Carnegie Mellon University

H-1B Workers

H-1B status is for individuals who will perform services in a "specialty occupation." Current and prospective employees can find out more about applying for H-1B status and the resources available to you as an H-1B worker. Below you will find information for obtaining H-1B status at CMU as a researcher, professor or staff member.

The H-1B category is a frequently used immigration status for qualified international employees of CMU. A "specialty occupation" is a position that requires at least a bachelor's degree in a specialized field as part of the position's minimum qualifications.

To apply for H-1B status for employment with Carnegie Mellon, the hiring department will work with the Office of International Education and with one of the University’s pre-approved immigration attorneys to file the H-1B petition.

H-1B petitions consist of:

    1. The H-1B filing fees,
    2. An approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) submitted to the US Department of Labor by OIE.
    3. The petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-129
    4. Additional application materials which typically include a letter of request from the employer and support materials showing the employee's qualifications for the "specialty occupation," which may include:
      1. Your resume, copies of academic credentials, proof of relevant professional experience, and copies of current non-immigrant documents.
USCIS usually approves the application but they may request additional information. Once approved, USCIS will mail an Approval Notice to the attorney and CMU. You will be provided the original approval notice and your new I-94, if applicable.

This process can take more than six months from beginning to end and cannot be started more than six months prior to the start date we are requesting. Processing times at USCIS Service Centers vary greatly and change throughout the year. If the employee is outside the US, the process may take longer as the visa application process cannot begin until the H-1B petition is approved by USCIS.

USCIS does offer "premium processing" of H-1B requests. However, this process requires an additional $2,500 fee. With premium processing, USCIS guarantees a response within 15 days. Even with Premium Processing, this process typically takes two months from beginning to end when including all components of the application process.

Who handles the application process?

The employer sponsors and files the H-1B petitions on behalf of the employee. An individual may not self-petition for their own H-1B status. At Carnegie Mellon, the hiring department initiates the application process by contacting OIE. Typically, OIE processes the LCA application with the Department of Labor. OIE then works in partnership with the employee, hiring department and pre-approved immigration attorneys who filed the majority of CMU’s H-1B petitions.

Employer-Specific Status

It's important to know that the employer is considered the "petitioner" to the USCIS. In filing an H-1B petition, the employer is essentially asking permission from USCIS to employ an individual for a specific job, in a specific location, at a specific salary for a specific period of time. Employees cannot self-petition. Additionally, any material changes in the position, or extending the length of the position require the employer to file another H petition. In the case of a change in position, the H petition must be filed before the change may take place. Examples of material changes may include a change of employer, a change in hiring department, a change from full-time to part-time employment, etc. To maintain your H-1B status, you will also need to meet certain requirements and report any changes to your employment status.

Because H-1B status is tied to a specific employer, H-1B employees may not engage in outside employment or consultations where payment or remuneration would be provided.

Six Year Limit

U.S. regulations allow you to remain in H-1B status for up to six years, with a maximum of three years per petition. In some instances, extensions beyond six years can be granted, though these are not common at CMU. Most often, extensions beyond six years occur when we are able to recapture time spent outside the U.S. during the period of H-1B employment. Another example of an extension beyond the six year limit occurs when someone is in the process of applying for legal permanent residency (a "green card"), and the case remains pending for over 365 days.

J Status and two-year home residency requirement

Peole who are or were in J status and are subject to the two-year home residency rule, must obtain a Waiver Recommendation from the U.S. Department of State and a waiver from USCIS in order to obtain H-1B status. For more information on obtaining the waiver, visit the U.S. Department of State and/or make an appointment with your OIE advisor. The waiver process typically takes at least six months, and your Waiver Recommendation needs to be submitted with your other H-1B application materials. Plan accordingly!

Travel outside of the U.S. while the H-1B application is pending

If you are already in the U.S. in another non-immigrant status (i.e., F or J) while submitting your H-1B application, your H-1B case will still include a "change of status" request. In this scenario, the H-1B petition requests that the employer be allowed to employ you in H-1B status and that your non-immigrant status is changed to H-1B.

It is important to discuss any potential international travel plans before the application is filed with USCIS as travel may impact how and when a petition is filed. For a change of status application, if you exit the U.S. while the application is pending, the status change portion of the application is considered "abandoned" and will be denied. This may require someone to leave the U.S. or would impact the ability to begin employment. Someone who changes status in the U.S. must obtain an H-1B visa stamp to re-enter the H-1B status after international travel.

Consular processing

H-1B employees living outside of the U.S. or those who are in the U.S. but will exit during their H-1B processing will have H-1B petitions submitted with a request for "consular processing." This way, a designated U.S. consulate will be electronically notified of the approval directly by the USCIS. If you are already a Carnegie Mellon scholar currently in the U.S., you should discuss consular processing options early in the H-1B process. You can discuss your plans with your OIE advisor and/or the attorney who is processing the petition if you plan any foreign travel during the H-1B application process.

Department of State PIMS system

The U.S. Department of State must first verify the approval of the H-1B petition through the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) in a Petition Information Management System (PIMS) report before issuing the H visa stamp. All H-1B approvals, including initial approvals, extensions, amendments and changes of status cases, are entered into PIMS. If an H-1B visa applicant is not found in PIMS, there will be a two working-day delay as the system is updated.


An H-1B employee may change employers after the new employer has filed an H-1B petition to the proper USCIS Service Center on behalf of the employee. At Carnegie Mellon, the USCIS Receipt Notice must be received at Carnegie Mellon before a new employee may move from a previous employer and begin employment at the University.

The Cap

The U.S. Congress places a limit (“cap”) of 65,000 on the number of new H-1B employees who may be processed in a one-year period. In some years, the cap has been reached within days of the beginning of the filing period in April. Once the cap has been reached, no new H-1B’s may be processed or granted until the following fiscal year (October 1 of the next year), barring an action by Congress to increase the cap. Recently, the cap has been reached late in the calendar year—again, leaving a gap until the following October when H’s become available again. An additional 20,000 H-1Bs are available for workers who have completed their Masters or PhD-level education in the U.S.; these additional 20,000 quota numbers have also been completely 2 Updated 7/2018 filled in the past several years but usually not as quickly as the 65,000. Note: Only new H-1B applications are counted towards the cap. H-1B petitions from universities (including Carnegie Mellon) and other research and some non-profit organizations are currently excluded from the cap. Therefore, persons who will work for a university in H-1B status need not worry about the cap.

Because of the cap, graduating students and those completing F-1 OPT or J-1 Academic Training need to plan carefully for the F-1 or J-1 to H-1B transition period if working in the private sector. F-1 students transitioning from F-1 OPT employment to H-1B employment may be able to use “cap gap” OPT

Multiple Employers

Also called "concurrent employment," an H1B employee may be employed by more than one employer at a time. However, all employers are required to file an H1B petition on behalf of the employee. The H1B petition need only be received by the USCIS for the concurrent employment to begin; neither employer nor employee is required to wait for the H1B Approval Notice prior to start of concurrent employment. However, the Receipt Notice from the USCIS is required prior to new employment at CMU; it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for the Receipt Notice to arrive from the USCIS.

Example: A full-time H1B employee is working in private industry in Pittsburgh. An academic department at CMU would like to hire this person to teach one course for one term. In this case, CMU will file a "concurrent H1B application" including a new H1B application with support materials and the LCA prior to the start of concurrent employment.

The LCA requires the employer to certify through the U.S. Department of Labor that the wage paid to the employee is fair and equitable in the region. This process protects both U.S. and international workers from being exploited by unfair labor practices. Be aware that the LCA process for H-1B status is entirely different from the Labor Certification for employment-based permanent residents and does not involve proof that there is no U.S. citizen or permanent resident qualified and ready to do the job.

At Carnegie Mellon, the Office of International Education (OIE), processes the Labor Condition Application (LCA) for all H-1B applications. OIE processes the LCA no matter if OIE will file the H-1B
petition or if an outside attorney will file. OIE works with the hiring department and with Human Resources to file the LCA with the U.S. Department of Labor. By law, the wage which is paid to the H-1B employee must be (1) in line with the “actual wages” paid to other similarly employed persons in the department or (2) 100% or more of the “prevailing wage” in the region for that job, whichever is higher. The actual wage paid must be at or above 100% of the prevailing wage. The approved LCA is a required part of any H-1B petition. 

The basic H-1B application fee is $460 and must be submitted with all petitions. An additional $500 "anti-fraud" fee must be paid with all new H-1B petitions (except for extension requests if remaining in the same position). Private companies must also pay a "training fee," but university employers, such as Carnegie Mellon, are not required to pay this "training fee." In addition, premium processing (if utilized) is $2,500; this service and fee are optional. Additional attorney fees are charged when an attorney is hired to process an H-1B petition (and any dependent applications).

Dependents (spouse; minor children) wishing to change to or extend H-4 status must submit the fee of $400 with the Request for Change of Non-immigrant Status, plus an additional $85 biometric services fee per dependent. Additional attorney fees are charged when an attorney is hired to process an H-1B petition.

Note: H-1B fees must be paid by the employer, not the employee. Costs for dependents may be paid by the employer and are not always covered by the employee.