The University of Houston employs faculty in several different visa statuses:
- F1-OPT: OPT stands for Optional Practical Training and allows recent graduates to work up to one year full or part-time. Although Federal immigration laws allow for an additional 18 months of OPT for individuals in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the University of Houston is unable to employ OPT-STEM individuals at this time. In order to continue working in the United States, an OPT will need to secure another work-eligible visa status. H-1B is the most popular choice, but it is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to understand all available options.
- J-1: A J-1 visa is coordinated through International Student and Scholar Services (ISSSO). Some J-1s are allowed to petition for a change to another work-eligible visa status upon completion of the J-1 period. Others are required to return to their home country for at least two years. Individuals in J-1 status are strongly encouraged to work closely with ISSSO and/or an immigration attorney to understand all their options for extension or change to a different status type.
- H-1B: An H-1B is employer-sponsored, meaning that the hiring department chooses whether to sponsor or renew a sponsorship. A visaholder cannot sponsor himself or herself in H-1B. The hiring department will work closely with the Immigration Specialist in the Office of the General Counsel on all paperwork related to the H-1B visa. Because it can take as long as six months to obtain or renew an H-1B, it is important to begin the process early and promptly supply all requested documentation. There is a six-year maximum for H-1B, so one should consult with an immigration attorney at least one year before the end of this period to determine what other status may be an option for continuing employment in the United States
- O-1 and EB-3: Persons needing an O-1 or EB-3 visa or a renewal should work with their own immigration attorney.
UH sponsors four categories for employment-based permanent residency: Outstanding Professor or Researcher; Advanced Degree; Professional; and Exceptional Ability. Before UH will sponsor a nonimmigrant, the employee must have the support of his/her Department Chair and Dean or the equivalent. Positions the University of Houston will consider sponsoring are as follows:
1. Full-time Tenured or Tenure Track Faculty with the titles of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, or Clinical Professor.
2. Full-time non-tenure track faculty with the titles of Research or Clinical Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor.
The individual seeking sponsorship should work closely with their department chair and business staff, who will request the necessary paperwork and work with the Office of the General Counsel and outside legal counsel on the petition.
Individuals who wish to pursue permanent residency on their own should consult with an immigration attorney. The Office of International Students and Scholars maintains a list of local immigration attorneys but this list is not definitive and the beneficiary should use their own best judgment in any situation requiring legal counsel.