Visa Options for Postdoctoral Scholars at UC Berkeley
In general, postdoctoral scholars coming to UC Berkeley for more than six months can be hosted under one of two visas:
J-1 Research Scholar Status
J-1 Research Scholar status is designed to allow postdocs to engage in research for up to a period of five years. The visa document that supports this status can be produced by Berkeley International Office (BIO) with relative ease and within about two weeks. Currently, the recharge rate for this service is $500. In limited situations, it may not be in the University's interest to pursue J-1 status. BIO can advise on this matter on a case-by-case basis.
H-1B Temporary Employee Status
The H-1B visa is complex in nature, and obligates the University to stricter legal requirements, governmental oversight, and potential sanctions from the Department of Labor for even minor violations. It requires extensive processing of paperwork that includes a Prevailing Wage evaluation, a certified Labor Condition Application from the U.S. Department of Labor, and an H-1B visa petition from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It can take up to several months to obtain the necessary approvals. Currently, the BIO recharge rate for the processing of the H1B status is $2,000 and there are additional USCIS application fees of up to $2555 (The University may use the H-1B classification for postdoctoral appointments that meet Labor department and USCIS requirements when both the position and the prospective employee meet the H-1B requirements).
While the campus expects as a matter of normal practice that a proposed temporary nonimmigrant researcher will be invited to campus under J-1 status, we recognize that H-1B status will be appropriate in certain cases. Academic units making requests for H-1B status for a postdoc should be mindful of the resource implications (and the legal burden) involved in petitions for an H-1B status, both on the department and on BIO. Employing departments must have the approval from the cognizant Dean to forward an H-1B request to BIO. Once this approval has been provided, BIO will facilitate the necessary paperwork.
If you have questions regarding this policy as it relates to titles or appointment processes, please contact the cognizant dean's office. Contact Ivor Emmanuel, Director, Berkeley International Office (643-8307) with questions relating to the visa requirements or business processes.
UCB Campus Policy for Supporting H-1B Visas for Postdoctoral Scholars
While most postdoctoral scholars are sponsored in J-1 Research Scholar status, the Berkeley campus, through the Berkeley International Office (BIO), will support applications from departments for postdoctoral scholars for H-1B visas if the request for H-1B is approved at the Deans level or Vice Chancellor for Research. Department of Labor regulations require that to be eligible for an H-1B visa an individual must be classified as an employee, and, as an employee, must pay all applicable taxes (income tax via a Form W-2 and FICA). In order to conform to these regulations, when a foreign national's funding source is a fellowship, rather than a PI's grant, certain conditions must be met in order for the campus to support their H-1B applications. These conditions are:
- The fellowship award is made to UC Berkeley, not directly to the postdoctoral scholar, and payment to the postdoc is made through the UCB payroll system.
- The terms of the fellowship award do not preclude the postdoctoral scholar from being classified as a UCB employee or do not specify that the stipend is "not for services rendered."
- The postdoctoral scholar accepts that he or she will have income tax and FICA tax (Medicare and Social Security) deducted from his or her monthly pay.
The postdoctoral scholar is responsible for verifying to his or her sponsoring unit (School, department, or research entity) that the terms of their fellowship award do not preclude employee status or stipulate that the award is "not for services rendered." This can be accomplished by providing a copy of the award letter. The postdoctoral scholar must also provide the sponsoring unit with a signed statement approving the withholding of income and FICA tax from his or her monthly pay. Postdoctoral scholars whose fellowships are paid directly to them must arrange with the funding agency to make payment to UCB instead.
When the above conditions are met the responsible unit-level administrator will enter the postdoctoral scholar into the HCM system with the Job Code 3252.