H-1B status is designated for internationals employed in "specialty occupations" which require highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. An initial request for H-1B status may not exceed three years; it can be extended to a maximum of six years. If your department later decides to sponsor you for immigrant worker status (i.e., file an I-140 petition for you), in some instances your H-1B status may be extended in one-year increments beyond six years until you can apply to become a permanent resident.

There are two phases in the H-1B petition process: the LCA and the petition itself. To begin the process, the department and the beneficiary must complete and send to ISSS all documents in the H-1B Packet.

New Hires Extensions
New Hire Packet - Clinical Extension Packet - Clinical
New Hire Packet - Non-Clinical Extension Packet - Non-Clinical

Phase I: Labor Condition Application (LCA)

UAB must first file a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor (DOL). An LCA states the wage that will be paid to the H-1B employee and certifies that it is both equal to or above the prevailing wage for the position and no less than the employer is paying similarly-employed US employees. ISSS will review the job description and work with the UAB department to determine the appropriate skill level for the position, then consult the FLC Data Center for a wage determination. The LCA must be posted in two “conspicuous locations” (e.g., a break room or where employment regulations are posted) at the place of employment for 10 consecutive business days before ISSS can submit it to the DOL for certification (an electronic process which can take 7-10 days). The LCA must be certified before ISSS can file the H-1B petition.

Phase II: The H-1B Petition

Petitions for H-1B status may be filed no sooner than six months before the intended employment begins, or before the current end date if an extension. An initial petition for H-1B status can be approved for up to three years. H-1B status can be extended for up to three more years for a total time in H-1B status of six years. In certain instances, H-1B status can be extended beyond six years in one-year increments if the employee is the beneficiary of an I-140 petition to begin the path to permanent residence.

Additional Considerations for Clinical Employment

Alabama Board of Medical Examiners Rule 540-X-3-.04 requires individuals to pass Steps 1, 2, AND 3 of the USMLE before they can apply for a “certificate of qualification” (i.e., a license to practice medicine in Alabama). Steps 1, 2, and 3 must all be passed within a seven-year period, and you cannot attempt Step 3 more than three times. Similarly, the H-1B regulations found at 8 C.F.R. 212.2(h)(4)(viii) require UAB to submit evidence that the international medical graduate has a license or other authorization required by the state of intended employment to practice medicine. Taken together, the ABME and H-1B regulations require individuals sponsored for H-1B employment with UAB to have passed all three steps of the USMLE.

As stated by the UAB School of Medicine, “[a]ll residents (graduates of American and international medical schools) must apply for and obtain an unrestricted Alabama license to practice medicine when they meet the minimum postgraduate training requirements stipulated by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. In addition, residents who are graduates of international medical schools must apply for and obtain a limited Alabama license no later than 18 months from the start of postgraduate training (PGY 1) and this limited license must be maintained until an unrestricted Alabama license is obtained, or they complete the program, whichever occurs first.” Please see Alabama Medical License section of the School of Medicine website. These criteria are reiterated on pages 11-12 and 25-26 of the Graduate Medical Education Policies and Procedures Manual.

Concurrent H-1B Employment with UAB and UAHSF

Some UAB faculty in the School of Medicine have an additional clinical appointment with the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation (UAHSF). In this instance, our office files two separate H-1B petitions—one in the name of UAB and the other in the name of UAHSF.

Cost and Time Considerations

All new and change of status H-1B petitions require USCIS filing fees of $960. H-1B extension petitions require a USCIS filing fee of $460. Departments can request "Premium Processing" for an additional $1,410 fee asking USCIS to adjudicate (i.e., approve, deny, or issue a request for evidence on) the petition within 15 calendar days.

We strive to file H-1B petitions for new hires or changes of status within 6 weeks and H-1B extensions within 30 days of receiving all necessary documentation from both the department and beneficiary. It takes a very bare minimum of 7 business days for the Department of Labor to approve its part of the process electronically before we can file the petition with USCIS. Petitions must also be routed for HR signature before filing. We use departmental UPS accounts to ship the petition to the USCIS California Service Center. All School of Medicine petitions are premium processed, meaning that USCIS will adjudicate the petition within 15 calendar days. Without premium processing, USCIS adjudication takes over 8 months. We include a return UPS envelope when a hard copy approval notice is needed quickly. Otherwise, it takes around 7 business days for an approval notice to make its way from California via the US Postal Service and the UAB mail system to our office.