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Before we can initiate the processing of any visa documents, the individual will need to have a formal appointment as a faculty, visiting scholar, post-doctoral fellow, and research scientist or as a non-degree student. The appointment is made by the Provost Office based on recommendation from a sponsoring faculty member and/or Department Head. Once the appointment has been accepted, the Office of International Faculty and Scholar Services in conjunction with the visitor will determine which immigration status is the most appropriate.  This will sometimes depend on current status and/or future plans.


For tenure track faculty, we typically start by filing for the H-1B visa designed for people working in Specialty Occupations. After a couple of years working for WPI, we will consider filing for a “green card” as an outstanding professor or researcher in the EB-1 Category. In certain special situations we might also consider filing for a Labor Certification under the PERM regulations.

For non-tenure track faculty and visiting faculty, we will file either for the H-1B or for the J-1 as an Exchange Visitor.


For post-doctoral fellows, we will file for either the H-1B or the J-1 Exchange Visitor. In some situations we will also have post-docs start on the F-1 Optional Practical Training or on the J-1 Academic Training.

For visiting scholars with primary funding from sources other than WPI, we will issue documents for J-1 visa as an Exchange Visitor.

For short term (2-4 weeks) visits for the purpose of conference/workshop participation, faculty collaboration etc. which does not include any payment from WPI, we will sometimes suggest the Visitor Category.

Non-degree students:

Non-degree students always come on the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.

  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Status

    Exchange Visitors are admitted to the US in J-1 status to engage in one of a number of possible activities. The WPI Exchange Visitor Program is approved for the following categories: Professor (non tenure track), Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars and non-degree students. The Office of International Student Life is also approved for degree seeking undergraduate and graduate students.  The United States Department of State administers the overall Exchange Visitor Program by designating sponsors to administer individual exchange visitor programs.

    J-1 Exchange Visitors’ entry stamp should have a D/S written on it. Duration of Status is defined as the period of time necessary to complete the activity for which the visa was issued plus 30 days in which to depart the US. The term "duration of status" is not an indication that you can stay in the US indefinitely.  You must have a valid DS-2019 form and a current appointment from the WPI Provost Office to support your D/S.

    The first time a J-1 exchange visitor comes into contact with the Department of Homeland Security, the Exchange Visitor must present a properly completed Form DS-2019. The DS-2019 is provided to the Exchange Visitor by the Office of International Faculty and Scholar Services. The DS-2019 serves as the permanent record of the exchange visitor’s non-immigrant J-1 student status in the US. It should remain with your passport and should not be surrendered when leaving the US. Always be in possession of your DS-2019, and if you are given a new DS-2019 at any point, you must keep your past DS-2019s for your records - do not throw them away! A new DS-2019 form is only required if there has been a change to your program such as a change to your program end date, the source or amount of funding, or if all of the travel endorsement lines have been used.

    Length of permitted stay: J-1 Professor category and the Research Scholar category may stay in the US in J status from three weeks up to five years. Short Term Scholars may stay for up to 6 months.

    Dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21) of J-1 Exchange Visitors are eligible for J-2 status. Under certain circumstances, a J-2 visa holder can get permission to work from USCIS and a J-2 visa holder is allowed to study full or part time.

  • H-1B Status

    The H-1B temporary worker visa is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. A "specialty occupation" requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Positions such as a research scientist, post-doctoral fellow, and instructor or professor in fields such as engineering, mathematics, management, physical science, and computer science are all examples of jobs qualifying for H-1B status.

    There is a limit to the number of aliens who may be issued an H-1B visa or otherwise be granted H-1B status. However, as an educational institution, WPI is exempt from this limit. We typically do not process H-1B applications for staff positions at WPI, but in very special situations and with a recommendation from Human Resources, an exception can be made.

    The H-1B process starts with an appointment at the Provost Office. Once the individual accepts the appointment, the Office of International Faculty and Scholar Services will determine the "Prevailing Wage." Once we have determined that the salary offered meets the prevailing wage requirement, we file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor. Once the LCA is approved, we post it at WPI for 10 days to notify the public of the intent to hire an H-1B worker. While the LCA is posted, we prepare and file the H-1B Petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Processing time will vary from 2-6 months depending on whether it is a new filing or filing for extension or transfer of employer. If time is important, we have the option of filing under Premium Processing, which requires an additional fee, but will get the application processed in about 2 weeks.

    Six-Year Limitation on H-1B Status

    H-1B visa holders are eligible for a maximum stay of six years. The initial H-1 B period cannot exceed three years. H-1 B status allows for what is known as "dual-intent," which makes it the best status from which to apply for Permanent Residence. Other non- immigrant categories require the individual to have the intent to return to their country of residence upon completion of studies/research in the U.S. under the initial F-1 or J-1 status.


    Dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21) of someone in H-1B status will have H-4 status. This status allows for studying, but not for any kind of employment.