When an Employee Travels Internationally

Work authorization for H-1B, O-1, and E-3 employees is conferred by a USCIS approval notice, not by a visa. A visa is a physical sticker in a passport that allows someone to travel to the US. It is fine if a visa expires while someone is in the US. That does not mean their work authorization has expired.

Employees can remain employed in the US on the basis of USCIS approval notices (or EAD cards, in certain situations), but if they choose or need to travel internationally, they may need to apply for a new visa stamp in their passport at a US embassy or consulate abroad so that they can re-enter the US. If so, they will ask you for an employment verification letter to take with them based on the travel checklist on our website.

Ideally, the US embassy or consulate will return the employee's passport with a new visa stamp within about a week. However, it is impossible to predict Department of State processing times or procedures at every US embassy or consulate abroad. Expect delays in your employee's return to the US in the even that the Department of State needs additional time to return the passport or conduct a deeper background check, discussed further below.

Employee Selected for Administrative Processing

  • Department of State Consular Officers may select a visa applicant for an extensive background review known as "administrative processing" (or "221g") at any time and request information about past known addresses, current research objectives, etc. All applicants must fulfill multiple criteria to the satisfaction of the consular officer. The burden of proof lies with applicants to demonstrate that the documents presented are genuine and that they are eligible for the visa.
  • Selection for administrative processing was a known travel risk even before COVID. Please do not use outside channels to request political assistance. Unfortunately, congressional offices are often unable to help expedite visa issuance except in cases of extreme emergency, and even an interruption to patient care is not enough. The Department of State considers visa applications to be a matter of national security and will not circumvent the review process under any circumstances. Regardless, UAB (and the University of Alabama System) has a protocol for obtaining congressional assistance, and departments  must operate within that protocol. If you believe a situation is truly emergent, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will consult with the appropriate liaison.
  • ISSS cannot advise on HR issues about continuing pay and benefits for individuals selected for administrative processing. Decisions about whether to place someone on unpaid leave, charge vacation days, etc. should be made at the departmental level in consultation with your unit's HR Consultant. Similarly, if the individual selected for administrative processing is a student receiving a scholarship, student assistantship, or graduate assistantship please consult HR or your unit's fiscal officer to determine next steps, if any.
  • If your student, employee, or visiting scholar is selected for administrative processing, notify ISSS immediately so that we can advise and provide additional guidance or a support letter as and when appropriate. We track these cases for trends, etc. The Department of State will not entertain inquiries until at least 30 days have passed, and harassing them can result in additional delay.