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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider Maintaining H-1B Status
Visiting Scientists
Maintaining H-1B Status

MAINTAINING LAWFUL H-1B TEMPORARY WORKER STATUS

H-1B status is reserved for individuals performing services in a specialty occupation, meaning the position must meet certain requirements of job complexity and/or degree level. At the NIH, H-1B status is offered to those holding Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employment positions, i.e. Research Fellows/Clinical Fellows and higher. The Division of International Services (DIS) will file an H-1B petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of qualified prospective and current employees. Employees are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with applicable U.S. immigration laws and regulations. It is important to take the necessary steps to maintain your H-1B status, as failure to do so can have significant consequences. Requirements to maintain status include, but may not be limited to, the following items:

Employment

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  • Starting Your Employment: The Immigration Specialist at the Division of International Services (DIS) who processed your H-1B petition will contact you for a one-on-one appointment on or before your start date to initiate your employment. H-1B employees who work at a remote location will attend check-in appointments with an on-site Administrative Officer who coordinates with DIS. NOTE:
    • The Office of Human Resources (OHR) will complete the final official start of your employment after DIS completes its check-in process.
    • Notify DIS if you are unable to begin employment on the start date indicated on your Form I-797A H-1B approval notice issued by USCIS.
  • Terms of Employment: Your Institute/Center (IC) provided DIS with specific information about the terms of your employment, including but not limited to:
    • Job Title
    • Salary
    • Work location(s)
    • General area of research
    • Specific job duties
    • Work schedule (full time/part time)
    • Supervisory role
    • Level of patient contact (M.D.s only)

Your H-1B approval is specific to the above information. Please review the Labor Condition Application (LCA) provided to you by your Immigration Specialist. Notify DIS of any changes in your employment before they occur so that we can verify whether they are consistent with your approved status. Depending on the details, DIS may need to file an amended H-1B petition on your behalf before such changes occur.

  • Outside Activity: Engaging in activities outside of your official NIH appointment (those approved by USCIS in your H-1B petition) requires advance review and approval by DIS to ensure they comport with the approved terms of your ‌‌‌H-1B employment. Examples of outside activities include but are not limited to teaching a course, collaborating with another institution, and any remote work outside of the NIH.
    • NOTE: Outside activities require DIS approval even if unpaid. DIS will review each request on a case-by-case basis and cannot guarantee approval.
  • Extensions/Transfers within NIH: If you are eligible for and your laboratory is interested in extending your stay at the NIH, your IC must submit a renewal request to DIS per our renewal checklist (also applicable to transfers to another IC) no later than 45 days (but preferably 6-8 months) prior to the expiration of your current Form I-797. DIS must file a petition to extend your H-1B status before the prior period of stay expires.
    • NOTE: Consult with DIS if you will be reaching the end of your 6th year in H-1B status and intend to remain at NIH.

Change of Residential Address

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  • Notify DIS: Timely notify DIS of your change of address.
  • Notify your IC: Provide your Administrative Officer with your updated address so they can ensure other relevant NIH systems are updated and accurate.

Travel

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  • Refer to DIS Guidance:Refer to DIS guidance on H-1B travel beforehand to ensure you have the proper documentation before your trip. Make sure to obtain an employment verification letter from your IC Administrative Officer before any international travel. Consult DIS with questions, particularly if you have any other petition or application pending.
  • Send DIS Updated Documents: Upon your return to the United States, send DIS your Form I-94 and updated H-1B visa, if applicable. Check your I-94 record every time you re-enter the country. The Form I-94 is sometimes issued for a period of time shorter than is reflected on the H-1B approval. If this occurs, immediate review is required by DIS to ensure continued lawful stay and employment authorization.
  • Extended Absence Abroad: As a nonimmigrant scientist at the NIH, you must submit an Extended Absence Abroad form to DIS if:
  • You plan to pursue research activities abroad (other than short travel to attend conferences or meetings)
  • You plan to take extended personal leave abroad (e.g. vacation, medical leave) for more than five weeks
  • Travel within the U.S.: Make sure to carry your immigration documents and passport with you. For cruises, check with the cruise carrier/company for any immigration restrictions.

Dependent Family Members

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  • Refer to DIS Guidance: Refer to the DIS website for additional information on H-4 dependent status, which is available to legal spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.
  • Work Authorization: Most H-4s are not eligible to work in the United States. However, some individuals in H-4 status may be eligible to apply for a work permit in limited circumstances. See the USCIS website for additional information.

Leaving NIH

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  • Notify DIS: You must notify DIS when you end your employment, whether leaving the U.S. or changing to another employer within the U.S., so that DIS can comply with notification and reporting requirements.
  • Change of employer: Transfer to another employer in H-1B status may be possible if the new employer files a new H-1B petition with USCIS on your behalf. Consult with your prospective employer for information on this process, including the timeline for when your new employment may begin.
  • No Grace Period: Depart the United States on or before your I-94 end date. There is no grace period for H-1B status. Avoid accruing unlawful presence, which occurs when you stay beyond the end date of your Form I-94 or upon determination by the USCIS. There are serious consequences to staying unlawfully in the U.S.

Other Considerations

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  • Maintain Valid Documents: Your passport and I-94 record must be valid at all times. Your I-94 record will be issued either by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon your admission into the U.S. or as part of your H-1B approval notice (Form I-797), whichever was most recently issued.
  • Keep Copies Secure: Keep copies of all immigration documents. Store the original documents in a safe place. Never discard any immigration document!
  • Overall H-1B time limit: Generally there is a six year maximum duration for H-1B status. After holding H-1B status for six years, you must have a break of at least one year outside of the United States to be eligible to begin a new six year period of H-1B status. You may be able to extend H-1B status beyond six years in limited circumstances. Consult with DIS for additional information.
  • Change to Immigration Status: Notify DIS if you change to another immigration status, file a petition for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, and/or adjust your status to LPR. H-1B allows for immigrant intent, allowing you to simultaneously hold H-1B status and apply for LPR status. However, it is important to keep DIS notified of changes so we can properly advise.
  • Filing Taxes: Foreign nationals in H-1B status are required to file both state and federal tax returns. Note that DIS does not have specialized tax expertise. New arrivals from outside the U.S. should attend a DIS-sponsored tax workshop.

More information on H-1B compliance and maintenance of status can be found in our handout. If you have any questions or concerns about the above information or need to notify our office of any changes or incidents, please contact DIS.



DIS Info 
Office Hours:
8:30am - 5:00pm
Check-In Hours:
9:00am Mondays
Walk-in Hours:
1:30pm - 3:30pm Mon-Thurs
Badge Clearance:
1:00pm - 3:00pm Mon-Fri
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