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H-1B Visa Updates

Yesterday the US Department of Labor published an interim final rule in the Federal Register, effective immediately, which changes the method used to calculate the prevailing wage rates for the national wage survey Stanford uses to file H-1B temporary employment visa petitions. This change in effect increases each of the prevailing wage levels by 28 percentile points, resulting in a significant increase in the wages required in order to meet H-1B visa requirements. Many wages which were previously set in the $60-70k range are now in the $90-100k range, which will impact many Stanford departments who regularly sponsor H-1B visas for postdoctoral scholars and research staff. The Bechtel International Center is currently investigating alternative means to determine the prevailing wage, and we will be in contact about individual cases that are affected.

In addition, as part of the new rule the Department of Homeland Security will make changes to the definition of a specialty occupation used in determining whether a given petition meets the standards for an H-1B visa, to come into effect in 60 days (early December). These changes will narrow the definition of a specialty occupation, more stringently requiring the H-1B applicant to have earned a degree in a specific field directly related to the position. This will likely limit the range of Stanford positions that are eligible for H-1B visas, especially among regular staff and information technology roles.

Finally, on October 1 the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act was signed into law. This Act will increase the premium processing fee for H-1B petitions, which shortens the processing time at USCIS to 15 days, from the current $1440 to $2500, as well as make premium processing available to other types of immigration petitions (for applicants to change visa status, apply for work authorization, etc.). This will increase the overall cost of H-1B visas for Stanford department sponsors, but also allows for international scholars and staff who are independently applying for work authorization to greatly speed up the processing of their applications. DHS has not yet released a timeline for the implementation of the new fees.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions and we will be sure to update you on any new developments.


H-1B Employee

H-1B visas are used to accommodate temporary employment in professional occupations. The references to “specialty occupation,” and the additional language used in the H-1 regulations referring to the requirement of a Bachelor’s degree can be misleading. The H-1 program requires employers, when they compile H-1 petitions, to establish a very specific relationship between a job that normally and customarily requires the holder to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and a candidate who has at least a Bachelor’s degree, or its foreign equivalent, IN THE FIELD SPECIFIC TO THE JOB.

There are many staff positions at Stanford that are formally described as needing a Bachelor’s degree “or equivalent education and experience.” If Stanford has the discretion to hire a candidate who does not have a Bachelor’s degree, the job is not H-1 eligible. Likewise, if it’s possible for someone to do the job without a Bachelor’s degree IN THE FIELD specific to the job, the job is not H-1 eligible.

H-1B sponsorship also requires that employers pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher. The prevailing wage is determined from a schedule of occupations published by the US Department of Labor, and is not a Stanford or Bechtel function. Bechtel is not able to determine the prevailing wage until a Workflow transaction and paper documentation has been received at Bechtel. Stanford sets salaries on the basis of internal policies and criteria; occasionally, the prevailing wage is higher than the salary Stanford has calculated as part of the offer of employment. Prevailing wage schedules are updated every July.

Stanford University most commonly uses the H-1B temporary professional worker category for regular academic staff positions such as tenure-track faculty members or research associates. Other regular staff positions such as programmer/analysts and research specialists may also be eligible. Only Bechtel International Center can submit H-1B visa applications on behalf of  Stanford University. Stanford does not sponsor part-time H-1B positions. Individuals who are subject to the two-year home residency requirement  are not eligible for H-1B status unless they have received a waiver or fulfilled the two year home country residency requirement. Prospective employees should direct all questions to their sponsoring department.

Post Docs: In rare circumstances, post-doctoral scholars may be considered for H-1B sponsorship. The J-1 visa is the appropriate visa type for most Stanford postdoctoral scholars. The university prohibits receipt of fellowship support to employment visa holders such as H-1B, O-1, TN. The host department needs to contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs before initiating the H-1B process on behalf of a postdoc.


H-1 regulations impose restrictions on the use of H-1 status by most nonimmigrant physicians with patient care responsibilities over 20% of FTE. Although there are limited exceptions for FMG physicians who have passed all three parts of the Medical Licensing Exams, and USMGs who graduated from a US medical school, significant complicating factors remain for placing physicians off-site. The use of O-1 status is recommended for Stanford clinical faculty. A valid California license or exemption has to accompany H-1 petitions for clinical faculty; which may complicate timing. See the California Medical Board site for information about licensure.

Timeline for Submission of Applications

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) accepts H-1 petitions six months prior to the start date noted on the petition. The use of Premium Processing, which guarantees a response from CIS in fifteen days, normally makes it unnecessary to submit petitions that far in advance. Departments should be aware, however, that CIS can and does suspend the Premium Processing Service, sometimes on very short notice. When this occurs, departments put heavy pressure on Bechtel International Center to submit petitions in very short lead times, and also ask for assistance with expedite requests and other extraordinary measures. Since these suspensions tend to happen in the spring, departments are asked to anticipate, in the fall, the distinct possibility that Premium Processing will be suspended the following spring, and to make plans for requesting H-1s well in advance of spring start dates.

Such lead time is always welcome, but when Premium Processing is available, departments should initiate H-1B procedures at least two months before the employee’s scheduled start date. Proposed start dates less than two months from the point at which Bechtel has a documented transaction are considered emergency applications, and require extensive justification.

Bechtel cannot begin working on the H-1B until we receive an approved workflow transaction, which is initiated by the Stanford department, and complete, up-to-date documentation. Other offices, such as the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs or the Dean of Research, must first approve the transactions. Transactions and approvals can take a week to several weeks. Once we receive it, it can take another two to three weeks for the petition to be prepared and sent to USCIS. USCIS processing time ranges from almost six months with regular processing to about three weeks with premium processing, when it is available.

Departments and other employing units seeking to accelerate Bechtel's schedule for its work on an individual case will be asked to formally explain the factors that created the emergency situation, for consideration by the employment visa team and Bechtel management. Bechtel reserves the right to decline to process a case out of sequence.

The Workflow environment is available in Axess. Representatives of departments and other units filing an employment visa will need authority in the relevant organizational code, and should be familiar with the functions of appointing, hiring and paying the type of employee to be sponsored. After being granted authority to use Workflow, users are strongly encouraged to attend a training session in its use. Training sessions on H-1B workflow for department administrators are offered monthly at Bechtel International Center. 

Appointments or offers of employment must be approved by the relevant authorities before a transaction can be approved.

Length of Stay

An H-1B petition can be approved for an initial period of no more than three years. It can be extended as required but the maximum stay permitted in H-1B status is no more than six years. There is no minimum period. A Stanford H-1 approval may not exceed the term of employment or appointment offered.

New Employees Within the U.S. Changing Status to H-1B or Porting to Stanford: New employees within the U.S. changing status to H-1B or porting (transferring) to Stanford may begin work no earlier than the approved date on the Stanford I-797 and no later than 60 days from the start date on the I-797.

Employees Outside the U.S.: Employees applying for H-1B status from outside the U.S., may not enter the U.S. more than 10 days before the start date on the I-797. Employees who enter in H-1 status must be on payroll no later than 30 days after the start date on the I-797.

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H-1B Petition Process

Information on H-1B visas and timelines for submission

A complete application consists of:

  • Workflow transaction in Axess approved by all required approvers.
  • Paper documentation required for submitting the visa request to the Dept. of Homeland Security. See the checklists for the required documentation.
  • Review the relevant portions of the "Assembly" section of the CIS page with instructions about how to tab, identify and compile evidence under "In preparing your packet."

Need to know the difference between a "new petition" and a "change of status?" What's "consular processing?" See this document to dispel the mystery!

USCIS Fees For H-1 Visa

The Workflow Process in Axess

Workflow provides each approver in the system with the ability to approve, return or deny a transaction. The Workflow sequence is as follows:

  1. Department administrator initiates the visa transaction.
  2. Employee enters biographical, educational and employment history in Axess or through Secure Portal.
  3. Department administrator enters job information details.
  4. The export control questionnaire must be completed by eligible faculty supervisor/HR manager who has completed STARS course DOR-1130.
  5. Depending on the Stanford classification, the request may be routed to Dean of Research/Office of Postdoctoral Affairs/HR Labor Relations/School HRM for approval.
  6. The request may be routed to the Department administrator for final review.
  7. Bechtel International Center reviews the application, prepares the petition and submits it to USCIS.

See detailed instructions about completing Workflow panels.

Bechtel Process and Approval

  • Once the department administrator compiles and delivers the required documentation, Bechtel International Center will review it. If any documentation is missing, the department will be notified by e-mail.
  • We do not review cover letters in advance of receiving the documentation for the H-1 petition at Bechtel.
  • We will create and sign the following documents based on the approved data.
    • Labor Conditions Application (LCA)
    • Prevailing Wage and Actual Wage forms
    • I-129 form
  • The petition will be submitted to USCIS, the workflow request will be approved and the department notified by email.
  • We will notify the department administrator of any subsequent communication with the USCIS including
    • Receipt Notices—Once received, the H-1B petition will be issued a receipt notice by USCIS. Departments can inquire abouta receipt number ten days after submission. This receipt may be used to track the progress of the petition. Please note that premium processing cases are often approved before the receipt is received by the Bechtel International Center.
    • Requests For Evidence—Occasionally USCIS requires additional documentation and the department will be contacted to provide this.
    • Approval Notices—When we receive the  H-1B petition approval, the department is notified that the form is available for pick up along with copies of the I-129 and LCAs filed with the USCIS. The department should make copies of the documents for its own records and give the original I-797 approval notice, the I-129 and LCA forms to the employee.

Checking the Status of a Workflow Request

The department administrator may check the progress of any submitted request. Sign into Axess and select Employee visa requests and see a list of all transactions submitted. Click on the transaction and open the Approval Schedule to see where the transaction is pending. We do not have access to the transaction until it reaches our queue. 

H1B Visa @ Stanford

Responsibilities of the Sponsoring Department for H-1B

Departments seeking to sponsor employees in employment-based nonimmigrant classifications have the following responsibilities:

  • Notify the Bechtel International Center if there are any substantial changes to job duties, hours, title, department or work location of the H-1B employee.
  • Ensure that the employee works only at the location/s specified on the H-1B petition and do not drop below full time (100% FTE).
  • Ensure that the H-1B employee does not engage in clinical research or patient care unless the H-1B petition was approved for such duties. Please see more detailed information regarding physicians.
  • Initiate an H-1B extension, if needed, at least three to six months in advance of the expiration date.
  • Submit a Termination of Employment request in Axess if the H-1B's employment at Stanford ends before the end date of the appointment. The Hiring Department is responsible for the return cost of transportation if the foreign national is dismissed before the end of the period of H-1B status.
  • Ensure the H-1B employee receives no fellowship or other non-salary funding.
  • Remind the employee to notify the USCIS of any change of address within 10 days of moving.
  • Departments should keep a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice, LCA and I-129 form for their records.

H1b stanford

Dependents in the U.S.

For immigration purposes, dependents are the spouse or children of the applicant, who are in the US and who obtained their visa status in the US through their relationship to the applicant.  

Dependent immigration statuses include: H-4, O-3, F-2, J-2, TD.

If the applicant has dependents in the US, in any of these dependent immigration statuses, an application must be filed to change or extend the status of the dependents along with the main application for the employee.

If submitting a dependent application along with the H-1B or O-1 beneficiary's petition, each dependent must submit this signed affidavit to Bechtel with their application.

A dependent application includes:

  1. A completed form I-539 for the first dependent and completed form(s) I-539A for each additional dependent: Download the form and USCIS instructions. See Bechtel International Center instructions to fill out form I-539.  I-539A instructions for each additional dependent can be found here.  
  2. Separate checks payable to US Department of Homeland Security.  See current fees here.  These fees can be paid by the beneficiary or the department.
  3. Color copies of the following documents for each dependent:
    1. Passport validity page plus all US visa stamps
    2. I-94 arrival-departure record: white card stapled in the passport upon entry to US prior to April 30, 2013 (front and back) or print out of electronic I-94 record
    3. All previously issued US immigration documents: I-20 forms, I-797 H-4 approval notices, DS-2019 forms if the dependent was ever in J status
    4. Evidence of each applicant's relationship to the H-1: birth certificate of the dependent children or marriage certificate and proof of termination of any prior marriages
  4. Color copies of the following documents of the H-1B or O-1 beneficiary:
    1. I-94 arrival-departure record: white card stapled in the passport upon entry to US prior to April 30, 2013 (front and back) or print out of electronic I-94 record
    2. Passport validity page
    3. Most current H-1B/O-1 visa stamp (if applicable)
    4. Most current I-797 approval notice (if applicable)
    5. Last 3 months of pay statements

Additional Information About New I-539 Form and Procedures

The I-539 form now requires each dependent, regardless of age, to pay an additional biometric (fingerprints and photographs) fee to set up an appointment at the local USCIS office to have their biometrics taken. USCIS will send a biometrics appointment scheduling letter to the dependent after receiving the I-539, as part of the new biometrics requirement. Although we will continue to include the I-539 with H1B petitions that we submit to USCIS, even if the H1B petition is submitted with Premium Processing, the I-539s are not processed along with the H1B petitions. Since the I-539s require a biometric appointment, they are being separated from the H-1B petitions and face lengthier processing times than the accompanying H1B petition.

Also, please remember that the I-539 applications for the dependents are personal applications that Stanford is not responsible for. We cannot advise on the I-539 or the biometric appointments.

Dependents Outside the U.S.

Dependents who are not in the US are not subject to immigration regulations, and are not affected by these instructions. After the primary applicant has been granted H-1B or TN status, the dependents can use that approval notice to apply for H-4/TD (or other dependent status) at the US consulate in the home country.

More Information

Dependents of H-1B and O-1 employees who have entered the US in H-4 or O-3 status or who have changed to that status from another non-immigrant status may remain in the US until the end date noted on their last I-94 record. If the H-1B or O-1 employee extends his or her H status, the dependents must also extend their status by concurrently submitting a request for an extension. Dependent H-4  and O-3 students are permitted to study in the US but they may not work. H-4 and O-3 status expires for children at the time they reach 21 years old.

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Filing and Other Fees and Checks


  • Basic fee: $460 Fee must be paid by Stanford in the form of a check drawn on the Stanford account
  • Additional Premium Processing: $2,500  May be paid by the department or the beneficiary. However it must be paid by the department if payment by the employee would cause the salary to drop below the prevailing wage. This guarantees a response from USCIS within fifteen calendar days. This fee is in addition to the basic fee. 
  • Anti Fraud Fee (H-1 only): $500 for initial and port (transfer) petitions only If the beneficiary is not currently in H-1B status under Stanford's H-1B sponsorship, the $500 Anti-Fraud fee is required. Fee must be paid by Stanford in the form of a check drawn on the Stanford account. The beneficiary is prohibited by USCIS regulations from paying this fee.
  • Dependents: $370: The $85 biometrics fee has been suspended for H-4 and E-3D dependents until May 2023:, but for the dependents of O-1, that is, O-3 dependents, an additional $85 biometrics fee must accompany Form I-539 and Form I-539A for each dependent.

Checks should be drawn separately, per USCIS policy. Make checks payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As of September 1, 2020, departments and other hiring units will be assessed an institutional fee of $375 for each H petition submitted. This fee is in effect for all new and extension, change of status, consular processing or port requests. No fee will be assessed for amendments that do not include an extension beyond the current stay. No check is required for this fee, which is collected by entry of a PTA in Workflow. Please note that a 50% refund can be requested for H petitions received by Bechtel but cancelled before a Labor Condition Application was filed. No refund of the institutional fee will be provided for H petitions for which a Labor Condition Application has been submitted.

Checks are not necessary for E-3 or TN applicants who are applying in their home country or elsewhere outside the US.


Department of Homeland Security is a vendor in Expense Requests. The address for H-1 and O-1 petitions is:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
California Service Center
24000 Avila Road Room 2312
Laguna Niguel CA 92677

The address for TN and E-3 submissions is:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
38 River Road
Essex Junction, VT 05479-0001

Address for TN/E-3 Premium Processing is different:

Premium Processing Service
USCIS Vermont Service Center
30 River Road
Essex Junction, VT 05452-3808

Do not send checks directly to USCIS.


You will also like:

H-1B Document Checklist

Employee name: 

Dept. Contact name:

Dept.  Contact phone and email:

Type of Request (mark one)

_ Initial H-1B - Consular processing
_ Initial H-1B - Change of Status to H-1B within U.S.
_ Extension of current Stanford sponsored H-1B status, Consular processing
_ Extension of current Stanford sponsored H-1B status, within U.S.
_ Transfer of H-1B status from a different H-1B sponsor to Stanford (port)
_ Amendment of current H-1B status

Please use the links on the following checklist to compile two sets of single-sided documents (an original and a copy), no staples, in the order presented below.

Print this checklist and check off each item to confirm documentation. Attach the checklist on top of the two sets of documents and bring them to Bechtel International Center.

The two sets of documents must include:

_ Cover letter
_ Licensure (for physicians only; those with > 20% FTE patient care must hold an MD from a US medical school or have passed all three parts of the US MLEs)
_ Evidence of waiver or fulfillment of two year home residency requirement 212(e) if employee has ever been in J status and was subject to the two year home residency requirement.
_ Copy of most recent I-94 record.* Provide copy of I-94 reflecting most recent entry into US. If most recent entry was after March 2013, H1b beneficiary should print it from CBP database. (Other I-94s attached to Form I-797 should be included with immigration history documents.)
_ Payroll history* (3 months most recent pay statements in reverse chronological order. Additional optional items for those in F-1 OPT status.)
_ Employee's CV
_ Educational credentials (Diploma and Diploma evaluation if degree was earned outside the US)
_ Job offer/Re-appointment letter
_ Complete immigration history (in this order: passport pages with biographical info as well as visa and entry/exit stamps; current and previous immigration documents in reverse chronological order)

_ Dependent documents
_ Mailing labels
_ Checks
_ Affidavit signed by employee's supervisor

_ Waiver of Liability-Form I-129 signed by employee 

*These items are not required for petitions filed for employees outside the US who will apply for a visa abroad and enter in H-1B status.


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