Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Frequently Asked Questions by Professors
You may be eligible to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor, O-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability, or H-1B Specialty Occupation. The choice between each of these depends on the type of position you are offered, your qualifications, and whether you intend to remain in the United States.
Many visiting foreign professors come to the United States on J-1 Exchange Visitor visas. The Exchange Visitor Program is run by the U.S. Department of State and is designed specifically for the purpose of international educational exchange. Immigration law requires people in J status to intend to return to their home countries when they have completed their stated program. Therefore, you should use a different visa category if you intend to remain in the United States beyond the terms of the exchange program.
The O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa category is available for individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. You must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue to work within your field of extraordinary ability or achievement. You must have an offer of employment.
The O-1 category requires sustained national or international acclaim. This visa status is not available if you have not yet achieved significant recognition of your ability and contribution to the field.
If I am coming to work in the United States as a professor or researcher, can I qualify for an H-1B visa?
The H-1B Specialty Occupation visa is available for professors coming to the United States, because a professorship is considered a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation is a position that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge to perform the occupation, and requires completion of a specific course of education culminating in a baccalaureate degree, or higher, in a specific occupational specialty.
The H-1B visa classification is appropriate for professional employment positions, including but not limited to:
Professors from Canada and Mexico are eligible for TN visas, which were created by the North American Free Trade Agreement. TN visas provide for the admission of those who will be engaged in “activities at a professional level” in the United States, defined as those that require at least a bachelor’s degree or credentials and experience demonstrating that you are a professional.
Professors at the college, seminary or university level are eligible, if you have at least a bachelor's or licenciatura degree. TN visas are also available for research assistants working in a post-secondary educational institution, so long as you have a bachelor's or licenciatura degree.
There are two categories of J-1 visas that are available to professors: one for short-term scholars and one specifically for professors. The short-term scholar category is designed to foster professional relationships between U.S. and foreign academics. The maximum period of stay is six months, with no extensions allowed. While lecturing is allowed, the visa is not designed for a foreign professor to teach at a U.S. school.
The other J-1 category is designed for professors seeking to teach in the United States. The position filled by the J-1 professor must be temporary. The initial period of approval is for three years, and may be extended for another three years. Additional information on the J-1 visa program is also available.
Could I qualify for permanent residency as an Outstanding Professor or as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability?
Professors who are considered “outstanding” can obtain a first preference employment visa as an Outstanding Researcher or Professor. You must have at least three years of experience teaching in the field, and must have an offer of employment. One of the primary advantages of this type of immigrant petition is that no labor certification application is required. Some top professors may also be qualify for first preference classification as aliens of extraordinary ability, which would be necessary if there was no job offer.
If I do not qualify as an Outstanding Professor or Alien of Extraordinary Ability, how can I obtain permanent residency in the United States?
If you do not qualify as an Outstanding Professor, a professor would generally qualify for the second employment based preference, which is available for workers with advanced degrees. In most cases, this will require a labor certification. A national interest waiver can be pursued, but you must demonstrate that your work benefits the entire United States.