• What is the difference between my “visa type” and my immigration status?


    This is the stamp placed in your passport by the US embassy or consulate. This is simply a document that allows you to travel to the US. It does not allow you to work in the US.

    At the airport or a land border crossing, a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector will examine your visa stamp and your USCIS Form I-797 approval notice and will permit or deny your admission into the US.

    Your visa can expire while you are in the US as long as you maintain valid immigration status.

    You will need a valid visa if you intend to travel and re-enter the US and do not currently have a visa stamp matching your work authorization type (H-1B, O-1, E-3, etc.).

    Immigration Status

    Your immigration status is stated on your USCIS Form I-797 approval notice. The approval notice and your electronic Form I-94 allow you to remain in the US and work for a specific employer.

    Your I-94 governs how long you can remain in the US. Your Form I-797 approval notice governs which employer you can work for and for how long. These are the documents that allow you to work.

    Your immigration status can change while you are in the US (from F-1 to H-1B, J-1 to O-1, etc.), and different immigration statuses have different rules. You are authorized to work only for the employer that sponsored your work authorization in a specific immigration status.

  • Can employees in H-1B, O-1, TN, or E-3 immigration status enroll in classes or pursue a degree?

    Yes! You can enroll either full-time or part-time (there are no immigration-based restrictions), but you must check with your supervisor first and ensure that your studies do not interfere with your ability to work full-time for UAB/HSF. You do not need to file any documents with USCIS or request any documents from ISSS to enroll in classes.

  • I tried to enroll in classes at UAB, but BlazerNET says I have an immigration hold. What do I do?

    Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and attach a copy of your current valid immigration document (e.g., H-1B/O-1/E-3 approval notice, valid I-94 from most recent US entry, and/or valid DS-2019 (if you are a resident, fellow, or postdoc in J-1 status).

  • When can I apply for permanent residence?

    If you seek permanent residence sponsorship in a category that requires express employer sponsorship, such as EB-1B or via the PERM process, your supervisor must contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or attend weekly ISSS Office Hours on Tuesday to discuss. Please review the extensive information on our website and bring any additional questions to Office Hours—details are provided in the weekly Globetrotter e-newsletter.

    If you are clinical faculty who has received a J-1 waiver, you will not be able to file your personal green card application (Form I-485) until after you have completed your three years of J-1 waiver service. However, the process of securing an approved Form I-140 from your employer to get you on the green card path can begin prior to the end of your third year of waiver service, with department approval.

  • Can I hire an outside attorney to assist me with immigration issues?

    An outside attorney can assemble and file an I-140 petition for you only in specific non-employment-based permanent residence categories, such as the EB-1A and EB-2 national interest waiver categories. They can represent you personally in these matters, but cannot represent UAB.

    If you would like to use an outside attorney to help you gather evidence for an EB-1B petition (which MUST be sponsored directly by UAB or HSF), the attorney is welcome to prepare support letters. However, the attorney cannot draft Forms I-140 and/or I-907 for signature. ISSS will prepare those forms and will assist with obtaining a check for USCIS filing fees. Additionally, your attorney MUST send all evidence and support letters collected in hard copy to the ISSS office for review. ISSS will add the USCIS forms and checks to the petition, review for completion and accuracy, and file the petition directly with USCIS. Your attorney cannot file the EB-1B petition directly with USCIS and cannot represent UAB/HSF by using Form G-28 (your attorney will know what this means). ISSS must review and file all EB-1B petitions sponsored by UAB and HSF.

  • Does the visa stamp in my passport need to be valid during my stay in the US?

    No, the visa stamp in your passport is only your permission to enter the US. Your USCIS Form I-797 approval notice and most recent Form I-94 are your permission to remain in the US and work for a specific employer through a specific date. See above, question 1 ("What is the difference between my “visa type” and my immigration status?").

  • When will ISSS begin the process of extending my work authorization?

    The earliest ISSS can begin preparing an extension petition is six months before the expiration date on your current Form I-797 approval notice. Your department administrator will receive an automatic reminder at the six-month mark, and ISSS will follow up with you directly when information is needed from you. Extension petitions are rarely filed more than 2-3 months in advance of expiration. Please do not email ISSS for continual updates. You and your department administrator will receive an automated email when ISSS files the extension petition.

  • What happens if my child is born in the US?

    Your child will be a US citizen and receive all benefits and privileges afforded to US citizens. No petitions or paperwork need to be filed with USCIS if you have a US citizen child.

  • What visa/immigration status will my spouse and children born outside the US need?

    H-1B employees’ dependents will hold H-4 status, and O-1 employees’ dependents will hold O-3 status. If your spouse receives a job offer that qualifies for H-1B or O-1 status in its own right, then an employer can file a petition with USCIS for your spouse to obtain work authorization as an H-1B or O-1 employee.

    Remember the distinction between a visa and immigration status in question 1, above. If your dependents are already inside the US in another immigration status (such as F-2, J-2, etc.), they will file their own personal applications to change status to H-4 or O-3 based on UAB/HSF’s H-1B or O-1 petition for you. ISSS can provide a helpful checklist, and your dependents can file their applications online.

    If your dependents are outside of the US and will be coming to the US for the first time along with you, or if they have recently changed immigration status and need to travel outside the US, they can complete Form DS-160 online and complete a visa application by presenting a copy of your official H-1B or O-3 approval notice at their visa interview (or uploaded to embassy/consulate website). Your dependents will need a US visa stamp that matches their current immigration status if they change status within the US and then travel abroad.

    See the Dependents section of our website.

  • My dependent’s I-539 application to change or extend immigration status is taking forever. What can they do?

    Your dependent can always leave the US and apply for a new visa abroad based on your USCIS Form I-797 approval notice. You will not receive a refund from USCIS if your dependent leaves the US while their I-539 application is pending. It is sometimes faster for your dependent to travel abroad and re-enter the US on a new visa stamp as a way to obtain a new immigration status than it is to wait in the US for USCIS to approve a dependent’s application.

  • How do I apply for a US Social Security number (SSN)?

    Employers can generally assign a temporary, employer-specific ID number that will allow you to be entered into various HR and onboarding systems for up to 90 days while you wait for an official SSN.

    However, you MUST follow the steps below and apply for an official SSN as soon as possible after entering the US. It usually takes about 30 days for the card to arrive at your home address via US Mail. When the card arrives, you MUST notify your HR administrator so that important steps can be taken in Oracle and with your Form I-9.

    Due to COVID, the Birmingham Social Security Administration (SSA) office has suspended drop-in/walk-in visits except for limited, "dire need" appointments. You cannot just go to the SSA office. Please follow the steps listed below.

    • Call the SSA at (866) 592-3734 to speak to an SSA officer.
    • Inform the officer that you are international employee and need to apply for an SSN.
    • Inform the officer what type of immigration status you have (i.e., H-1B, O-1, E-3, TN, etc.).
    • Inform the officer what type of immigration documents you can provide (i.e., Form I-797 approval notice for H-1B/O-1/E-3/TN, valid passport, Form I-94).
    • Provide the officer with your contact information as requested.
    • Wait 24-48 hours for the officer to contact you with the time and date for your in-person appointment. If the officer does not contact you within 24-48 hours, call again and repeat the same process listed above.

    On the day of your confirmed in-person appointment, take the relevant documents listed above to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office, located at:

    Social Security Administration
    1200 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. North
    Birmingham, AL 35285

    The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and from 9:00 a.m. until noon on Wednesday. The parking entrance is on 12th Street. When you arrive, take a number from the computer in the lobby and wait for your number to appear on a screen in the waiting room. Bring your documents to the window number on the screen to speak to an SSA officer, who will review and return your documents.

    If your application is accepted, it will take approximately three weeks to receive your Social Security card in the mail. If your application is rejected, ask for a supervisor. If a supervisor is unavailable, call ISSS at (205) 934-3328 and ask the SSA officer to speak with a member of ISSS staff. The SSA officer will not be able to tell you your Social Security number that day. You must wait for the paper card to arrive in the mail.

    During non-COVID operations, you would need to gather the following documents and take them in person to the Social Security office in downtown Birmingham (address above):

    • Valid passport
    • Form I-94 printed from the CBP website
    • Form I-797 approval notice for H-1B/O-1/E-3/TN immigration status
    • Completed Form SS-5 application
    • Offer letter/contract from UAB or HSF
  • Do my dependents born outside the US also need a Social Security number (SSN)?

    Only if they will be employed in the US. As of September 2021, H-4 spouses cannot obtain US work authorization unless the primary H-1B beneficiary has an approved Form I-140 placing them on the path to permanent residence. See above, question 3 ("When can I apply for permanent residence?").

    Instead of an SSN, your dependents can apply for an ITIN for tax purposes so that you can “claim” them as dependents and take a deduction for US tax purposes with the IRS. If you have additional questions, please make an appointment with our Non-Resident Tax Specialist and the information on the IRS web page How do I apply for an ITIN? Your dependent generally must take the same relevant documents outlined above for an SSN application, but instead tell the SSA officer that they need to apply for an “ITIN for tax purposes” instead of an SSN and therefore need a “Social Security denial letter” confirming that they are not eligible for US work authorization.

  • Can my dependents volunteer in the US?

    “Volunteering” is generally only applicable to things like helping at a local animal rescue shelter, feeding the underprivileged at a local food pantry, or picking vegetables for the farmers market (charitable activities for a non-profit organization). Your dependents cannot “volunteer” to do lab work or participate in UAB activities for which a US worker would otherwise be paid. UAB/HSF Human Resources administrators must approve any volunteer appointment at UAB and must contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • How do I apply for an Alabama driver license?

    Please wait until you have received your SSN (see above, question 10, "How do I apply for a US Social Security number (SSN)?") before applying for an Alabama driver license. To learn how to apply and what documents to bring, please visit the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) website and carefully review the list of documents required to apply. The office is located at:

    The office is located at:
    908 Bankhead Highway
    Birmingham, AL 35204

    Phone: (205) 252-7445

    Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. AND 1:00 to 4:00 p,m,

    If your dependents are not eligible for their own Social Security number (SSN) because they do not have US work authorization, they must obtain a “proof of denial” letter from the Social Security Administration in order to apply for a driver license or state non-driver ID. See question 11, above.

  • Can I work part-time for another employer, accept money for speaking at conferences, receive consulting fees from a pharmaceutical or biotech company, or participate in a clinical trial for compensation?

    H-1B, O-1, E-3, and TN employees are authorization to accept compensation ONLY from the employer named on their USCIS approval notice. If you wish to work for another employer, that employer must file its own, separate petition with USCIS on your behalf before you can begin working for them.

    ISSS cannot advise on the immigration or tax consequences of accepting money from entities other than UAB/HSF. If you have questions about accepting money for speaking, consulting, clinical trials, etc. please consult your own, personal immigration attorney and/or a licensed tax professional.


UAB Procedures

  • I am clinical faculty employed by both UAB and HSF. Why did I receive two emails telling me to complete Form I-9, and why do I have two USCIS receipt/approval notices?

    You will receive two separate pay slips each month (one from UAB, another from HSF) and are employed by two separate entities with different tax IDs. Therefore, UAB and HSF each filed their own, separate work authorization petition for you so that you can be paid by both entities. You can use either USCIS approval notice to apply for a visa if you need a new visa stamp after traveling internationally (ISSS recommends using the HSF approval notice, but you can use either one).

    You must pay attention to BOTH emails, complete Form I-9 TWICE with HSF Human Resources, and timely pick up BOTH sets of USCIS documents as instructed in the approval emails you receive from ISSS.

  • I need to travel internationally. What documents do I need to bring?

    It depends on whether you will need to apply for a new visa stamp before re-entering the US, or whether you already have a valid US visa stamp matching your current immigration status. Please review the ISSS travel website.

  • What is an ACT document?

    An ACT document is a process in the Oracle Human Resources database that records information for UAB, such as your date of hire, immigration status, work authorization expiration date, salary, and other details. Your department administrator must submit various ACT documents to complete your hiring process and must update Oracle when you change immigration status. After you complete your Form I-9 as a new hire, your ACT document will continue its routing process, and once the ACT document is approved, you will have access to UAB email, Payroll, and other systems.

  • How do I create a BlazerID?

    Once your ACT document is complete, it will generate an employee ID number, which you can use to create your BlazerID.

  • I am being promoted to a new position. Does my department need to amend my current H-1B petition?

    It depends. H-1B petitions need to be amended only when there is a "material change," such as a salary increase of more than 10%, a substantial change in your job duties, and/or a change in your physical work location outside of Jefferson County. Also, your H-1B petition will need to be amended if you are changing from a postdoc position to a Researcher, Scientist, or Instructor position or from a resident/fellow position to an Instructor or Assistant Professor position. IFSIS will coordinate the amendment process with your department administrator and will let you know if we need any information.