Human Resources

Employment of Foreign Nationals

Policy Information
  • Issue Date: June 1, 1994
  • Primary Contact: Director of Human Resources
  • Responsible Member of Directorate: President and Director
  • Responsible Office: Human Resources
Policy Information

I. Hiring Foreign Nationals: 

    A. In order to comply with state and Federal regulations regarding the employment of non-United States citizens it is important to determine that each foreign national employed at the Institution has a visa which permits employment or has been granted permission to work by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Visas must be obtained by the prospective candidates for employment before they enter the United States. Departments should be aware of time delays in processing paperwork through the INS, and plan accordingly. Federal law prohibits the hiring or employment of illegal aliens. Any employer who violates this law is subject to a fine. 

    B. Forms, applications, and additional information regarding visas for foreign nationals can be obtained from the Human Resources Representative. The International Students' Advisor in the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs, Room 3-107, M.I.T. offers similar services for admission of foreign students. 

II. Visa Categories: 

    A. Non-Immigrant Visas. The non-immigrant visas most frequently obtained by the Institution's foreign national visitors are: 

      1. J-1 Exchange Visitors 

    • A J-1 visa is issued to a participant in an exchange Visitor Program approved by the U.S. Information Agency, intended to foster international exchange in the arts and sciences. Participants can be in one of a variety of categories, including research scholar or short-term scholar. 
    • The maximum stay permitted is three years, normally in one-year increments. J-1 visa holders may be supported by the Institution, by their own government, by an international organization or by other sources. 
    • To obtain a J-1 visa from an American Consulate or Embassy, the foreign national needs an IAP-66 form from the Institution. These IAP-66 forms are completed by the Human Resources Representative at the request of the hiring/sponsoring department. 
    • In general, some J-1 holders are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement, requiring them to return home following the expiration of the J-1. It is possible to petition for another immigrant status within the United States, although there is no guarantee that the petition will be approved. 
    • Exchange visitors are required to have medical insurance in effect for themselves and any accompanying spouses and dependents on "J" Visas.
      2. F-1 and J-1 Student Visas with Practical Training 
    • Student visas can be issued to individuals who have been accepted for full-time study by a U.S. institution of learning. Once a foreign student has completed all course requirements toward that degree, he/she is eligible to apply for a period of "practical training". To do so, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) should be obtained from the INS via the student's college or university. The F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months of practical training; the J-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 18 months of practical training. 
    • Both F-1 and J-1students may apply for practical training 90 days in advance of receiving their degrees through the foreign student office at the university where their degree is to be granted. The foreign student office then submits the application to the INS for approval. Most Immigration offices have considerable backlogs and the response to an approval of this type of application may be considerably delayed. Departments, therefore, should make every effort to urge prospective employees to apply for this permission at least 60 days in advance of the proposed date of employment.
      3. H-1B Temporary Worker of Distinguished Merit and Ability 
    • An H-1B visa is a temporary work permit and is issued to those eligible professionals distinguished in their fields who come to the United States as bona fide employees. Institution sponsorship for this visa status is generally limited to supporting scientific and technical staff positions, on a temporary basis. 
    • To obtain H-1 visa status, an application is submitted by the Institution and approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The application, which is submitted by the Human Resources Administrator includes a petition form, an endorsement letter from the Institution, original documents indicating the visitor's highest degree, a curriculum vitae, and a filing fee payable to the Institution's Immigration Attorney. A Labor Condition Attestation must be filed by the Institution and approved by the Department of Labor before an H-1B visa petition may be filed with the INS. 
    • Since there are delays in processing these applications, allow at least three to four months before the individual intends to arrive in the United States. When the petition has been approved, notice is sent by INS to the American Consulate or Embassy where the visitor will apply for the visa to the Institution. 
    • Permission to remain in the United States on an H-1 visa is limited to a six year total. The H-1 is usually approved for an initial period of three years and can be extended for an addition three years.
    B. Permission to Work 

      1.The following is a brief guide regarding other non-immigrant visas and whether individuals holding them are authorized to work: 

    • F-2 = Spouse or dependents of an F-1 student - No employment permitted 
    • J-2 = Exchange Visitor spouse or dependents - Employment permitted if INS issues an EAD 
    • H-4= Spouse or dependents of H-1, H-2, H-3 - No employment permitted
      2.In some cases, a foreign national may change from a visa which does not permit employment to one which does, or vice versa. Questions regarding such changes should be discussed with the Human Resources Administrator.

    C. Immigrant Visas (Permanent Residence) 

      1.Some individuals are able to immigrate on the basis of their relationship to a United States citizen or a permanent resident. Others wish to immigrate on the basis of their employment at the Institution. The Institution handles only those applications to immigrate which are based on employment at the Institution. 

      2.The Institution's policy guidelines are in accordance with regulations set down by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and pertain to permanent residency petitions for foreign nationals employed by the Institution. 

    •  It is the Institution's position that the INS criteria of eligibility is most appropriately defended at the Scientific Staff level. Scientific Staff seeking Institution sponsorship of permanent residency petitions should make their requests known through, and with the endorsement of, their Department Chairs to the Director of Research. The document process for permanent residency submission normally takes more than the initial appointment year and will include the first year performance evaluation. 
    • The Institution will provide financial, administrative and legal assistance in support of the petition. Institution employees, particularly those with hiring authority, are reminded that the petitioner of the permanent residency petition is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 
    • It is Institution policy to not sponsor permanent residency petitions for members of the Technical, Administrative and Graded Staff unless there are special circumstances surrounding a particular employee.
      3.The length of time required for immigrant visa applications to be approved varies from case to case; the total
    length of time can be from 12 to 24 months.

III. After Arrival at WHOI 

    A. Once the foreign national has arrived at the Institution it is important to determine that all necessary documents to
remain and work in the United States are in order. Non-immigrants are to present a passport, visa, and I-94 form (arrival - departure record) at the Human Resources Office. A record is made of the expiration date on each of the above and information useful to new arrivals regarding the Institution and Immigration Service procedures is explained. A copy of the I-94 form is retained in the Human Resources Office in the individual's immigration file. 

    B. Immigrants are to present a "green card", form I-151 or I-551, to the Human Resources Office. This is the
registration form for those who were admitted to the United States as immigrants while in the United States. 

    C. The salaries of all foreign nationals employed by the Institution, with the exception of those holding F-1 and J-1
visas, are subject to F.I.C.A. (Social Security) tax. Those employees receiving taxable and/or reportable income must
provide the Institution with a social security number, which should be obtained from the local Social Security
Administration Office. 

    D. Foreign nationals are advised that they may be eligible for exemption from income tax withholding based on a
reciprocal tax treaty between their country and the United States. Individuals are referred to the Payroll Office to
determine if their particular type of employment is eligible for such an exemption. 

Should you require assistance in the interpretation  of this procedure, please contact your Human Resources Representative.

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