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 will be completed for foreign nationals on academic appointments.
"Volunteering" 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. The International Students Office offers similar services for international students. The ISchO is MIT's liaison with immigration authorities. The ISchO is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to offer J-1 visa sponsorship in specific categories only. The 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 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 the ISchO. Hiring foreign nationals and bringing them to MIT in a timely manner requires specialized attention and advice. The ISchO has a primary liaison in each department, center, and laboratory, typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer. Inquiries and requests for appointment and visa sponsorship should be channeled through that person. Occasionally, despite the ISchO's best efforts, 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. MIT department staff members are urged to contact the ISchO as many months as possible in advance of the expected arrival of any international scholar.
MIT does not sponsor the following individuals for employment based visas nor for exchange visitor visas: students; technical, administrative, library, or support staff members; individuals with inadequate funding, insurance, or credentials; those whose particular visa history precludes sponsorship.
Additionally, MIT does not provide visa sponsorship to recent graduates and practicing professionals for internship training, practical experiences, or other non-teaching, non-research affiliations.
The arrival and departure of scholars must be reported to the ISchO in order to comply with federal regulations and maintain accurate records. All new scholars should "check in" at the ISchO upon their arrival at MIT. Scholars should bring their passports and other visa documents to complete the required registration process. Additionally, the ISchO offers weekly orientation sessions for international scholars and their family members. 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 and MIT resources. If a scholar cannot attend orientation, the ISchO should be notified immediately.
The ISchO notifies Departments, Laboratories, and Center 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, the ISchO provides relevant instructions for extension of immigration status.
Departments, Laboratories, and Centers are required to notify the ISchO when a scholar completes his/her appointment earlier than expected, in order for the 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 eligible for work authorization from USCIS and only if/when 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 this visa category for academic level research and teaching. The J-1 is the most frequently used visa classification for international academic visitors. Other organizations, such as international or educational organizations, or foundations, such as the Fulbright Commission, may also act as visa sponsor. All J-1 scholars on MIT appointment must register at the 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 scholar visa status in the "Research Scholar" or "Professor" category is three years, possibly five years, under certain conditions. The "Short-term Scholar" category is also 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 J-1 scholars under MIT's J-1 sponsorship must be on MIT appointment. Individuals in the J-1 Trainee category sponsored by the Fulbright program, the Association for International Practical Training, DAAD, or other (non-employer) organizations may be at MIT on appointment during internships or other practical experiences, because these J-1 programs are specifically for the purposes of training.
All J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must have health insurance for the duration of their stay in the United States. This insurance must meet specifications set by the Department of State Exchange Visitor Program. Details on these specifications are available in the ISchO and are provided to all J-1 scholars under MIT visa sponsorship 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 program.
J-1 sponsorship through the MIT International Scholars Office in one of the scholar categories is appropriate for postgraduates and professionals coming to MIT temporarily to engage in teaching or research. Non tenure-track faculty and certain academic and research staff members may qualify. Typical titles are Postdoctoral Associate, Visiting Scientist, or Visiting Scholar. Scholars and accompanying family members must meet minimum funding levels specified on Forms B and C, described below.
The EVP has a number of restrictions on eligibility for J-1 sponsorship through the ISchO. Please see Forms A and B and talk with ISchO staff members for details. 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 through the ISchO.
J-1 Exchange Visitors require the immigration document Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status). In the case of MIT sponsorship, this process is initiated by the ISchO's primary liaison in the hosting department, center or laboratory who is typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer. This authorized administrator needs Forms A and B to request an initial Form DS-2019 from the ISchO for a new scholar, or Form C to request an extension Form DS-2019 for a continuing scholar. Forms A, B, and C are available as Administrative Templates. Once completed, Forms A and C must be signed by an authorized department, lab or center designate only. The scholar typically completes Form B.
Timing and other details are available through the ISchO's web site. Once the ISchO has all the required information, it takes a minimum of 30 days to issue a document. 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 timing for visa issuance varies considerably and can take several months after the scholar receives the document. Denial is also possible. Transfer of J-1 sponsorship from another institution to MIT is generally possible within authorized time periods. 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. The 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 the ISchO within 30 days of arrival. The ISchO must report qualifying events 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 and staff.
J-1 status in the Research Scholar or Professor category may be obtained for a three- to five-year period, depending upon the circumstances. If the department is certain of a full three-year appointment at the outset, the Form DS-2019 may be prepared for this period. If not, it may be prepared for a shorter period with later extensions. Under limited circumstances, extensions beyond three years may be possible. J-1 status in the Short-term Scholar category may be obtained for up to six months. The J-1 exchange visitor visa is not appropriate for permanent or tenure-track positions.
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. Approval must be obtained in advance from the program sponsor. In most cases at MIT, this means the ISchO. Circumstances should be discussed with staff in the ISchO to see if the applicant qualifies.
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 obtain permission to work from USCIS. Instructions are available on the ISchO website. J-2s 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. J-2s who are appointed to the academic staff or sponsored research staff (paid or unpaid) must have current employment authorization at all times and must register at the ISchO.
Some J-1 visa holders are required to return home for two years before they are eligible for either an immigrant visa or an H or L nonimmigrant visa classification. This requirement is the result of agreements between the student or scholar's home government and DOS, or funding from a government agency, such as the Fulbright Commission or the Medical Research Council of Canada. In some cases, DOS and USCIS issue waivers of this requirement. Depending on the circumstances, waivers can be difficult to obtain. Those who have questions regarding the residence requirement should discuss them with staff in the ISchO.
H-1B visa status is a temporary, nonimmigrant category. Those eligible include professionals in specialty occupations who will work at MIT. A "specialty occupation" means an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. The position to be filled must be temporary, or, if the position is a permanent one, the scholar must plan to fill it only temporarily while an immigrant petitions is pending. The ISchO is the only petitioner to USCIS for H-1B status based on MIT employment. Attorneys are not authorized to do this work. All H-1Bs at MIT must register with the ISchO.
MIT sponsorship for H-1B status may be available to (1) academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff members, for Postdoctoral positions and above. H-1B status is often the most appropriate status for incoming Assistant Professors. Among those who do not qualify for MIT sponsorship are persons subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, those who are solely supported by personal or outside funds or who have insufficient MIT funding, and persons on "visiting," administrative, technical, library, or support staff appointments.
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. The authorized central administrator should discuss the case with an ISchO advisor at least four to six months in advance of the anticipated start date. When appropriate, the ISchO will advise the administrator to complete Forms H with the scholar. If the ISchO confirms that H-1B status is appropriate, the administrator will then consult a detailed checklist regarding the required procedure and documentation. The administrator, faculty sponsor, and scholar work together to provide the ISchO with the necessary documents. The ISchO then completes the application and files the appropriate materials with the Department of Labor (DOL) and USCIS. The ISchO notifies the department, scholar, Human Resources, and Payroll Office when an initial or extension H-1B petition is approved.
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 applies whether the scholar has changed jobs or remained with the same employer. An H-1B scholar sponsored by MIT and appointed at MIT must generally be paid by MIT. Funding by outside sources is acceptable if the funding is funneled through MIT Sponsored Programs and meets other criteria. In all cases, funding levels must meet DOL guidelines.
An MIT appointment is only authorized once USCIS has approved an H-1B petition and H-1B status for the particular scholar, unless the scholar is already in the United States in a valid status that includes employment authorization. H-1B status 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 and obtains approval of 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 may have H-4 visa status. They may not work under any circumstances. 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, professional, or business conventions or conferences, or to undertake independent research. A B-1 visa holder may have a non-salaried academic appointment at MIT. The scholar 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 administrator should contact the ISchO for advice on the appropriateness of this classification for a given scholar and for instructions on the MIT letter of invitation and related procedures. B-1s who are appointed to the academic staff or sponsored research staff must register in the ISchO. 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. The ISchO has details regarding this procedure.
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 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 the ISchO for details.
Visitors in B-2 or "WT" status (as noted on the admission stamp in the passport or paper I-94 card) are tourists and 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. The F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months of "practical training." The J-1 student is eligible for 18 months of "academic training" or, if the student has completed a doctorate and will do postdoctoral research, up to 36 months. Extensions of practical or academic training beyond these periods are not permitted. It may be possible to apply to USCIS for change of status, to H-1B or J-1 scholar, for continued employment.
Both 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 the university where their degree is to be granted. Departments should urge prospective practical or academic trainees to apply for this permission well in advance of the proposed start of appointment or employment at MIT. 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 or J-1 scholars in this status must register in the ISchO if they are on academic appointment at MIT. See Section A for information on J-2 dependents and the two-year foreign residence requirement for J-1 visa holders.
Practical 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 trainee's host institution.
TN is a temporary, nonimmigrant status available in increments of up to three years to certain Canadian or Mexican citizens only. TN status is employer specific and must be for specific qualifying professions. 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 US port of entry. Their TN status is then noted on the paper Form I-94 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 paper Form I-94 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 (1) academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff members, for Postdoctoral positions and above. Among those who do not qualify for MIT sponsorship are persons who are solely supported by personal funds. Among positions that do not qualify are technical, administrative, library, and support staff appointments. Individuals with outside funding sources such as fellowships, home university salary, and other recognized sources of funding may be eligible for TN status.
A letter of offer, employment, or appointment from any MIT unit, office, department, laboratory, or center is considered "sponsorship" and should not be issued without first consulting the ISchO.
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 long-term 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, the ISchO will help determine the appropriate visa and will assist with TN applications.
O-1 visa status is another temporary, nonimmigrant category. Those eligible include professionals and people highly distinguished in their fields (in the top 10% of the field) who will work in that field at MIT. The position to be filled must be temporary or, if the position is a permanent one, the scholar must plan to fill it only temporarily. O-1 status is not appropriate for permanent positions. The ISchO is the only petitioner to USCIS for O-1 status based on MIT employment. Attorneys are not authorized to do this work. Decisions regarding MIT support of an O-1 application are made in the ISchO after consulting with the Department, Laboratory, or Center liaison. 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 with the ISchO.
MIT sponsorship for O-1 status is available, depending on credentials, to (1) upper level academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff members in positions of Research Scientist and above. Among those who do not qualify are technical, administrative, library, or support staff and those with insufficient funding.
Departments who are considering O-1 status for a current or potential MIT employee should discuss the case with ISchO staff at least four to six months in advance of the anticipated start date. For screening purposes, the authorized administrator and prospective scholar must complete Forms O, provided by the ISchO. If sponsorship is appropriate, a meeting and detailed instructions follow. The administrator, faculty sponsor, and scholar work together to provide the ISchO with the necessary documents. The ISchO then reviews and completes the application, files the petition and supporting documents with USCIS, and awaits USCIS review. If the application is approved for a scholar inside the United States , the change to O-1 status and permission for MIT employment are valid as of the effective date of USCIS approval. If USCIS approves a petition for a scholar who is outside of the United States , or who is subject to the two-year home residence requirement, USCIS will inform the relevant American Consulate abroad so that the scholar may apply for an O-1 visa stamp. The ISchO notifies the department, scholar, Human Resources, and Payroll when an initial or extension O-1 petition is approved.
O-1 status may be requested initially for no more than three years but 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 an O-1 petition and O-1 status for the particular scholar, unless the scholar is already in the United States in a valid status that includes employment authorization. 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 MIT unless MIT also files and obtains approval of an O-1 petition.
The spouse and children of O-1s may get O-3 visa status. They may not work under any circumstances. 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"). Employment at MIT with E-3 sponsorship may be available to (1) academic staff and (2) sponsored research staff members, for Postdoctoral positions and positions of Research Scientist and above. It is not available to tenured faculty, people on "visiting" appointments, administrative, technical, library, or support staff, and those 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.
The ISchO will help determine the appropriate visa and will assist the authorized departmental administrator, faculty sponsor and prospective appointee with E-3 applications. The ISchO is the only petitioner to US Department of Labor and to USCIS for E-3 status based on MIT employment. Attorneys 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. An E-3 scholar sponsored by MIT and appointed at MIT must generally be paid by MIT. Funding by outside sources is acceptable if the funding is funneled through MIT Sponsored Programs and meets other criteria. In all cases, funding levels must meet DOL guidelines. E-3 status is not appropriate for permanent positions.
An MIT appointment is only authorized once a scholar is admitted in E-3 status or USCIS has approved a change of status or change of employer. 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-3 spouses who are appointed to the academic staff or sponsored research staff (paid or unpaid) must have employment authorization and must register with the 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. The ISchO assists those who are immigrating based on their employment at MIT and acts as MIT's only agent in these matters. Attorneys are not permitted to file permanent resident applications 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 criteria for a first preference classification, "Outstanding Professor/Researcher" or "Extraordinary Ability." Labor certification will not be pursued for research positions.
Decisions regarding MIT support of an immigrant visa application are made in the 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 immigration 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 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 two to three years to complete the procedure due to processing backlogs at the various government agencies: the Department of Labor, if applicable, the USCIS, and, in some cases, the American consulates abroad. During the 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 attorneys regarding these categories may do so. However MIT and/or its departments, laboratories and centers, may not be listed as petitioners.
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: May 2013