International Support Services

Visa Categories: In general, Visas can be classified into two main categories.
  • Non-Immigrant Visa (H-1B, H4, J1, etc.)
  • Immigrant Visa (Green Card)

H-1B Visa

What is a H-1B Visa? A H-1B Visa (non-immigrant visa) is the visa issued to persons with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis. In other words H-1B visa is a work permit issued by a US Consulate/Embassy to a foreign worker enabling him/her to work in the U.S. temporarily. H-1B maximum time is six years. If a foreign national applies for permanent residency, then an H-1B can be extended beyond six years depending on status in permanent residency application.

H-1B Visa Eligibility: Foreign professionals with specialized knowledge, such as scientists, engineers, programmers, research analysts and others with bachelors or equivalent degree.

H-1B Department Policy: The Department of Biostatistics sponsors H-1B visa petitions to faculty and staff following authorization from the department administrator and chair Dr. Frank Harrell. As soon as an offer has been accepted, non-immigrant visa holders should contact Audrey Carvajal, Sanel Filipovic (STAFF & FACULTY) and Shannon Baker(, senior immigration advisor with Vanderbilt International Services and International Tax (VISIT) office. Application for H-1B status should be made six months in advance of the intended start date; candidate may not start working until the approval is received from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Click here to review the application process. It is important that current employees requiring visa renewal, change of status, visa extension or any other request contact Audrey and Sanel at least six months in advance.

OPT/OPT Extension

Optional Practical Training (OPT): is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the USCIS to work on a student visa without a requirement to acquire an employment H-1B visa towards getting a practical training to complement their field of studies. OPT employees have between 12 and 29 months of OPT time available.

OPT Extension: All employees at Vanderbilt, working under OPT, are required to exhaust their OPT period fully before the H-1B process begins. Biostatisticians and/or certain employees working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic fields may utilize OPT for 29 months and, therefore, the H-1B will begin the day after the 29 month period ends. The 17 month extension requires the OPT employee to complete a simple immigration filing exactly the same as the filing done to get the original OPT-EAD approval. In addition, as soon as the OPT extension application reaches USCIS and a receipt is generated, the employment authorization is automatically extended for 180 days. Therefore, a timely filing ensures uninterrupted employment for OPT employees. The OPT extension allows both Vanderbilt and the OPT employee to continue a mutually beneficial employment relationship in a financially sound and cost effective manner. It is the responsibility of each international employee to understand the types of extensions/statuses for which they may be eligible based on current visa status and employment. If the international employee is unsure, VISIT is always available to offer assistance.

Travel: Employees with OPT may also travel abroad and obtain new F-1 visa stamps (if necessary). The process and documents needed are laid out on US consulate and immigration websites. As with all international employees, should the OPT employee travel abroad, VISIT will provide direction, employment verification letters and review documentation to ensure necessary documentation to obtain a F-1 visa stamp and readmission into the United States. Should there be a delay with visa issuance due to an administrative security check, VISIT will monitor the process and follow up with both the consulate and Department of State headquarters until the matter is resolved.

OPT Extension Process: OPT is fully controlled by the OPT employees Designated School Official (DSO) and themselves. Vanderbilt does not play a role in the initial OPT process and provides only the E-verify information during the OPT extension process. Please contact Shannon Baker ( for the E-verify number. The OPT extension application must be received and receipted by the USCIS before the current OPT expires. The OPT extension can be requested up to 120 days before the current OPT expires. The filing fee associated with the application is $340.00. This is a personal immigration filing, therefore, it is the employee's responsibility to extend and pay for fees associated with the filing of the application.

Should you not receive the new EAD card before your current card expires, please take the original USCIS receipt notice VISIT any day between 8:00-11:00 am to update your I-9 record to show the 180 day extension. When the EAD card is approved and received, please go to VISIT so your I-9 may be updated to reflect the full 17 month extension. VISIT will also need your I-20 and passport so please take this document to your I-9 appointment to be copied for the international tax team. Updates in Glacier are the responsibility of the employee.

Please provide Audrey Carvajal or Sanel Filipovic a copy of your new EAD card (front and back).

Employment-Based Permanent Residency at Vanderbilt University

What is a Green Card? A Green Card, also known as Lawful Permanent is a card provided by the USA Government, which grants the legal right to live and work permanently in the United States of America. However, if you depart the U.S. for a significant length of time, you may risk losing permanent residence status.

What is the difference between Permanent Residence Status and U.S. Citizenship? You must first become a permanent resident before you are eligible to apply for citizenship. You are not required to apply for citizenship unless it is desired. When people apply for U.S. citizenship, they swear by oath that they will uphold the principles stated in the U.S. constitution and serve in the U.S. military if necessary. Although permanent residents may be allowed to vote in local elections depending on the local rules, voting in federal elections is not permitted.

How long does it take to get Permanent Residence Status? For family and employment-sponsored applications, U.S. law limits the number of immigrant visa numbers (permanent residents) every year based on the applicant's country of birth. If a visa number is not available for your country during a specific year, your name is placed on a waiting list. Some countries with high demand for visa numbers (China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines) have a long waiting period. In many cases, being on the waiting list does not specifically give an individual the right to remain in the U.S. Other measures must be taken to assure your legal status while waiting for an immigrant visa number to become current.

Employment-Based Permanent Residency Department Policy: Vanderbilt is not required to support a permanent residence application for its employees; the decision is completely up to the department. However, the department is aware that an employee has 6 years in H-1B status and the only way to renew the H-1B beyond the 6th year is to complete the first step of the permanent residence application filing before the 5th year expiration. If an employee decides to petition for an employee-sponsored permanent residence, the department will not consider sponsoring until the employee is in their 5th year of H-1B status and the employment relationship still remains satisfactory. Prior approval from the department chair and department administrator before filing for the permanent residence will be required. Employment-Based Permanent Residency cases for our department are managed by senior immigration advisor, Shannon Baker ( Please arrange a meeting with her for advising and required paperwork. Click here to review the application process.

International Travel

Please meet with Audrey and Sanel before departing the U.S. and click here for further details.

Other Links

Topic revision: r33 - 05 Feb 2014, NanaKwarteng

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