What appears below is an excerpt from the MIT Personnel Policy Manual. This section pertains to the appointment and employment of foreign nationals.
MIT must comply with federal regulations regarding the employment of foreign nationals (non-United States citizens and non-permanent residents). It is important to ensure that each foreign national employed or on academic appointment at MIT either has an immigration status that permits the affiliation or has been granted appropriate permission by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Forms I-9 are completed for foreign nationals on paid appointments.
"Volunteering" for academic and research staff positions is not permitted at the Institute. Individuals in positions that would normally be compensated must be compensated.
The International Scholars Office (ISchO) has been designated by the Institute to handle applications and information regarding visas for foreign academic staff and sponsored research staff. ISchO is MIT's liaison with immigration authorities regarding this population. The International Students Office offers similar services for international students. ISchO is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to offer J-1 visa sponsorship in certain specific categories. ISchO is the only authorized petitioner to USCIS for H-1B, E-3, TN, O-1 visas, and permanent residency based on MIT employment. Such applications may not be filed by attorneys or agents on behalf of MIT.
Immigration regulations, legislation, and interpretations are constantly changing. More detailed, up-to-date information on immigration matters can be obtained from ISchO. Hiring foreign nationals and bringing them to MIT in a timely manner requires specialized advice and preparation. ISchO has a primary liaison in each department, laboratory and center (DLC), typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer. Inquiries and requests for appointment and visa sponsorship should be channeled through that person. Together, ISchO and the DLC liaisons work to process visas and appointments in a smooth and timely manner. Occasionally, sponsorship of a particular scholar is not possible, or an appointment start date must be delayed to allow for government agency processing of visa documents. DLC staff are urged to contact ISchO as many months as possible in advance of the desired appointment date.
MIT provides visa sponsorship for academic and research staff appointments only, as described in detail in the sections that follow. The Institute does not provide employment-based visa sponsorship or non-student exchange visitor visa sponsorship for the following: students, administrators, managers, technical staff, library staff or support staff; individuals with inadequate funding, insurance, or credentials; those whose particular visa history precludes sponsorship; individuals seeking internship training.
The arrival and departure of international scholars must be reported to the International Scholars Office (ISchO) in order to comply with federal regulations and maintain accurate records. All new scholars should "check in" at ISchO upon arrival at MIT. Scholars should bring their passports and other visa documents to complete the required registration process. ISchO offers weekly orientation sessions for new international scholars. Information about the next orientation session will be given to the scholar when checking in. The orientation includes information helpful in the "settling-in" process and important information on visa requirements, health insurance, tax obligations, and MIT resources for scholars and families. If a scholar cannot attend orientation, ISchO should be notified immediately.
ISchO notifies departments, laboratories, and center (DLC) headquarters four to six months in advance of the scholar's appointment or visa status end date, whichever comes first. If headquarters indicates that a scholar's stay will be extended, ISchO provides relevant instructions for extension of immigration status.
DLCs are required to notify ISchO when a scholar completes his/her appointment earlier than expected, in order for ISchO to notify the appropriate government agency.
Per Chapter 8 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, individuals in the following nonimmigrant categories, among others, are not eligible for MIT appointment, employment, or payment under any circumstances. MIT appointment, employment, or payment is not permitted unless/until the individual obtains an immigration status permitting such affiliation under the law.
Individuals in derivative immigration status ("dependents" of the principal visa holder, such as J-2, E-2, L-2, G-2, G-3, G-4, A-2, etc.) may have official affiliations with MIT and may be placed on academic appointment only if USCIS work authorization is granted, regardless of whether the appointment will be compensated.
The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) is administered by the United States Department of State (DOS), which designates MIT to sponsor scholars in particular categories for academic level research and teaching. The J-1 is the most frequently used visa classification for international academic visitors. Other international organizations and foundations, such as the Fulbright Commission, may also act as visa sponsors. All J-1 scholars on MIT appointment must register at ISchO, regardless of visa sponsor.
"Research Scholar" is the most commonly used J-1 category for MIT scholars. The maximum stay in the United States in J-1 status in the "Research Scholar" or "Professor" category is five years, under certain conditions. The "Short-term Scholar" category is used for short-term visitors whose stay will not exceed six months and is well suited to visitors who may come and go periodically to MIT.
All scholars under MIT's J-1 sponsorship must be on an MIT appointment. Individuals in the J-1 Trainee and intern categories sponsored by the Fulbright program, Cultural Vistas, DAAD, or other (non-employer) organizations may be placed on MIT appointment during internships or other practical experiences because these J-1 programs are specifically for the purposes of training.
Per U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations, all J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must have health insurance for the duration of their stays in the United States that meets DOS specifications. Details are available from ISchO and are provided to all MIT J-1 scholars in advance of and upon their arrival in the United States. Non-compliance with the health insurance requirement may lead to termination of participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.
J-1 sponsorship through the MIT International Scholars Office is appropriate for postgraduates and professionals coming to MIT temporarily to engage in teaching or research. Non tenure-track teaching positions and certain other academic and research staff positions may qualify. Typical titles are Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Fellow, Visiting Scientist, Visiting Scholar, and Visiting Professor. Indefinite research staff and tenure-track faculty cannot be sponsored for J-1 visas.
Scholars and accompanying family members must have adequate financial support to meet MIT’s minimum funding levels. Funding guidelines for postdoctoral positions are determined by the Vice President for Research. Information on all funding requirements for international visitors can be obtained from ISchO.
Note that a prospective scholar who is currently a graduate student elsewhere (and who will not have completed the degree prior to the start of the MIT appointment) is not eligible for sponsorship in a “scholar” category through ISchO
A J-1 Exchange Visitor requires the immigration document Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) in order to obtain a visa. In the case of MIT sponsorship, this process is initiated by ISchO's primary liaison in the hosting department, laboratory or center (DLC), typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer. The authorized administrator requests Forms DS-2019 from ISchO. Timing and other details are available on ISchO's web site.
An applicant who is outside the United States must then receive the document and present it to an American Consulate to request a visa stamp before traveling to the United States. The availability of visa appointments varies considerably at U.S. Consulates around the world. Securing an entry visa can take from several weeks to several months. Denial is also possible. Transfer of J-1 sponsorship from another institution to MIT is generally possible within authorized timeframes. If the scholar is in the United States and requires a change to J-1 status, USCIS approval of the application is required before an MIT appointment or employment is authorized; this is a lengthy process.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), mandated by federal regulation, is a government tracking system that allows various agencies of the United States government to see up-to-date information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status and their accompanying family members. ISchO must enter data into this system in order to issue visa eligibility documents for current or prospective J-1 scholars and their dependents. Regulations require international scholars and family members to register with ISchO within 30 days of arrival. ISchO must report qualifying events in SEVIS pertaining to J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents including registration, delayed arrival, non-arrival, departure, current address, and any change in dates of affiliation, title, department, financial support, visa type, sponsor or employer. For more information, consult the ISchO web site or an ISchO advisor.
Participation in a J-1 Exchange Visitor program in the Research Scholar or Professor category may be possible for up to five years, depending upon the circumstances. If the department is certain of a full three-year appointment with firm funding at the outset, Form DS-2019 may be prepared for this period. If not, it may be prepared for a shorter period with later extensions. J-1 status in the Short-term Scholar category may be obtained for up to six months, maximum.
Exchange Visitors at MIT are limited by government regulations to employment and affiliation at MIT only. Occasional lecturing or consulting at other institutions may be allowed, under limited circumstances, per U.S. Department of State regulations. Exchange visitors should discuss any offers to do outside activity with an ISchO advisor and obtain authorization before engaging in such activity.
J-1 scholars may receive financial support from a variety of sources: MIT, United States government agencies, the scholar's government, international organizations, Fulbright grant, other organizations (e.g. sabbatical support from their own university), or personal funds. Scholars must enter the United States in J-1 visa status or receive USCIS approval of J-1 status before they are authorized to receive payment or an MIT appointment. They are not permitted to work elsewhere unless authorized to do so by their Exchange Visitor Program sponsor.
Spouses and children who hold J-2 visas are usually able to apply for permission to work from USCIS. Instructions are available on the ISchO website. Once it is granted J-2 dependents may work anywhere at any level in the United States. USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small laminated photo ID card, as proof of employability. J-2 dependents must have employment authorization in order to be placed on MIT academic or research staff appointment (whether paid or unpaid) and must register at ISchO.
Some J-1 exchange visitors are required by law to return to their home countries for two years before being for H or L nonimmigrant visa classification or an immigrant visa (U.S. permanent residence). This law is the result of agreements between the student or scholar's home government and the US government. A foreign national can become subject to this requirement by accepting funding from a U.S. or foreign government agency, such as the Medical Research Council of Canada, an international organization such as NATO or the European Molecular Biology Organization, or a commission such as the Fulbright Commission or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. In some cases, the home government and U.S. government will waive the requirement through an established application process. However, depending on the circumstances, waivers can be difficult and sometimes impossible to obtain. Those who have questions regarding the residence requirement should consult with an advisor in the International Scholars Office.
H-1B visa status is a temporary, nonimmigrant category. Those eligible include professionals in specialty occupations who will work at MIT. A "specialty occupation" is an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. ISchO is the only petitioner to USCIS for H-1B status based on MIT employment. Outside attorneys and agents are not authorized to do this work. All H-1Bs on appointment at MIT must register at ISchO.
MIT sponsorship for H-1B status may be available to salaried employees on the (1) academic staff; and (2) sponsored research staff at the Postdoctoral Associate level and above. H-1B status is often the most appropriate status for incoming tenure-track faculty. Among those who do not qualify for MIT sponsorship are affiliates (non-employees such as postdoctoral fellows and research fellows), persons on "visiting," administrative, technical, library, management, or support staff appointments, individuals who are solely supported by personal or outside funds, and individuals subject to the J-1 two-year foreign residence requirement.
In all cases involving a prospective faculty member, and in any other case in which H-1B status is under consideration for a current or prospective employee, ample lead-time is critical. Because H-1B processing involves three steps with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the authorized DLC administrator should discuss the case and submit intake information to an ISchO advisor at least four to six months in advance of the anticipated start date. If the ISchO confirms that H-1B status is appropriate, the DLC administrator and international scholar will be provided with a detailed checklist regarding the required procedure and documentation. ISchO completes the application and files the appropriate materials with the Department of Labor and USCIS. The international scholar may begin employment when ISchO notifies the DLC that the petition has been approved.
H-1B status may be approved for a total of six years: an initial period of one to three years and extensions for one to three years. The six-year limit remains in effect regardless of changes in employer. An H-1B scholar sponsored and appointed by MIT must be paid by MIT. In all cases, funding levels must meet U.S. Department of Labor prevailing wage guidelines.
An H-1B petition is employer-specific such that only the petitioner(s) may employ the individual. If an individual is in H-1B status for employment elsewhere, that individual is authorized for MIT employment only if MIT also files an H-1B petition. MIT H-1B scholars may be reimbursed for travel and expenses by an outside institution, but may not receive honoraria or other compensation.
The spouse and children of an H-1B are usually granted H-4 visa status. Regulations do not allow H-4s to work. It is possible for an individual in H-4 status to attend school.
The B-1 visa classification may be used by a scholar coming to the United States for a temporary stay (generally up to six months) to participate in scientific, educational, or professional collaboration, business conventions or conferences, or to undertake independent research. B-1 visa holders are prohibited from engaging in paid employment. The foreign national must apply for a B-1 visa at an American consulate abroad and should present a letter of invitation from the MIT faculty host. The authorized DLC administrator should contact ISchO for advice on the appropriateness of this classification for a given scholar and for instructions for the letter of invitation and related procedures. B-1s placed on MIT appointment must register at ISchO upon arrival. If a scholar comes from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, the scholar may enter the United States in "WB" status (similar to B-1 status) without getting a visa stamp from an American consulate. Administrators may consult the ISchO website for details.
In general, a B-1 or "WB" visitor may not receive a salary or income from a U.S- based institution or entity, but may receive provision for expenses incidental to the visit, such as a subsistence allowance or reimbursement for travel and daily living expenses. Under certain restrictive circumstances, the regulations may permit honoraria to be paid for visits of fewer than nine days. Please contact ISchO for details.
Visitors in B-2 or "WT" tourist status (as noted on the admission stamp in the passport or I-94 arrival record) are not permitted to hold formal affiliations at MIT.
An international student who will complete a degree at a university in the United States may be eligible to apply for a period of training and employment authorization in the field of study immediately upon degree completion. An F-1 student may be eligible for a 12 month period of "practical training," with possible extension if the degree was in a STEM field. A J-1 student may be eligible for 18 months of "academic training,” with possible extension if the student completed a doctorate and will do postdoctoral research. Upon completion of practical or academic training, it may be possible to apply to USCIS for change of status, to H-1B or J-1 scholar, for continued employment.
F-1 and J-1 students may apply for practical or academic training in advance of receiving their degrees through the international students office at their university. MIT DLCs should urge prospective practical or academic trainees to apply for this permission well in advance of the proposed start of MIT appointment or employment. USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small laminated card, as proof of employment eligibility to F-1 practical trainees. J-1s do not need EADs but should possess evidence of academic training authorization with a valid Form DS-2019 and employment letter. F-1 and J-1 students on practical and academic training who hold MIT academic or research staff appointments must register at ISchO upon arrival. See Section A above, for information on J-2 dependents and the two-year foreign residence requirement for J-1 visa holders.
Practical and academic trainees may be paid a salary by MIT, receive a fellowship from an outside organization, or receive funding from other sources. Details should be sought from the institution that sponsored the F-1 or J-1 student visa.
TN is a temporary, nonimmigrant status available in increments of up to three years to certain Canadian and Mexican citizens. TN status is employer specific and is available for specific qualifying professions only. TN dependents are classified as "TD" and are not eligible for employment. The procedures for Canadians and Mexicans to obtain TN status are different. Canadian citizens are not issued visa stamps and instead are admitted to the United States in TN status when they present appropriate documentation to immigration inspectors at the U.S. port of entry. Their TN status is then noted on the Form I-94 arrival record and/or admission stamp in the passport. Mexican citizens must obtain TN visa stamps before being admitted to the United States with the TN notation on the Form I-94 arrival record and/or admission stamp in the passport. All international scholars must register in the ISchO.
Under MIT policy, sponsorship for TN status may be available to paid (1) academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff for positions at the Postdoctoral level and above. Among positions that do not qualify are technical, administrative, library, management, and support staff appointments.
Under immigration regulations, TN status is available only to individuals in certain professions, as enumerated in an appendix of the NAFTA free trade agreement. TN status is not appropriate for indefinite employment, as it is a nonimmigrant status which requires the applicant to have the intent to return to the home country.
As with all academic and sponsored research staff appointments for foreign nationals, ISchO will help determine the appropriate visa and will assist with TN applications. The provision of a letter of offer, employment, or appointment from any MIT unit, office, department, laboratory, or center is considered TN "sponsorship" and should not be issued without first consulting an advisor in ISchO.
O-1 is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa category for individuals of extraordinary ability, meaning those who have distinguished themselves and have as risen to the top of their fields of endeavor. ISchO is the only petitioner to USCIS for O-1 status based on MIT employment. Outside attorneys and agents are not authorized to do this work. Decisions regarding MIT support of an O-1 application are made by ISchO after consulting with the department, laboratory, or center leadership. A number of factors are considered when deciding whether MIT will support an O-1 application, including the level of the position, the level and certainty of funding for the position, the qualifications of the scholar, the scholar's particular immigration situation, and the departmental support for the case. All O-1s at MIT must register at ISchO.
MIT sponsorship for O-1 status is available, depending on credentials, to (1) upper level academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff positions above the level of a postdoc, such as Research Scientist or Principal Research Scientist. Among those who do not qualify are technical, administrative, library, management, or support staff and those with insufficient funding.
In all cases involving a prospective researcher or faculty member, and in any other case in which O-1 status is under consideration for a current or prospective employee, ample lead-time is critical. The authorized DLC administrator should discuss the case and submit intake information to an ISchO advisor at least four to six months in advance of the anticipated start date. If ISchO confirms that O-1 status is appropriate, the DLC administrator and international scholar will be provided with a detailed checklist regarding the required procedure and documentation. ISchO completes the application and files the appropriate materials with USCIS.
O-1 status may be requested initially for up to three years and may be renewed subsequently in one-year increments. An O-1 scholar appointed at MIT must generally be paid by MIT. Funding by outside sources may be permitted.
An MIT appointment is only authorized once USCIS has approved the O-1 petition. O-1s may be employed only by the petitioner (MIT). If an individual is in O-1 status for employment elsewhere, that individual is not authorized for employment at the Institute until/unless MIT also files and obtains approval of an O-1 petition.
The spouse and children of O-1s are usually granted O-3 visa status. Regulations do not allow O-3s to work. It is possible for an individual in O-3 status to attend school.
E-3 visa status is a temporary, nonimmigrant category only available to nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia. Those eligible include professionals in specialty occupations (requiring "the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge").
MIT sponsorship for E-3 status may be available to salaried employees on the (1) academic staff; and (2) sponsored research staff at the Postdoctoral Associate level and above. Among those who do not qualify for MIT sponsorship are affiliates (non-employees such as postdoctoral fellows and research fellows), persons on "visiting," administrative, technical, library, management, or support staff appointments, and individuals who are solely supported by personal or outside funds or who have insufficient MIT funding. Scholars in E-3 status who are appointed at MIT must register with the ISchO.
ISchO will help determine the appropriate visa and will assist the authorized departmental administrator, faculty sponsor, and prospective appointee with E-3 applications. ISchO is the only authorized petitioner to the U.S. Department of Labor and to USCIS for E-3 status based on MIT employment. Outside attorneys and agents are not authorized to do this work. E-3 status is available in two-year increments only. There are a limited number of E-3 visas available each year. In all cases, funding levels must meet U.S. Department of Labor prevailing wage guidelines.
An MIT appointment is only authorized once a scholar is admitted in E-3 status or USCIS has approved a change to E-3. If an individual is in E-3 status for employment elsewhere, that individual is authorized for MIT employment only if MIT files and obtains approval of an E-3 petition from USCIS; OR the individual leaves the US and reenters with a new employment letter from MIT, following DOL certification of an MIT Labor Condition Application.
The dependent spouse and children of an E-3 principal may be granted E-3 classification. An E-3 dependent may apply for work permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once granted, E-3 spouses may work anywhere and at any level in the United States. USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small laminated photo ID card, as proof of employability. E-3s must have employment authorization in order to be placed on MIT academic or research staff appointment (whether paid or unpaid) and, if on appointment, must register at ISchO.
People immigrate to the United States in a variety of ways: among them, sponsorship by relatives who are United States citizens or permanent residents, sponsorship by employers who offer them permanent jobs, or as refugees or asylees. MIT assists those who are immigrating based on their employment at the Institute. ISchO acts as MIT's only agent in these matters. Outside attorneys and agents are not permitted to file permanent resident petitions based on MIT employment. MIT can only pursue permanent residence for individuals whose particular immigration status, visa history, and situation would not preclude it.
In order to be sponsored, faculty members must meet the criteria for the first preference classification, "Outstanding Professor/Researcher;" or for the second preference classification under the "college or university professor" provisions. Researchers must meet the criteria for a first preference classification, "Outstanding Professor/Researcher" or "Extraordinary Ability." MIT will not file labor certification for research positions.
Decisions regarding MIT support of an immigrant visa application are made in ISchO after consulting with the Department, Laboratory or Center head. Typically, tenure-track faculty members are eligible for sponsorship assuming DOL and/or USCIS criteria can be met. A number of factors are considered when deciding whether MIT will support an immigrant application for research positions. These include: the permanence of the position and the likelihood of long-term employment at MIT, the level and certainty of funding for the position, the level of the position itself (Research Scientist or above may qualify), how long the scholar has been employed at MIT (at least three years for consideration), the search that was conducted to fill the position, the availability of qualified American citizens and permanent resident workers in the field, the qualifications of the scholar, and the department head's support for the case.
Immigrant visa applications are time consuming. It may take one or more years to complete the procedure due to processing backlogs at the various government agencies: the Department of Labor, if applicable, USCIS, and, in some cases, the American consulates abroad. During this processing time, a scholar must maintain a valid nonimmigrant visa status to remain and work in the United States.
There are immigrant categories for which an individual may self-petition without the sponsorship of an employer. Employees and affiliates who wish to seek assistance from outside attorneys regarding these categories may do so. However MIT and its departments, laboratories and centers, may not be listed as petitioners on such applications. This policy is available in writing from ISchO.
MIT Human Resources Policy 1.1, Equal Employment Opportunity Policy states that MIT is committed to the principle of equal opportunity in education and employment and does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin. For more information you can contact the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs Office, bldg. E19-215.
Last Updated: September 2014