The H-1B visa classification is a specialty occupation visa category for individuals who are identified as highly skilled workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the relevant field of study and occupation.
International Scholars on H-1B visas, otherwise referred to as H-1B beneficiaries, are eligible for a maximum of six years in this visa category and may be eligible for Legal Permanent Residency sponsored by Northwestern University, after two years of employment and with approval from their supervisor and the International Office.
If you would like to apply for an H-1B visa, or seek to maintain your H-1B status through an extension or amendment, please begin the process by speaking with your department concerning your current immigration status and what type of visa your supervisor is willing to sponsor. The IO only accepts H-1B requests from NU sponsoring departments.
Upon confirmation of H-1B sponsorship by the hiring department, you are ready to begin the application process. The remainder of this webpage gives you information about:
Types of H-1B Petitions
Applying for an H-1B
Arrival and Maintenance of H-1B status at NU
Travel While in H-1B Status
Obtaining an H-1B Visa Stamp Abroad
Requesting Immigration Documents
Changing Employers - More Information
Off-Campus Occasional Lectures
There are several types of H-1B visa petitions a hiring department may file for you depending on your current status. Brief information can be found below. For comprehensive information regarding each type, please review the Types of H-1B Table.
H-1B COS (Change of Status)
H-1B EOS (Extension)
Requests for H-1B visas are handled with the Northwestern University sponsoring Department, the International Office and processed through an online case management system called Law Logix. This system will be accessed by three main points of contact: the IO advisor; the Department Contact handling the paperwork and the H-1B Beneficiary themselves.
H-1B requests may be submitted up to 8 months before the start date but no earlier. Internal processing at the IO (before sending to USCIS) requires 3 months. External processing (once petition is sent to USCIS) requires 3 weeks to issue a Receipt Notice and approximately 3-4 months (or more depending on USCIS delays) for an Approval Notice.Premium processing is used to expedite the receipt of the Approval Notice. USCIS will issue a decision within 15 calendar days of USCIS receipt.Please keep in mind IO and USCIS processing times are subject to change based on processing volume.
H-1B Request Process:
Review our Post-Arrival Information "You're here...Now what?"
If you change your residential address, please update this information with USCIS using form AR-11. Information can be found on USCIS' website.
Reminders for H-1B applicants outside the U.S.
Beneficiaries may enter the U.S. up to 10 days before the start date on his/her H-1B Approval Notice. H-1B visa holders coming to NU from outside the U.S. need to check-in with the IO before starting employment at NU. To do so, please complete the H-1B Beneficiary Check- In Form and bring your immigration documents: passport and original Approval Notice for the IO to photocopy and keep on file.
Reminders for H-1B EOS Applicants/Holders
It is important to maintain your H-1B status by applying for an H-1B extension in a timely manner. Please communicate with your current supervisor/department about your H-1B extension and keep the following points in mind to during the extension process:
If you have dependents in the U.S. please remember to file Form I-539 form to extend their H-4 status.
Please inform your sponsoring department and the IO if you are traveling outside the U.S. during the process.
If you are approaching your 5th year in H-1B status, and you intend to apply for Permanent Resident status in the U.S., please begin the process through NU (if eligible) or independently, prior to the start of your 5th year. This will allow extension of H-1B status beyond six years (while pending) for one year at a time.
If you plan on traveling outside the U.S. while in H-1B visa status, please review the following Q&A regarding travel, and contact your IO Advisor with any further questions.
What if I am traveling within the U.S. domestically?
We recommend that all H-1B beneficiaries carry their valid passport and a copy of their H-1B approval notice for domestic travel.
What do I need to carry with me when I travel internationally?
What if I am traveling to Canada or Mexico and will stay for less than 30 days?
All H-1B beneficiaries should carry the documents listed above. If the H-1B visa stamp has expired, H-1B beneficiaries must carry their H-1B original Approval Notice and can re-enter the U.S. on expired visa stamp. If the H-1B beneficiary had a change of status (COS) within the US and currently holds an H-1B status with an Approval Notice but has a visa stamp from another visa category, then he/she will have to obtain an H-1B visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B visa status.
What if I am traveling to Canada or Mexico and will stay for longer than 30 days?
All H-1B beneficiaries should carry the documents listed above. If the H-1B visa stamp has expired, H-1B beneficiaries must obtain a valid H-1B visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. If the H-1B beneficiary had a change of status (COS) within the U.S. and currently is in H-1B status with an Approval Notice, but has a visa stamp from another visa category (e.g. F-1), then he/she will have to obtain an H-1B visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B visa status.
What if I am traveling outside of the U.S. (other than Canada or Mexico) for any period of time?
All H-1B beneficiaries should carry the documents listed above. If the H-1B visa stamp has expired, H-1B beneficiaries must obtain a valid visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.If the H-1B beneficiary had a change of status (COS) within the US and currently holds an H-1B status with an Approval Notice but has a visa stamp from another visa category, then he/she will have to obtain an H-1B visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B visa status.
What if I am traveling outside the U.S. while my H-1B extension is pending?
Before leaving the U.S., please contact the IO. If an H-1B beneficiary is traveling while an H-1B extension is pending and will be re-entering the U.S. close to the expiration date of his/her current H-1B, he/she is encouraged to carry the documents listed above plus the extension Receipt Notice and copies of the extension petition with him/her while traveling.
What if I am traveling with a valid visa stamp from another employer?
If a COE H-1B beneficiary is traveling with a valid visa stamp from another employer, you are required to bring all of the documents listed above
At the border, what types of questions will I be expected to answer*?
Nature of employment (i.e. NU Department, Job title); Specific job duties (i.e. Job description)' Exact work location; Salary - *In sum, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with your current H1B petition and the specifics of it.
Why might I be selected for secondary inspection?
Your travel documents are incomplete or you do not have the proper documents or visaYou appear to have previously violated your immigration statusYou appear to have a criminal record that is of concernYou have been selected for a random inspection. *Please note: If you are pulled into secondary inspection, please answer all questions directly, truthfully and to the best of your knowledge
All H-1B visa stamps must be obtained outside the U.S. Note: Canadian citizens do not require a visa stamp from a U.S. consulate. For further information, please review our Guidelines for Obtaining an H-1B Visa Stamp. See the Consular Electronic Application Center for
If while applying for an H-1B visa stamp, your name is sent for a background check, there is very little the university can do to ameliorate the situation. However, if more than 60-days have passed since the date of application, and no information has been given regarding application status, please follow the instructions on the IO website regarding Visa Stamp Delay.
Use our online International Scholar Document Request form to request your immigration documents. Please plan ahead and allow two-weeks for processing. The IO will notify you when your request has been processed.
The H-4 visa category is for dependents of the H-1B beneficiary.
H-4 dependents are eligible for full-time and part-time study, but are not eligible for employment, including volunteer activities of a vocational nature. When H-4 dependent children reach the age of 21 years old, they "age-out" of the H-4 visa category, and will have to obtain their own visa status in an appropriate category.
Information regarding H-4 visa status and what is needed to obtain/maintain H-4 status for dependents is outlined above. It is the responsibility of the H-1B Beneficiary and the H-4 dependent to to maintain the H-4 status. If Form I-539 is required, please review the IO Guidelines for Filing the I-539 for H-4 and E3 Dependents. You may submit this form to the IO for review or you may choose to file it yourself.
When traveling, H-4 dependents should carry with him/her, a copy of the H-1B Approval Notice, copy of the H-1B petition most recently submitted to USCIS, as well as any other relevant documents related to H-4 status (Approval Notice, H-4 visa stamp) and a valid passport.
See our website for more information and resources for International Spouses and Families.
If you currently hold an H-1B at another institution (non-profit or for-profit) and will be starting employment at NU, please refer to the details listed in the H-1B COE (Change of Employer) process. If you currently hold an H-1B at another institution (non-profit or for-profit) and will work part-time, or make contributions for monetary compensation from NU, please refer to the details on the H-1B Concurrent process.
Currently Employed by Northwestern:
If you are seeking to change employers from Northwestern University (NU) to another non-profit institution, please speak with your new employer and sponsoring department for details on their COE application.If you are seeking or have been granted part-time employment, or will be making contributions for monetary compensation at another institution while maintaining your H-1B at NU, the new institution will have to petition for a concurrent H-1B in order for you to be eligible for employment in both capacities. Please speak with your new employer and sponsoring department for details on their concurrent application process.
H-1B beneficiary's are eligible to be issued reimbursement for transportation and reasonable incidental expenses incurred while traveling to off-campus lectures but s/he is not approved to be paid a wage, salary or honorarium for these services. Please contact a scholar advisor for more information and for an approval letter.