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  • 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 IFSIS to enroll in classes. Please email UAB International Admissions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for questions about enrolling in UAB programs.

  • 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).

  • I have an advance parole card and would prefer not to have to apply for an H-1B visa again when I travel. Can I just return to the US using my card?

    Yes, but you will no longer have H-1B status and the department will have to pay new USCIS filing fees to “reactivate” your underlying H-1B status. While employers are not strictly required to do this, it is university practice to keep employees’ underlying H-1B status active until a green card is received. UAB departments/divisions are not required to support reactivating H-1B status, so you and your supervisor must discuss whether you are comfortable remaining in the US after you return on advance parole solely as an adjustment of status applicant without underlying H-1B. In the (extremely unlikely) event your green card is ultimately denied, you would have to depart the US immediately if your underlying H-1B status was not still valid (and at that point UAB would then have to file an H-1B petition to bring you back).

  • 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 IFSIS 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 IFSIS 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. Please consult the IFSIS permanent residence webpage for details.

  • 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 or HSF.

    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), the attorney is welcome to prepare support letters. However, the attorney cannot draft Forms I-140 and/or I-907 for signature. IFSIS 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 IFSIS office for review. IFSIS 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 by using Form G-28 (your attorney will know what this means). IFSIS must review and file all EB-1B petitions sponsored by UAB.

  • 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 IFSIS begin the process of extending my work authorization?

    The earliest IFSIS 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 from our LawLogix Edge database at the six-month mark, and IFSIS will follow up later with you directly when it is time for you to upload documents to the Edge portal. Extension petitions are rarely filed more than 2-3 months in advance of expiration. Please do not email IFSIS for continual updates. You and your department administrator will receive an automated email when IFSIS 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 separate 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. IFSIS can provide a helpful checklist, and your dependents can file their applications online. However, IFSIS cannot advise on how to complete and file Form I-539 applications for dependents.

    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 a dependent to travel abroad and re-enter the US on a new visa to obtain a new immigration status than it is to wait inside the US for USCIS to approve the I-539 application. IFSIS cannot advise on dependent travel and I-539 issues and encourages you to consult your own immigration attorney with any family-based immigration questions.

  • 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 IFSIS at (205) 934-3328 and ask the SSA officer to speak with a member of IFSIS 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 July 2022, 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 UAB's International Payment Compliance Specialist' and read 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.

    IFSIS cannot advise on SSN applications. Please direct questions concerning the SSN application process to UAB's International Payment Compliance Specialist by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..'

  • Can my dependents volunteer in the US?

    “Volunteering” generally encompasses only activities like helping at a local animal rescue shelter, serving 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's Office of International Education must pre-approve any volunteer appointment at UAB. Your department administrator should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. for pre-approval before allowing any volunteer appointments or activities.

  • 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.

    IFSIS 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.

  • I am considering a promotion, but I am about to file my I-485 application (or my I-485 application is already pending). Should I take the promotion?

    The decision is entirely up to you. IFSIS cannot predict how or if any given job change will affect the I-485 process. Generally, there is no issue with the I-485 when the underlying job duties/area of research remains demonstrably the same as the job for which the I-140 was approved. It generally does not matter if you just change labs, change PIs, or receive a standard salary increase. Remember, USCIS will require your employer to provide a Form I-485 Supplement J verifying that you still intend to take the job approved in your I-140. IFSIS cannot advise further on this matter. Please feel free to consult an immigration attorney if you have additional questions.


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 (IFSIS recommends using the approval notice for the employer that pays the majority of your salary, 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 the LawLogix Edge database.

  • 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 IFSIS 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. Please direct all questions about ACT documents and the hiring/onboarding process to your department administrator, as IFSIS is not involved with Oracle.

  • 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. Please consult your department administrator about this process, as IFSIS cannot assist with creating BlazerIDs.

  • 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. The amended petition must be filed with USCIS before the material change goes into effect.

  • I'm a physician and have been offered an opportunity to moonlight. Can I do it?

    Possibly. You first must submit a signed contract for moonlighting to your administrator, and you may also need to complete an external activity form. Your administrator can provide more information.

    If you are in H-1B status, you must email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that we can take the appropriate steps, including posting new notices for ten days at your moonlighting locations before you can begin working, if in the same metro area as approved on the current LCA filed on your behalf; we must file an amended petition with USCIS at your department's expense if the moonlighting location will be outside the county/metro area approved on the current LCA.

    If you are a resident or fellow in J-1 status: ECFMG expressly forbids moonlighting unless it can be objectively demonstrated that the additional work comprises an integral and required part of your codified training program. Moonlighting is not authorized simply for additional work done outside of what is required for the training program. ECFMG’s statement is here: https://www.ecfmg.org/evsp/evspemot.pdf. It is extremely unlikely that moonlighting would ever be authorized for a J-1 physician.

  • My extension wasn't premium processed, and I want to travel for personal reasons to visit family and friends, attend a wedding, or get married. Will UAB pay the premium processing fee for me?

    UAB departments are responsible for premium processing fees for extension petitions generally only when it is a business necessity in order to guarantee your continued work authorization by a certain date. Premium processing is not always required as a business expense. If you wish to have the extension petition premium processed for your personal international travel needs/wishes, be prepared to pay the $2,500 fee yourself in certain circumstances. IFSIS will not recommend that departments pay the premium processing fee for purely personal, non-business related travel matters.

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