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H1-B Visas

H-1B status is suitable for most international researchers, faculty and staff whose position requires the minimum of a bachelor’s degree and who will perform work in a specialized skill area. The host department will collect information from the prospective H-1B and file documents to the International Office who will then file the petition to USCIS.

Visa summary:

  • Visa-holders are skilled workers with a bachelor's degree or higher who perform work in a specialized skill area.
  • Visas can be held up to six years total, but can only be applied for three years at a time.
  • Dependents of the H-1B beneficiary hold H-4 visas.

Types of H-1B Visa Applications

There are several different types of H-1B visa applications depending on the current status of the prospective employee.  See the Documentation Requirements for H-1B  Visas to view the differences at a glance.

In general, the type of H-1B visa will depend on whether you are a new or current H-B visa-holder.

Steps for Host Department


New applicants fall into one of the two following H-1B types:

  • H-1B Overseas are new applicants living outside the United States
  • H-1B COS (Change of Status) currently live in the United States in a different visa category
Steps to Apply for an initial H-1B


  • H-1B COE (Change of Employer) holds an H-1B at another institution but are starting employment at Northwestern
  • H-1B EOS (Extension of Status) hold an H-1B at Northwestern and would like to extend end date
  • H-1B Amend hold an H-1B at Northwestern but job title, description, site of activity, salary, and/or hours have changed.
  • H-1B Concurrent hold an H-1B at another institution but will concurrently work at Northwestern.

Steps to Extend or Amend a H-1B

Visa Compliance and Regulation

It is important that the visa holder maintain their H-1B status by extending/amending the visa if necessary, and by following the visa's compliance requirements. View all visa requirements and restrictions.

Beneficiaries currently in the U.S. should consult with the OISS advisor regarding all plans to travel outside the US before the anticipated approval of the petition. Leaving the U.S. while a change of status, extension, amendment, or change of employer petition is pending approval by USCIS may be considered abandonment of the petition or  result in additional visa processing delays and employment disruption. OISS can coordinate the submission of a petition to accommodate travel plans with advanced notice.

Bringing Dependents (Spouses and Children)

Spouses and children under age 21 will fall in the H-4 visa category. This category carries certain restrictions, such as ineligibility to seek employment. Learn about H-4 visas and find application instructions.