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H-1B Visa Process

Prior to finalizing any job offers, hiring departments at the University of Central Florida (UCF) must initiate paperwork for United States (US) work visa sponsorship through UCF Global on behalf of their candidate. The UCF Global Employment & Taxation (E&T) team will provide the necessary paperwork for the candidate to obtain the appropriate visa status prior to employment.

UCF hiring departments may consider the H-1B visa when seeking to hire international candidates for temporary employment in specialty occupations. The H-1B visa is valid initially for a period of three (3) years with the option to extend an additional three (3) years, for a total of six (6) years.

H-1B is the only dual intent, employment-based visa that easily affords an employee the option to pursue Permanent Residency (a green card). To work on H-1B, a department must have a qualifying position, extend an offer to the selected candidate for that position, and be willing to sponsor the individual for said visa. UCF Global can work with their HR Coordinator(s) or Partner(s) on what steps will be needed to initiate a case request with our partnered law firm, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP (Fragomen). We can also assist with exploring other broader work authorization options, such as O-1 and J-1, and with navigating any requirements or limitations surrounding the new Florida Foreign Influence Act (FFIA) that went into effect in the summer of 2021.

ELIGIBILITY

The H-1B nonimmigrant status may be granted to a foreign national who has been offered a professional-level position in the US To qualify for H-1B visa sponsorship by UCF, the position must be a specialty occupation, which means it requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field of study and the sponsored individual must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in that specific field. The offered salary must meet the Prevailing Wage guidelines established by the Department of Labor (DOL). In order for a person to obtain H-1B status, UCF must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). UCF’s immigration attorneys at Fragomen file all official H-1B requests on behalf of the university. Official and formal requests are submitted by the hiring department through an online portal called Fragomen Connect. It is critical that the hiring department’s administration understand the US laws and regulations related to the H-1B status before submitting an H-1B request.

TIME FRAME

From the time an H-1B case is initiated by a department or Human Resources Business Center (HRBC) here at UCF, it can take roughly nine (9) months total for a first-time, AKA Change of Status (COS), H-1B visa to be approved with Premium Processing Service (PPS) and up to roughly seventeen (17) months total with regular processing. Selecting Rush with our partnered law firm, Fragomen, in addition to PPS may shorten the process to eight (8) months total but is not guaranteed. Selecting Super Rush may shorten this timeline even further.

As of September 2022, it is taking an estimated eight (8) months to receive the Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) from the Department of Labor (DoL). Separately, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times are currently at an estimated eight (8) months without the premium option. These processing times are agency specific, fluid, and subject to change without notice. A gap in employment authorization and/or status is always a possibility when working with tight timelines, and, in general, USCIS approval of any visa sponsorship is not automatically guaranteed. If the candidate requires Consular Processing (CP), additional time may be required for proper coordination with a U.S. Consulate. Renewals, AKA Extensions (EXT), porting cases, AKA a Change of Employer (COE), and Concurrent (CONCUR) cases typically require less lead time by the department and may result in a faster time-to-hire; however, the total sponsorship process time is the same overall length across all action types. If the position is a Faculty classification and will be teaching, the time-to-hire may be as short as roughly six (6) to ten (10) weeks with all possible exceptions and concierge options pursued. It is important to keep this in mind when determining a start date and equally as important to consult Fragomen in terms of sponsorship feasibility and immigration limitations. We typically see departments take about one (1) to two (2) weeks to complete the case initiation phase and prepare all the needed paperwork to include with their case submission. This amount of time is not included in the calculations provided above.

When H-1B sponsorship is initiated here at UCF, it is always recommended that OPT be exhausted prior (if applicable). This option gives the beneficiary more time in the country and allows them to plan for their career goals accordingly. The natural progression that we see most often is F-1 to OPT, OPT to OPT STEM Extension (if applicable), OPT to H-1B (up to the maximum allowed), H-1B to Permanent Residency.

For guidance on green cards specifically, since there are multiple categories and options, we rely on Fragomen to advise which pathway would have the highest chance of success for the individual. This is a separate, secondary sponsorship that a candidate may ask the department’s eventual commitment for during the recruitment process. There are also several self-petitioned categories, such as EB-1A or EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIV), which may be recommended as alternative options for Permanent Residency.

FEES

Fees Cost
USCIS Government Filing Fee $460
USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee (required for all cases except EXTs) $500
USCIS Premium Processing Fee (currently required for all case types due to USCIS processing delays) $2500
Fragomen Rush Fee (optional) $900 – $1500
Fragomen Checks Advanced Fee (currently required due to the Workday transition) $100

SUBMITTING PAYMENT FOR FEES

UCF Financial Affairs (FA), Vendor Payables, previously required that a department encumber funds for potential Fragomen (non-government) fees before incurring services. In PeopleSoft, we commonly saw departments create a single line Purchase Order (PO) for the entire fiscal year. The dollar amount encumbered was ultimately at the department’s discretion, as blanket POs could also be used to cover multiple cases. Encumbered funds covered expenses such as:

  • Advanced USCIS Government Filing Fee: $460 per Case
  • Advanced USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee: $500 per Case
  • Advanced USCIS Premium Processing Fee: $2,500 per Case
  • Rush Fee: $900 per Case
  • Super Rush Fee: $1,500 per Case
  • Checks Advanced Fee: $100 per Case
  • Petition Withdrawal Fee: $250 per Occurrence
  • Request for Evidence (RFE) Preparation Fee: $350 per Response
  • Premium Processing Service (PPS) Conversion Fee: $500 (Checks Advanced Fee waived)

These prices were and continue to be set by Fragomen and are subject to change at any time.

Due to the recent Workday system implementation, departments will need to request that Fragomen advance the necessary USCIS checks for each petition filing. Departments should coordinate with their college’s or division’s Finance Business Center (FBC) to begin the Vendor Payables process in Workday. Failure to do so in a timely manner could result in a procurement violation in the long term. Please refer any questions about the payment process to Vendor Payables or Financial Support Services directly.

Permanent Residency

Permanent residency is defined as being granted lawful permission to reside in the US on a permanent basis, or indefinitely, as an immigrant. The process of sponsoring an employee for permanent residency requires that UCF petition USCIS on behalf of the employee. Employment Based Permanent Residency sponsorship requires the employee to be in a permanent and/or tenure-track position before the university will allow for sponsorship. Sponsorship cannot be processed before employment begins or be processed for anticipated positions other than for impending re-classifications or promotions.

In most circumstances, the permanent residency process is initiated as early as possible, but no later than by the fourth year of the employee’s six (6) year H-1B eligibility. The entire process can be lengthy as it involves up to three (3) government agencies, and the final decision to grant permanent residence is made by USCIS.

International Taxation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is responsible for collecting taxes and interpreting and applying federal tax law. The IRS requires that the University of Central Florida apply specific tax withholding and reporting rules to payments made to international scholars. Filing federal income tax forms is the responsibility of each international scholar. UCF Global is able to provide general guidance but cannot give specific advice regarding individual tax returns. Each scholar is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of his or her income tax return.

Types of Taxes

There are two types of taxes that will be automatically deducted from your paychecks at UCF: federal income tax and FICA (the combination of social security and medicare taxes). Some employees are exempt from paying federal income tax and/or FICA. Exemptions are typically based on visa status, country of citizenship, and whether you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes.

Resident or Non-Resident for Tax Purposes

Tax law refers only to RESIDENT and NON-RESIDENT aliens. Resident aliens are taxed in the same manner as U.S. citizens while non-resident aliens are taxed based on special rules. Your tax filing status is determined by the “substantial presence test.” The substantial presence test is based on how much time you have been present in the U.S., UCF Global uses the Windstar Tax Navigator Program to assist in determining whether you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes.

If you have been in the U.S. in J-1 status for any part of 2 of the preceding 6 calendar years and were physically present in the U.S. at least 183 days in the current tax year, then you are considered a resident alien for tax purposes.  If you have been in the U.S. for any 2 of the preceding 6 calendar years but were not physically present in the U.S. for at least 183 days in the current tax year, then you are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes.

For more information on the substantial presence test, please refer to the Internal Revenue Service website (www.irs.gov) and type “substantial presence test” in the search engine.

Federal Income Tax and Tax Treaties

Traditionally, federal income tax is taken out of your paycheck from UCF. However, the U.S. and some foreign countries have established tax treaties that provide exemptions from federal income tax.

Upon visiting UCF Global and completing the payroll sign-in process, we will determine if you are eligible for a federal tax exemption by using the Windstar Tax Navigator Program. If you are eligible, then we will assist you in completing the required tax forms. UCF, as the withholding agent, reserves the right to deny a tax treaty benefit based on any information obtained.

Each year that you qualify for a federal tax exemption, we will notify you via e-mail and ask you to report to UCF Global to sign the renewal paperwork. For more information regarding the amount that qualifies for exemption and for how long the treaty may be used, please see Publication 901 of the Internal Revenue Service website (www.irs.gov) .

FICA - Social Security and Medicare

Traditionally, social security and Medicare taxes are taken out of your paychecks from UCF. However, J scholars are exempt from social security and Medicare if you are a non-resident for tax purposes. Please refer to the “Resident or Non-Resident for Tax Purposes” section of the website for more information on your fax filing status. If you feel that these taxes have been deducted from your paycheck in error, please contact UCF Global for assistance.

Filing Tax Return/ Sprintax

The tax year ends on December 31st of each year, and the tax filing deadline is April 15th of the following year. There are forms that you must file each calendar year to fulfill your obligation to the Internal Revenue Service. UCF Global has purchased a tax filing software (Sprintax) to assist you in completing these forms. Sprintax is provided by UCF Global at no charge. We will e-mail tax filing information, including Sprintax instructions, at the end of each tax year to all scholars. If you do not receive these e-mails, please contact our office, and we will be glad to assist.

DO NOT FILE YOUR TAX RETURN PAPERWORK UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE RECEIVED ALL NECESSARY TAX FILING DOCUMENTS FROM THE UNIVERSITY AND/OR OTHER EMPLOYERS.

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