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Request Visas for Postdoctoral Scholars

Stanford's official representative for processing visa requests for postdoctoral scholars is the Bechtel International Center. The I-Center handles visas and compliance and offers services, guidance, and seminars for postdocs and administrators on visa and immigration issues.

International postdocs are sponsored on J-1 visas. Prospective postdocs in the U.S. on student visas may be appointed as postdocs for the period of their EAD card validity during their post-completion F-1 OPT. The initial 12-month F-1 OPT period may be extended an additional 24 months for postdocs who hold a degree in certain STEM (STEM extension) fields. Other visa statuses (including H-1B sponsorships) are rare and require policy exceptions (see H-1B and J-1 visa comparison and further information below). Postdocs receive J-1 Research Scholar sponsorship.

Important:  If a postdoc is bringing a spouse who intends to also be a postdoc, encourage them to each pursue their own J-1 visa to avoid problems when a J-2 spouse wishes to work as a postdoc.

 

J-1 Visas

H-1B Visas

F1 OPT

J-1 Visas for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR)


The J-1 Process:

New Postdoctoral Appointments:

The postdoc administrator for the sponsoring department originates a J-1 D-2019 request online. The DS-2019 request is approved by OPA in conjunction with approval of the postdoctoral appointment recommendation web form. After appointment approval, the DS-2019 web form is approved and forwarded to Bechtel for further processing. OPA requires complete appointment information submitted by recommendation web form online to accompany an initial visa request for a new scholar. The only exception to the complete packet requirement is proof of degree, where a letter issued by the scholar’s institution confirming completion of the doctorate is accepted in lieu of the diploma, in order to expedite the visa process. If all requirements for the doctoral degree have been met, but the University has not confirmed award of degree and issued a letter of completion, the appointment cannot be approved.

Extensions of Existing Postdoctoral Appointments:

The DS-2019 extension web form is submitted by the postdoc administrator with a Change Request web form noting extension of the appointment. Both web forms are required to approve the extension. The postdoc administrator for the sponsoring department originates a J-1 DS-2019 extension request online.

Department Staff Responsibilities regarding J-1 Sponsorhip:

Department postdoc administrators are responsible for implementing University policy and procedures in compliance with federal regulations. Responsibilities of Sponsoring Departments for J-1 Scholars are found on the Bechtel International Center website.


The H-1B Visa:

Postdoctoral scholars requesting H-1B visa status must receive an approved policy exception from OPA. Requests for H-1B visa status for postdocs are reviewed monthly by a university review board.

In the absence of compelling circumstances that support an H-1B request, the scholar is expected to be in J-1 visa status. 

Below are helpful links for more detailed information on H-1B visas.

The H-1 Visa Overview

Maintaining your H-1B Visa Status

H-1B Policy for Postdoctoral Scholars

 

NEW! OPA's Employment Visa SmartSheet Dashboard for requesting OPA review of H-1B or E-3 visa requests

  • Click on the dashboard link above
  • Click on the "Request Access" link
    • Requires an @stanford.edu email address
  • Review the dashboard information
  • Follow the submission instructions

Departments are responsible for initiating and following through with H-1B petitions

OPA H-1B Visa Approval Process Overview

  1. The H-1B visa approval process requires two separate processes to obtain both OPA and Bechtel I-Center approval.
    1. To avoid delays, the OPA and Bechtel processes are best completed simultaneously.
  2. The postdoc admin initiates OPA's portion of the process by submitting the Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet, along with the required supporting documents.
  3. The postdoc admin initiates Bechtel's Employment Visa web form to start the petition to USCIS.
  4. OPA and/or the H-1B Review Board reviews the Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet and supporting documents. If approved:
    1. OPA approves the Employment Visa web form which is forwarded to Bechtel for processing.
  5. The postdoc admin must follow up with Bechtel to submit additional supporting documents to ensure timely submission of the petition to USCIS.

University Processing Fee

A $900 internal processing fee is charged to a department PTA for any approved H-1B petition that does NOT meet one of three criteria:

  1. The postdoc is currently in valid H-1B status (submit copy of I-797 Approval Notice); or
  2. The postdoc has pending United States permanent residence as evidenced by an I-485 document (submit copy of I-485; I-140 receipt is NOT an accepted substitute); or
  3. The postdoc is married to a US citizen or a US permanent resident (submit copy of marriage certificate).

Processing fees are paid via department PTA. This fee neither determines nor predicts the outcome of the petition with USCIS, nor approval at the US embassy abroad, nor is it refunded if the scholar declines the postdoc offer.

OPA H-1B Visa Processing Guidelines

  • The requested H-1B visa dates must match the postdoctoral appointment dates.
    • Only the end dates will match for existing appointments transitioning to a new H-1B visa.
  • If the postdoc will be out of valid work status while awaiting issuance of the H-1B visa, the appointment/extension may not take effect without a valid H-1B approval.
    • For existing appointments, the postdoc must be placed on an unpaid leave of absence until the H-1B visa is issued.
    • For new appointments, the appointment start date must be delayed until the H-1B visa is issued.

Please make every effort to submit timely visa requests to avoid an unpaid leave for your postdoc!

Processing Timeline

  • Petitions submitted with the intention to use USCIS premium processing MUST be submitted at least 3-5 months before the requested H-1B start date.
    • See the Review Board Meeting Schedule below.
    • Bechtel recommends all H-1B visa petitions use USCIS premium processing.
  • Late submission of petitions:
    • OPA may be able to review last-minute petitions if staffing and work volume permit.
    • There is no guarantee that the H-1B Review Board is available on an ad hoc basis; departments must make every effort to avoid last-minute requests.

Required Web Forms and SmartSheet

A complete request to sponsor the H-1B for a postdoc must be submitted to OPA by the published deadline (see meeting schedule below) for consideration of the petition.

Requests must include the following documents:

 

I. Postdoc has a Stanford appointment and is in H-1B status sponsored by Stanford, i.e., request for an extension of the H-1B:

Submit:

  1. Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet
    1. Supporting document: PDF copy of the most recent I-797 approval notice;
  2. Change request web form via AXESS;
  3. Employment Visa web form via AXESS.

 

II. Postdoc has a Stanford appointment and is not in H-1B status:

Submit:

  1. Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet;
    1. Supporting documents:
      1. EITHER under one of three administrative policy exception criteria (does not require Review Board decision):
        1. Postdoc is pending US permanent residence as evidenced by an I-485 document
          1. PDF copy of I-485 receipt; I-140 is NOT an accepted substitute;
        2. Postdoc is married to a US citizen or a US permanent resident
          1. PDF copy of marriage certificate
        3. Postdoc is in F1 OPT visa status and nearing expiration of the EAD / STEM EAD card
          1. PDF copy of EAD or STEM EAD card
      2. OR as a Review Board exception (requires Review Board decision):
        1. Postdoc obtained a J-1 visa waiver of Rule 212(e)
          1. PDF copy of the waiver letter
        2. Postdoc is ineligible for a J-1 visa because:
          1. Postdoc is currently in J-1 visa status and nearing exhaustion of the 5 year limit
          2. Postdoc is subject to the 24-month repeat participation bar (e.g. previous J-1 status, current J-2 status)
            1. PDF copy of most recent DS-2019
          3. Other (e.g., transition from H-4 or F-2 visa status)
            1. PDF copy of most recent visa document
        3. Postdoc has a comparable postdoctoral appointment offer elsewhere with an H-1B employment visa commitment
          1. PDF copy of offer letter from other institution; salary and other confidential information can be redacted.
  2. Change request web form via AXESS;
  3. Employment Visa web form via AXESS.

 

III. Postdoc is incoming to Stanford and meets one of four policy exception criteria (does not require Review Board decision):

  1. Postdoc is currently in valid H-1B visa status elsewhere;
  2. Postdoc is pending US permanent residence as evidenced by an I-485 document;
  3. Postdoc is married to a US citizen or a US permanent resident; or
  4. Postdoc is in F1 OPT visa status and nearing the expiration of the EAD / STEM EAD card.

Submit:

  1. Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet;
    1. Supporting documents: evidence of the respective policy exception criteria above
      1. PDF copy of H1B Approval Notice, I-485 receipt; marriage certificate to US citizen/PR; or EAD / STEM EAD card; as applicable
  2. Recommendation web form with all required supporting documents via AXESS.
    1. Include the appropriate language that the offer is contingent upon approval of visa status to be appointed as a postdoc in the United States;
  3. Employment Visa web form via AXESS.

 

IV. Postdoc is incoming to Stanford and does not meet one of the four policy exception criteria described above (requires review board decision):

Submit:

  1. Employment Visa Exception Request for Postdocs SmartSheet;
    1. Supporting documents:
      1. Postdoc has obtained a J-1 waiver of Rule 212(e)
        1. PDF copy of the waiver letter, OR
      2. Postdoc is ineligible for a J-1 visa because:
        1. Postdoc is currently in J-1 visa status and nearing exhaustion of the 5 year limit
        2. Postdoc is subject to the 24-month repeat participation bar (e.g., previous J-1 status, current J-2 status)
          1. PDF copy of most recent DS-2019; OR
        3. Other (e.g., transition from H-4 or F-2 visa status)
          1. PDF copy of most recent visa document
      3. Postdoc has a comparable postdoctoral appointment offer elsewhere with an H-1B employment visa commitment
        1. PDF copy of offer letter from other institution; salary and other confidential information can be redacted.
  2. Recommendation Web Form with all required supporting documents via AXESS.
    1. Include the appropriate language that the offer is contingent upon approval of visa status to be appointed as a scholar in the United States;
  3. Employment Visa web form via AXESS.

 

2022-23 H-1B Visa Review  Board Meeting Schedule

H-1B Visa Start Date

Deadline for SmartSheet  Submission OPA Submits Request to Review Board  Review Board Meeting Date Decision Notice to Department
05/01/22 01/04/22 01/05/22 01/11/22 01/12/22
06/01/22 02/01/22 02/02/22 02/08/22 02/09/22
07/01/22 03/01/22 03/02/22 03/08/22 03/09/22
08/01/22 04/05/22 04/06/22 04/12/22 04/13/22
09/01/22 05/03/22 05/04/22 05/10/22 05/11/22
10/01/22 06/07/22 06/08/22 06/14/22 06/15/22
11/01/22 07/05/22 07/06/22 07/12/22 07/13/22
12/01/22 08/02/22 08/03/22 08/09/22 08/10/22
01/01/23 09/06/22 09/07/22 09/13/22 09/14/22
02/01/23 10/04/22 10/05/22 10/11/22 10/12/22
03/01/23 11/01/22 11/02/22 11/08/22 11/09/22
04/01/23 12/06/22 12/07/22 12/13/22 12/04/22

 


J-1 Process for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR):

For those departments who appoint postdocs at PAVIR, when submitting an initial, transfer, or extension DS-2019 request for approval:

  • All postdocs working at PAVIR need to have PAVIR added as a 2nd Site of Activity to their SEVIS records upon arrival to campus (this will need to be done through a J workflow request by the sponsoring Stanford department). A new DS-2019 form will be processed reflecting that this Site of Activity has been added.
  • PAVIR funding will no longer be added as a separate funding source on the DS-2019. All funding from PAVIR should appear under "Funding disbursed by Stanford".
  • PAVIR's name should be mentioned in the "Description of Program" field on the DS-2019 Initial (or Transfer) request.

Questions should be directed to Bechtel International Center.