can enter in TN status. Please contact ISSS for an assessment.

Documents needed

  • Offer letter from UAB
  • Description of job duties/research project

When can the employee begin working?

Canadian citizens can present their UAB offer letter and a cover letter from ISSS at any US port of entry and enter the US same-day without UAB having to file a formal petition with USCIS beforehand. They do not need a USCIS approval notice, an appointment at a US consulate or embassy in Canada, or an actual visa sticker in their passport.

Mexican citizens must apply for a TN visa at a US embassy or consulate in Mexico and receive approval before entering the US. Visa appointment wait times can be checked here.

How much will it cost?

Nothing for the initial filing, unless you decide to reimburse the employee for the cost of any visa application fees. There are no USCIS filing fees associated with obtaining TN work authorization. When it is time to extend the employee’s TN work authorization, the department must pay the USCIS filing fee for Form I-129 (currently $460).

If you are hiring a Canadian TN and want to reduce the risk of denial at the US port of entry, you can also pay the filing fees to submit a petition with USCIS using Form I-129. Once approved, your employee can present the TN Approval Notice, along with proof of Canadian citizenship, at the port of entry.

O-1 ‘Extraordinary Ability’ Work Authorization

Overview:

The O-1 visa category is reserved for individuals who are at the top of their field as evidenced by nationally- and internationally-recognized awards, publications, participation on review boards, membership in organizations requiring significant achievement, and employment in essential capacities for prestigious institutions, among other things. Please send the prospective hire's CV to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for an evaluation of O-1 eligibility. O-1 status is initially valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely in one-year increments.

Documents needed

  • UAB/HSF offer letter or contract
  • Check for $460 (current USCIS filing fee for Form I-129) and additional check for $1,440 (current USCIS filing fee for premium processing to get decision within 15 calendar days—must be paid by SOM departments)

When can the employee begin working?

If the employee is coming to the US from abroad for the first time, or changing status within the US from another immigration status to O-1, we must wait for the hard copy original USCIS approval notice to arrive in the mail so that Form I-9 can be completed. If the employee is already in the US working for another employer in O-1 status, the employee can start with UAB/HSF as soon as USCIS receives the petition(s) filed by ISSS. That depends on how long it takes the employee to collect all necessary recommendation letters and supporting evidence, plus a week or so for ISSS to draft the evidentiary summary letter and circulate for HR signature.

How much will it cost?

  • Initial O-1 petition for new hire or change of status: $460 USCIS filing fee for up to three years
  • Extension O-1 petition for current employee: $460 each year after the end of the first three-year period
  • $1,440 for premium processing any petition to obtain a decision from USCIS within 15 calendar days

E-3 Work Authorization for Australians

Overview:

This process is essentially exactly like filing an H-1B petition, but it applies to a separate allotment of 10,000 “extra” employment authorization visas exclusively for Australian citizens.

Documents needed

  • UAB/HSF offer letter
  • Checks for $960 (new hire) or $460 (extension)

When can the employee begin working?

If the employee is coming to the US from abroad for the first time, or changing status within the US from another immigration status to E-3, we must wait for the hard copy original USCIS approval notice to arrive in the mail so that Form I-9 can be completed. If the employee is already in the US working for another employer in E-3 status, the employee can start with UAB/HSF as soon as USCIS receives the petition(s) filed by ISSS. That depends on how long it takes the employee to provide all supporting documentation, plus two weeks for the Department of Labor to certify its part, then another week or so for ISSS to assemble the final petition and circulate for HR signature.

How much will it cost?

  • Initial E-3 petition for new hire or change of status: $460 USCIS filing fee
  • Extension E-3 petition for current employee: $460 per extension
  • $1,440 for premium processing any petition to obtain a decision from USCIS within 15 calendar days