Hiring and Paying Foreign Nationals (APPENDIX) | Policies

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Hiring and Paying Foreign Nationals (APPENDIX)

Appendix to Policy on hiring and paying foreign nationals.

Owner: General Counsel

As set out in the memorandum “Guidance on Hiring and Paying Foreign Nationals at Teachers College,” TC is required to comply with federal regulations regarding the employment status of all Teachers College employees and appointees.  Each employee or holder of an academic appointment must be legally authorized to work at Teachers College before doing any work at Teachers College.  

In order to ensure compliance with all federal immigration and employment requirements, the College has established policies and procedures to be followed for TC-sponsored immigrant and non-immigrant employment petitions. No attorney or other individual may file an employment-based visa or immigration petition on behalf of the College without the prior written approval of the General Counsel.  Any employment-related petition that has not been processed in compliance with this policy is subject to withdrawal.



(A) J-1 Exchange Visitor (Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar or Professor category)

J-1 status is the most frequently used visa classification for international academic visitors. Teachers College is authorized by the US Department of State to sponsor scholars for academic level research and teaching. Other organizations, such as Fulbright, may also act as visa sponsor for these individuals.

  • J-1 “Research Scholar” is the most commonly used category for TC Visiting Scholars, who are hosted by TC faculty, engage in their own or collaborative research, and are receiving no compensation from TC.  The minimum stay is three weeks and the maximum is five years.  The TC Visiting Scholar policy generally grants privileges for up to one year, with extensions possible.  The complete policy can be found at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/policylibrary/vice-provost/visiting-scholars/ 


  • J-1 “Short-term Scholar” category may be used for Visiting Scholars or Visiting Professors who will spend no longer than six months in the US.  There is no minimum duration of stay.


  • J-1 “Professor” category is generally used for Visiting Professors.  It may also be used for a full-time faculty member with a non-tenure track teaching appointment at the College.

All J-1 Exchange Visitors (and their J-2 dependents) must maintain medical insurance that meets US Department of State (DoS) requirements throughout their stay in the US. In addition, they must abide by DoS regulations related to notifications to sponsor, employment and pursuit of program objective. Information regarding J-1 regulations will be provided by the Office of International Services.  The Office of International Student Services is responsible for maintenance of records, SEVIS reporting and employment authorizations for all J-1 Exchange Visitors sponsored by Teachers College.  All J-1 Exchange Visitors must register with the Office of International Services.


(B) H-1B Visa for Workers in Specialty Occupations

 H-1B visa status is a nonimmigrant category. Those eligible include professionals in “specialty occupations” who will work at Teachers College (i.e., faculty, researchers and full-time professional staff whose position requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specific field).  Obtaining an H-1B visa/status for faculty members and for other positions requiring advanced degrees is relatively straightforward. It can be more difficult or impossible to obtain an H-1B visa for an individual who will be doing less specialized work. 

  • Only the Office of the General Counsel may submit petitions to the USCIS for H-1B status for a current or prospective TC employee.


  • Petitions for H-1B visa/status will be submitted only upon the approval of the Provost or responsible Vice President.


  • The Office of the Provost pays filing,  processing and outside counsel fees for tenured and tenure-track faculty members.   The sponsoring department is responsible for H-1B petition filing, processing and outside counsel fees as well as premium processing, if required, for instructional and professional staff. 


  • H-1B status for a part-time faculty or a part-time professional staff position will be supported only in exceptional situations, as determined by the Vice Provost or responsible Vice President.  The sponsoring department is responsible for ensuring that records of hours worked required by the US Department of Labor and the USCIS are submitted to the Office of General Counsel.  


  • H-1B petitions will be supported for grant-funded positions only if three years of funding has been obtained.


  • The College will not support H-1B status for any interim or temporary employee position. 


  • H-1B status may be approved for a total of six years: up to a three-year initial period and up to a three-year extension.  The six-year limit is inclusive of all employment authorized under H-1B status, whether at TC or at other institutions. (For this reason, individuals eligible to work in J-1 or F1(OPT) status are best served by using that status rather than an H-1B.)


  • A substantial change in an H-1B position (e.g. location, salary, job description) requires an amended petition; therefore, the Office of the General Counsel must be informed whenever the job description of an H-1B employee is revised.

Ample lead time is critical.  All required documents must be submitted at least five months in advance of the anticipated start date.  Necessary forms and detailed instructions will be provided by the Office of the General Counsel.  “Premium Processing,” which guarantees USCIS adjudication within two weeks of submitting the petition and thus decreases total processing time, is available for an additional fee (currently $2,500).

TC employment may begin only after the USCIS has approved H-1B status for the particular worker, unless the worker is already in the US in a valid status that includes employment authorization (e.g., F-1 optional practical training).  H-1B status is job and employer specific.  An individual who holds valid H-1B status for employment elsewhere may not work at Teachers College unless and until TC files a separate H-1B petition.  Under “portability” provisions, an individual currently employed elsewhere on an H1-B visa maybe eligible to begin work once TC files the petition with USCIS, but this depends on the particular situation and authorization is ultimately dependent on an approved petition. Consult with the Office of General Counsel if portability provisions may be relevant to a particular prospective employee.

(C) TN and E visas for Residents of Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Canadian and Mexican residents arriving at Teachers College on TN visas and Australian residents arriving on E visas should immediately visit to the Office of Human Resources to ensure that all necessary documents are completed. Office of the General Counsel will prepare supporting documents for these visa categories.  For more information please contact Viktoria Potapova at potapova@tc.edu or X6637.

(D) Categories Not Eligible or Restricted for Employment

Individuals in most non-immigrant visa categories are not eligible for employment or payment, unless and until they obtain a different classification that permits affiliation/employment with the College,    Visa categories that are generally not eligible for employment or payment include, but are not limited to B-1/B-2 or WB/WT(visitor for business  or pleasure), F-2(spouse or children of F-1 students), H-4(spouse or children of H-1B, H-2, or H-3), L-2 (spouse or children of L-1), TD(spouse or children of TN), O-3(spouse or children of O-1),  and R-1 (religious worker).


In addition, foreign nationals who are in certain visa categories (including A, E, G, H, O and L) which permit work for specific employers or institutions, may work only for those employers/sponsors and may not be lawfully employed by the College. 

Individuals traveling on B-1 visa or WB visa waiver may be paid honoraria and associated travel expenses for traditional academic work (such as giving lectures or participating in symposia) if they meet certain requirements. Among other requirements, they must work at TC for no more than 9 days and must not have been paid more than five times during the prior six months for similar work anywhere in the U.S.  Departments wishing to invite international scholars to TC should contact the Office of the General Counsel well in advance to ensure that proper procedures are followed.  A form for use in such situations can be found at Honoraria for Foreign Individuals TC must withhold taxes on honoraria but not travel expenses for such visitors unless they have obtained social security or tax-identification (TIN) and completed an IRS form 8233. 

Certain non-immigrants, such as J-2 and G-4 dependents, may be eligible to apply for temporary employment authorization from the USCIS. Such authorization is granted through the issuance of an I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Non-immigrants with EAD cards may accept employment at the College, but only for the dates indicated on the EAD card.


F-1 or J-1 students at TC are generally not eligible to continue current on-campus employment at TC upon completion of studies.  They may continue or accept employment only if authorized by the USCIS (in the case of F-1 students) for Optional Practical Training (OPT), or by the student’s J-1 sponsor for Academic Training (AT).  To apply for OPT or AT, please contact OIS to obtain detailed information and an application. Employment under OPT or AT is restricted to academic, research, or other professional training integral to the student’s original degree objectives and may not commence until OIS has ensured eligibility. 



International employees and their hiring departments must coordinate with the Office of the Vice Provost if they wish to pursue employment-based routes to US permanent residency (a “green card”). Obtaining a green card for a tenured or tenure-track faculty member is time-consuming but generally possible.   It is far more difficult to obtain a green card for other employees; the process is expensive, typically takes several years, and is often unsuccessful. An applicant for permanent residency is not obligated to remain at the College through or after the green card process.  As a general rule, TC will file a permanent residency petition (I-140) for tenured and tenure-track faculty, but will not file such petitions for other employees.

  • TC will pursue permanent residency for a tenured or tenure-track faculty member upon the approval of the department chair and the Provost.  A request to pursue permanent residency for any other employee must be approved by the department head and the responsible Vice-President after consultation with the General Counsel.   


  • All employment-based permanent residency requests must be routed through the Office of the General Counsel.  Individual employees and hiring departments may not work independently with an outside attorney.


  • Employees in temporary or grant-funded positions are not eligible for an employment-based petition for permanent residency.


  • These procedures must be followed.


  • The department or office proposing to seek permanent resident status must first determine whether the Provost or responsible Vice President is willing to support the petition.  Applying for permanent residency is time-consuming and expensive, with government and attorneys fees typically totaling $10,000 or more.


  •  If the Vice Provost or responsible Vice President is prepared to support an application for permanent residency, the Office of the General Counsel will determine whether the position meets the minimum DHS/USCIS and College requirements for sponsorship.  If the position meets these requirements, the Office of the General Counsel will prepare the petition, retaining outside counsel as appropriate.


  •  All documentation in support of a petition for permanent residency must reside with the Office of the General Counsel for a period of five years from the date of filing the petition.


  • Teachers College hiring department or Office of Vice Provost pays most of the costs and fees associated with the permanent residency petition, but the employee may be responsible for additional legal and governmental fees, including those associated with family members.   Please consult the Office of General Counsel for details.


  •   Certain petitions require an initial Labor Certification from the US Department of Labor.  Requirements for these positions include advertising in a national print publication; electronic advertisements are insufficient.    Please consult the Office of General Counsel for details.



Immigration restrictions are subject to change through legislation, regulation and interpretation. More detailed, up to date information on many immigration matters can be obtained from the Office of International Student Services website and sites to which it links.  More detailed information regarding H1-B visas and petitions for permanent residency may be obtained from the Office of General Counsel.   Employment-based petitions are time-consuming and complex.  Departments are urged to contact the Office of General Counsel at least five months in advance of the expected arrival of any foreign national prospective faculty or staff member and earlier whenever possible.


Effective Date: January 2011

Last updated:  August 2, 2017

Last edited: February 7, 2019

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