Updated August 21, 2020
We understand that transitioning from one nonimmigrant status to another can be confusing. These FAQs have been developed to address common postdoctoral scholar concerns related to changing status and applying for U.S. permanent residence.
A visa is the "sticker" placed in your passport. It can be regarded as your ticket into the country and must be valid at your time of entry to the United States. The expiration date on your visa does not dictate how long you can remain in the United States. Once you are inside the country, your nonimmigrant status controls how long you can stay in the United States and what you are allowed to do. You can find your I-94 record of entry on the CBP website and it will indicate your "class of admission" and your "admit until date". Your "class of admission" is your nonimmigrant status. If you are in F or J status, your "admit until date" should be "D/S" for duration of status. The date is tied to the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019, respectively. If you are in any other status, your "admit until date" is the expiration date of your nonimmigrant status.
No. You do not need a valid visa stamp in your passport in order to remain in the United States. You only need a valid visa upon entry into the country.
Generally, reappointments are processed within three months of the appointment end date. On campus and at Lab, the information moves from your Division or the JPL Postdoc Office to ISS or the JPL International Office. Upon receipt, ISS or the JPL International Office will contact you and will start working on your immigration extension or next steps.
F-1 OPT and STEM OPT
Caltech: Your STEM OPT EAD provides you with 180 days of additional work authorization while your application is pending. We request a copy of your I-797 receipt notice for your EAD application to ensure that your application was timely filed.
JPL: No employment on STEM OPT.
Caltech: If you are going to remain at Caltech beyond the end date of your STEM OPT EAD, please reach out to ISS about six months prior to the STEM OPT EAD expiration date. This should allow enough time to review your Caltech appointment, to identify the most appropriate next nonimmigrant status for you, and to prepare the paperwork, and for you to plan travel, if necessary.
JPL: No employment on STEM OPT.
H-1B Specialty Worker
Processing times may vary. You can review the USCIS published processing times on their website: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/. Over the last few years, we have seen regular processing take between 1 – 9 months. For an additional fee, H-1B petitions may include an application for premium processing which obligates USCIS to adjudicate certain petitions within 15 days. Effective October 2, 2020, this timeline will change from 15 calendar days to 15 work days.
Premium Processing is an application with an additional fee which obligates USCIS to adjudicate certain petitions within 15 days. Effective October 2, 2020, this timeline will change from 15 calendar days to 15 work days. H-1B petitions are eligible for premium processing.
USCIS will issue an RFE (Request for Evidence) if an adjudicator needs more information prior to issuing a decision. There is a strict timeline for responding to an RFE but there is no timeline for USCIS to adjudicate the RFE for petitions filed with regular processing. If an H-1B petition has been filed with premium processing, USCIS is required to adjudicate the RFE response within 15 days. Effective October 2, 2020, this timeline will change from 15 calendar days to 15 work days.
An H-1B extension requires most of the same steps needed to prepare and file an initial H-1B petition. Since the earliest an H-1B petition can be filed is six months prior to the start date, contact us at that time.
Since your spouse's application is a personal application, we cannot provide specific advice or assistance. However, we are able to include their application to change or extend their status with the H-1B petition that we are filing so that they can be filed together. Alternatively, your spouse may decide to file their I-539 application online, since the fee will be lower for an online filing.
If we anticipate that your work authorization will be interrupted, ISS or the JPL International Office will connect you with Human Resources so that you are placed on a personal leave of absence. During your personal leave of absence, you cannot be authorized to work, to be paid, or to do any activity for which you would normally be paid. As you prepare for a personal leave of absence, things to consider include, benefits, accrued vacation, insurance coverage, etc.
If you are inside the United States and your H-1B petition is approved, you will be able to start working or continue working for Caltech or JPL once we receive the approval notice. If you are outside the United States, you will have to apply for and receive a visa prior to traveling to the United States in order to start or return to work. Currently, Proclamation 10052 prohibits the issuance of H-1B visas until December 31, 2020, unless an exception applies.
J-1 Exchange Visitor
No. J-1 short term scholar programs cannot exceed six months.
Provide us with a copy of your spouse's passport biographic page and their country of permanent residence. We will issue a new DS-2019 for your spouse to use to apply for a J-2 visa if your spouse is outside the United States. If your spouse is inside the United States in another nonimmigrant status, your spouse will have an option of applying to change status inside the United States or of traveling abroad and applying for a J-2 visa at a U.S. Consulate.
The maximum length of a research scholar program is five years. Please contact us at least six months prior to the end of your fifth year of your J exchange visitor program to review your future options.
Most scholars who are subject to 212(e) apply for waivers under the No Objection Statement (NOS) option. This involves getting your home country to support the application, the Dept. of State to review and issue a letter of support, and the Dept. of Homeland Security to approve. The timeline on this varies since every country has a different process. We generally estimate that the Dept. of State and Dept. of Homeland Security actions will take three to five months.
Permanent Residence - Green Cards
Since submitting an application for a self-sponsored green card can impact the immigration support that we can provide, please let your International Office advisor know prior to submitting the application. Thereafter, provide your International Office advisor with your receipt and approval notices, when you receive them.
The impact of a self-sponsored green card application will depend on your nonimmigrant status and any international travel. For example F-1 and J-1 status extensions may be restricted.