Sponsoring or Extending H-1B

The H-1B position needs to qualify as a “specialty occupation” that requires a “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum requirement” at a wage that meets the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage, and the applicant must hold the required degree in the field of employment. This means both the position and the scholar must meet H-1B eligibility criteria.

Process Example
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New Form I-539 and I-539A for Dependents

Effective March 11, 2019 there is a new I-539 form used to change or extend nonimmigrant status, and a new I-539A if more than one dependent. Learn more.

Fee Increase

Effective October 1, 2019, USCIS fee for Premium Processing is $1,410,

Change in USCIS Policy

As of September 11th, USCIS can deny an application or petition at its discretion when the initial documentation provided is not deemed sufficient for approval--without allowing the applicant the opportunity to submit additional evidence. Read more. Always follow instructions on our website for up-to-date information on policies and fees. 

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H-1B Requirements

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Before You Sponsor / Petition Overview

Administrative positions do not qualify unless it can be demonstrated that it is critical to the functions of the department or the university. It must qualify as a "specialty occupation" with the candidate holding the specialized degree the position requires.

Part-time academic appointments do not qualify as per University Policy.

H-1B status is generally limited to six years, with each petition not greater than for 3 years. Typically, the initial petition is for 3 years, with an extension for another 3 years.

Contact us at least six months in advance of the 6-year mark to discuss eligibility for an additional extension or alternative options for visa status.

Initiate H-1B sponsorship 6 months in advance to ensure timely filing and adjudication of the petition, allow time for the applicant's visa application (if needed), and facilitate international international travel.  An H-1B petition involves processing time by two government agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You may expedite the final step of the petition processing to a turn-around of 15 calendar days from the date USCIS receives it for an additional Premium Processing fee

J-1 visa status may be preferable to H-1B for many non tenure-track positions, because it:

Learn more about J-1.

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How to Sponsor / Extend

Medical campus departments need to contact ISSO-CUMC.

Steps to Sponsor or Extend H-1B

To learn how to begin the process, watch our short video below!

Beginning Sponsorship for an H-1B Visa (Morningside & Manhattanville Departments)
Hello Morningside and Manhattanville Departments.

So, you’re thinking of sponsoring someone for an H-1B Visa. Brilliant!

Talent from around the world plays a vital role at Columbia University.

If you’re wondering where to start, or you’re confused about the first steps of this process, please continue watching.

Now, here’s a small disclaimer before we begin.

We know that H-1B compliance is not the most riveting subject, but it is critical, as the University faces penalties if it does not comply with U.S Department of Labor regulations.

So, in order for the University to remain in good standing, all information and documentation provided must be up-to-date and accurate.

With this goal in mind, let’s begin!

You are required to provide the ISSO the following 7 documents:

1. A Cover Sheet, which lists all documents required for this initial step.

2. Intent to Sponsor Form--only if your department has already been advised that provost office approval is required prior to visa sponsorship

3 and 4: CV, and a copy of the RAPS job description, if applicable.

5: Copies of all previous J-related documentation for this scholar, if any.

This includes previous DS-2019s, entry visas, and waiver documentation.

6 and 7: The Prevailing Wage Request and the Actual Wage forms

These two wage forms may look similar, but both must be provided in order for us to submit a Labor Condition Application (or LCA for short) to the U.S. Department of Labor.

These forms are mostly self-explanatory, but we’ll highlight key sections where mistakes are commonly made.

Both forms refer to the location of employment.

Here, you should enter all physical locations where the work will be conducted.

This includes multiple work locations on Columbia campuses as well as non-Columbia locations such as Brookhaven Labs.

Now, we’ll look at the Prevailing Wage form.

As you complete numbers 11 and 12, please refer to the Faculty Handbook for minimum requirements for the position title.

The form asks for the minimum education and experience that the position requires, not necessarily that which your applicant holds.

Don’t exaggerate, just stick to the facts.

Now, let’s take a peek at the Actual Wage form.

As you’ll see here, the form asks you for the anticipated future start date of H-1B status.

As you complete the wage information, you’ll be providing the salary range for all individuals in your department with the same academic title and qualifications.

For example, if you have five associate research scientists in your department, the salary range would be from the lowest to the highest.

Now on the other hand, if you have only one employee with this title, provide the same salary amount in both places.

Be sure all sections of these wage forms are completed with signatures at the bottom.

Be aware that signing this form means you are confirming the accuracy of the information AND attesting to report any change in H-1B employment to the ISSO in advance, including but not limited to: leaves of absence, change
in academic title, change in work location or additional work location.

Failure to report such changes may result in the University’s noncompliance.

So, who signs these forms?

Each form must be signed by someone who can attest to the accuracy of the information provided.

After you submit this, you’re almost done with this initial step of H-1B sponsorship.

The ISSO will either send you an LCA with posting instructions or contact you with alternate guidance.

In the meantime, you may start to review and compile the additional materials for future steps on the ISSO website at isso.columbia.edu.

That's it for now. Thank you for watching!
Step 1

Gather your documents

We need these documents for the Department of Labor (DOL) component of the H-1B petition.

Step 2

Log in to the Scholar Sponsorship Portal (SSP) with your UNI and password to initiate an online application for H-1B sponsorship

This must be initiated by the department, not the scholar. Contact us if you are a department administrator requesting access to the SSP.

Step 3

Gather the following list of documents, and checks for USCIS fees

You will collect the first list of items from your prospective H-1B scholar. The department provides the rest. Submit all documentation and checks for USCIS fees as a complete set to the ISSO following the guidance below.

Documentation required for the H-1B petition

Step 4

Hand-deliver the complete application materials with checklist to us

Our office is located in the Nash Building at 3280 Broadway (between 132-133rd St.) in Suite 510 on the 5th floor. Document drop-off hours are 9am - 5-m weekdays. Check our Contact Us page for any scheduled office closings.

Step 5

Wait for the approval notice

We will file the H-1B petition with USCIS and will inform you when the approval notice is ready to be picked up by your department. The envelope will also contain copies of petition documents for your employee.

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During sponsorship, keep the following in mind

​​​​​​Failure to notify us may result in fines and penalties imposed on the University and the revocation of the petition/visa approval.

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Extending an H-1B

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Before You Extend

H-1B status is generally limited to six years, with each petition not greater than for 3 years. Typically, the initial petition is for 3 years, with an extension for another 3 years.

Contact us at least six months in advance of the 6-year mark to discuss eligibility for an additional extension or alternative options for visa status.

The earliest we may file an extension is six months in advance of the expiration of the current approved period, and we strongly recommend you prepare the application materials as early as possible. An H-1B petition involves processing time by two government agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Initiating the extension 6 months before the expiration of the current status ensures timely filing and adjudication of the petition, time for the applicant's visa application (if needed), facilitates international travel, and averts a lot of unnecessary anxiety for both the department and the individual.

You may expedite the final step of the petition processing to a turn-around of 15 calendar days from the date USCIS receives it for an additional Premium Processing fee.

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How to Extend

CUIMC departments need to contact ISSO-CUIMC.

Morningside departments should follow the same steps above except:

  • Include a copy of the applicant's 3 most recent paychecks
     
  • Do not include the $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee for an extension of an employee who is currently under Columbia's H-1B sponsorship.
     
  • Do include the $500 fee it is the first H-1B petition with Columbia University as the employer. If your applicant is already in H-1B status with another employer but is now going to be sponsored by your department, the petition does require the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee because it is Columbia's  first petition on their behalf.