Who Needs a Visa & What Type?

Sunflowers bloom in the meadows surrounding NCAR's Mesa Lab.

Does my visitor or employee need a visa, and if so, what type?

Employees on Payroll | Student Visa Information | Visa Transfers | Visitors not on Payroll (B-1, Exchange Visitor- J-1, Visa Waiver Program)

This section explains the different visa categories that foreign nationals can use or obtain to visit or be employed at our organization, including the regulations and processes involved, as well as qualifications,  permitted activities, payments allowed and restrictions.

UCAR/NCAR Employees on Payroll

Foreign nationals on UCAR payroll will need to have work authorization in order to be employed. This means that if a prospective employee does not already have authorization to work in the United States, work authorization will need to be obtained. UCAR/NCAR can sponsor certain types of visas that permit work authorization for our institution (J-1, H-1B, TN). The decision to support a visa for a position at UCAR/NCAR is determined at the time a job requisition is set up. Fees are shown here.  Detailed information about each visa type can be found in the visas section.  These resources provide general information for our laboratories/programs. Please contact our office if you need assistance with sponsoring a visa for an employee. Keep in mind that the process to obtain a visa for a prospective employee may take many months and therefore it is important to plan ahead.  We urge departments to consult International Visitor and Scholar Services early in any hiring negotiations with foreign nationals.

Some foreign nationals may already have authorization to work in the United States. For example, many students are able to apply for work authorization. It is very important that foreign nationals employed by UCAR/NCAR abide by the rules set forth for the visa status that they hold. Unauthorized employment is a violation of status and can result in very serious consequences, including loss of visa status.

Student visas and work authorization (including F-1 with CPT and OPT)

It is not unusual for departments to hire students or recently graduated students who have student visas. There are several types of student visas and F-1 and J-1 student visa types both have mechanisms whereby students can obtain work authorization.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorizes an F-1 student to engage in an on- or off-campus internship that is integral to or required for the academic program. CPT authorizations are issued by the university's international services office and specify the employer, site of activity, number of weekly hours authorized, and start and end dates authorized during the internship.

F-1 Optional Practical Training

OPT allows students to work in their major field of study, for a period not to exceed 12 months.

F-1 students must apply for the OPT with the Department of Homeland Security, and when approved, will have an Employment Authorization card in hand with validity dates.

F-1 OPT for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) students.

Students who graduate with a major in one of the STEM fields can apply for and obtain an additional 24 months of OPT from the Department of Homeland Security. However, the employer must be enrolled in the government’s E-Verify program.

UCAR/NCAR is an E-Verify employer for purposes of hiring an F-1 student on the STEM OPT.

J-1 Academic Training

Academic Training permits a J-1 student to engage in practical training in the field of study before or after completion of studies. Internships and full-time employment experiences may both be authorized. Academic Training authorizations are issued by the university's international services office.

Visa Status Transfers

Another common scenario is when a foreign national is already in the United States with work authorization that needs to be transferred to UCAR/NCAR. Examples include H-1B transfers, Exchange Visitors (J-1) transfers and TN transfers. The process and time frame for each transfer varies and International Visitor and Scholar Services can review each case and provide more detailed information on processing times, fees, etc.

If you have any questions regarding the hiring of an international student or scholar, please contact International Visitor and Scholar Services.

Visitors not on Payroll

Some foreign nationals who are visiting our institution and will not be on payroll may have several visa options available to them depending on the circumstances of the visit. In some cases, they may not need a visa at all. Please see the information below for more information.

B1/B2 - A B1 business visa is an option for those who are not receiving a salary and who are not receiving any funding from UCAR/NCAR beyond travel and living expense reimbursements. If they receive any funding from us beyond travel and living expenses, such as an honorarium, they are not eligible for B1 status. It is important to note that some UCAR/NCAR visitors have had problems obtaining a B1 visa stamp and/or entering the United States in B1 status. This is because the B1 regulations surrounding what type of activity is allowed during a B1 visit is somewhat unclear and up for interpretation. Cases are not handled consistently and each official will determine whether or not the visit meets the eligibility requirements of the B1 program. For information about B1 regulations and what type of visit is eligible for a B visa, please see the following pages:


When a visitor applies for a B-1, they will likely need an invitation letter from our institution. It may also be a good idea to create a "carry letter" which they can present when they enter the US. The difference between the standard invitation letter and the "carry letter" is that the carry letter has all funding information omitted to avoid confusion regarding salary. If per diem or travel reimbursement is misinterpreted as a salary, the person may have a difficult time entering the United States. In this regard, it is helpful to have the carry letter that does not include the funding information.

Some visitors have been told that if they are coming to the United States to do research, that they must obtain an Exchange Visitors (J-1) ivsa. However, this is not a consistent occurrence. The benefit to a Exchange Visitors (J-1) is that there is more predictability with it and fewer issues, since it is a visa specifically for research. The drawback is that the Exchange Visitors (J-1) has many regulations tied to it, some that can impact future visits to the United States.

Exchange Visitors (J-1) - The Exchange Visitors (J-1) can be used for salaried or non-salaried visitors. It is a visa specifically designed for researchers and so the problems we see with some of our visitors entering on a B visa, do not exist with the Exchange Visitors (J-1). It is more predictable and there are fewer problems. As stated above, there are Exchange Visitors (J-1) regulations that can impact future visits to the United States and this can be a drawback for some visitors.

If a visitor applies for an Exchange Visitors (J-1) visa to visit our institution, we must process Exchange Visitors (J-1) documents for them, as we are the official sponsor of their Exchange Visitors (J-1) visa. There are also very specific medical insurance requirements that all Exchange Visitors (J-1) holders are subject to while in the United States on our Exchange Visitors (J-1) program:  /hr/visitors/medical-health-insurance-visa-holders

VWP - The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, when they meet certain requirements. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel. Information and passport requirements can be found at the following page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html. Note that the same eligibility requirements for B visitors apply to Visa Waiver visitors. 

DISCLAIMER: U.S. immigration laws are very complex. The information contained in these files is designed specifically as assistance for visitors and scholars at UCAR/NCAR/UCP. Immigration laws are constantly changing, and even though we will attempt to keep these files up to date, we cannot guarantee their completeness or accuracy. The information contained herein is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship nor can it be construed as legal advice. For further information, please contact the UCAR Immigration Specialist or an immigration attorney. Other individuals not affiliated with UCAR/NCAR/UCP should seek assistance from immigration specialists. You may consider consulting with an attorney who belongs to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Last updated by jalipit on July 1, 2019 - 2:59am.
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