Immigration Information Guide

Immigration laws are extremely complex and difficult to summarize. This guide is intended to provide a general overview of some common immigration issues relative to an employee who needs authorization to work for St. Lawrence University. This document will explain at a very basic level the different types of visas that the University is able to obtain on behalf of an employee. It is not possible to cover every situation or specific topic so if you have a specific question or require further explanation of a topic please contact Colleen Manley in Human Resources (229-5596) for a more thorough answer.

If you have an employee who requires authorization to work in the U.S. please contact Human Resources. The Human Resources office, in consultation with the department and employee, completes the necessary steps to obtain work authorization. Department head approval is needed before the process can begin.

Please also see the University's non-discrimination policy.

NON-EMPLOYEES (Speakers, trainers, musicians)
Speakers, musicians, or consultants who come to St. Lawrence are generally not employees: their immigration process is different from the one that applies to employees. The main difference is that the visitors are responsible for getting CIS approval and must obtain the appropriate visa on their own. You will most likely be asked to provide a letter that outlines the purpose of their visit so that they can apply for the proper visa. The type of visa that they will need to obtain will depend on the nature of their visit and their citizenship.

You must contact the business office to determine if the person or group has the necessary information for payment to be made by the University. Click here for the business office.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides more information on visas for business or pleasure visitors.

Visas are necessary to visit countries outside the US. Individuals are expected to obtain the necessary visas on their own. It is important to remember that when a non-U.S. citizen is working in the U.S. on a visa he or she will have to follow the rules of the home country when obtaining a visa for another country. It may or may not be as simple for him/her to enter Canada from Canton as it is for a U.S. citizen. For example, a citizen of Belgium working in Canton can visit Canada without a visa but a citizen of India working in Canton cannot visit Canada without a visa. These are Canadian rules, not U.S. CIS rules.

All non-U.S. citizens who wish to work for the University must present the Human Resources Office with an acceptable work authorization document. An individual is authorized to work for the University if he/she is a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident,or has a non-immigrant work visa specific to the University,or has an employment authorization document issued by the USCIS. Although there are many categories of non-immigrant work visas, St. Lawrence generally sponsors its employees for an H-1B or a TN visa. For additional information:

H-1B visas:

TN visas are available to citizens of Canada and Mexico through NAFTA. There are different application procedures for each country.

TN1 (for Canadian citizens) visas are limited to very specific professional job categories and have established educational/ licensure requirements for each job. It is a temporary visa that can be renewed annually. The employee must not have immigrant intent and cannot apply for permanent resident status while on a TN visa. The employee can obtain the visa at the border crossing or Canadian airport. He/she must first contact HR to obtain a letter of support/request for TN visa. In addition to the letter of support he/she will need to provide a copy of his/her college degree, proof of Canadian citizenship and a fee (U.S. funds).

TN2 visas are available to citizens of Mexico. The process is similar to that of the H1-B visa.

The H1-B visa is available to individuals in specialty occupations that require a bachelor's degree. The visa is available for a maximum of six years. A person in this status is eligible to apply for permanent residency. The process of applying for an H1-B visa is more complicated than for the TN. There are several steps and the entire process takes about six months. Unless the individual is already in H1-B status he/she may not work until the application has been approved: this means HR must begin the application process as soon as possible after the offer of employment.

If the person is currently employed in H1-B status he/she is legally able to work for us once we receive notification from CIS that the application has been received. It takes approximately 2 weeks from the date of submission to receive notification from CIS that the application has been received.

There may be a situation where St. Lawrence will need to obtain a visa for an employee but cannot wait for six months to process. In cases such as this, we can apply for premium processing and pay an additional fee ($1,000 currently) to be guaranteed an answer within 15 days.

The cost for obtaining an H1-B visa is approximately $2,500 for attorney's fees, $190 for filing fees and the additional $1,000 for premium processing, if necessary. Prior approval from the department head is required before the process can begin. Please refer to St. Lawrence's policy on immigration services.

It is important to note that applying for a visa does not guarantee approval. CIS will review the application and may request more information or actually deny the application.

Once the petition for a non-immigrant visa is approved, the University will receive an Approval Notice (Form I-797) from the USCIS. An individual on whose behalf the Approval Notice was obtained is responsible for safe-keeping the Notice in question. Please be advised that the Approval Notice is not sufficient for re-entering the U.S. If the individual leaves the U.S., he/she will be responsible for obtaining a valid visa at the U.S. consulate at his/her home country. It is also possible to schedule an appointment with the U.S. embassy in Canada for purposes of visa processing.

A non-U.S. citizen who wishes to live and work permanently in the U.S. must obtain this status. The employer or a relative can petition on behalf of the individual. It is advisable to pursue this status for any employee whom the University intends to retain beyond the duration of the temporary visa. It can take several years to complete the process of obtaining the "green card."

The first step in the process requires that the University proves to the U.S. Department of Labor that we are not displacing a qualified U.S. citizen. This may require re-advertising the position to determine if there are any qualified U.S. citizens. Please contact HR for more information.

In the case of a tenure-track position there are special handling rules provided by CIS that eliminate the need to re-advertise the position. As long as the petition is filed within 18 months of the hire date (not start date) of the individual, then it is not necessary to re-advertise the position. In order to take advantage of the special handling provision the University has determined that in the case of the tenure-track position we will proceed with the petition even though we may not be sure that the individual will be granted (or accept) tenure.

The cost of obtaining a green card can be about $5,000 to $7,000.


What is a visa?
A visa is a permit to enter the US for a particular purpose. There are different types of visa depending on the nature of the visit and the country of citizenship.

How do I get a visa to work in the U.S.?
The employer generally must petition the CIS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) on behalf of the employee.

If you have made an offer of employment to a candidate who needs authorization to work in the U.S. contact the Human Resources Office as soon as possible. HR will contact the employee to discuss their status and determine what type of visa best fits the individual employee.

What is a TN visa?
The TN visa is available to citizens of Canada or Mexico through NAFTA.

TN1- The TN1 visa is available only to Canadian citizens for very specific occupations. For each occupation there are certain educational requirements. The visa is temporary, renewable each year. A person cannot pursue permanent resident status while holding this type of visa. It is limited to people with "non-immigrant" intent. It is issued at the port of entry for a nominal fee (currently $56 US funds).

TN2 - This visa is available to Mexican citizens. It is similar to the H1-B visa (see below).

What is an H1-B visa?
The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa available to individuals in specialty occupations that require a bachelor's degree. It is a temporary visa for a maximum of six years.

How long does it take to get the visa?
A TN visa is obtained at the border crossing or airport and if approved it is issued immediately. An H1-B visa takes about 6 months ( two weeks with premium processing).

What is the cost/who pays?
Costs will vary depending on the type of visa. TN visas cost $56.00 (US funds).

H1-B visas require the assistance of an attorney to prepare. The cost for an H-1B averages about $2,500. This may be more if the case becomes complicated requiring more of the attorney's time. It is difficult to determine this in advance.

Please refer to the University 's policy on immigration services for more information.

What is a green card?
A "green card" (pink or light blue in color) is given to foreign nationals who have obtained the right to live and work in the U.S. without time limits (permanent resident status).

What do I need to do to bring a musician, speaker or consultant from another country?
You must contact the Business Office to determine if the person has the necessary information in order to be paid by the University.

Most likely they will also need to obtain a visa. They are responsible for doing this on their own. If you have questions, contact Colleen Manley in Human Resources (5596) for assistance.