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Prospective Foreign National Employees

Preparing to work or train abroad is a challenging adventure and it can be overwhelming at times. That is why we have prepared the following information for prospective foreign national employees.

Included below is information we think will be helpful to all international exchange visitors (J-1) and temporary professionals (H-1B) prior to arrival.

Please contact Wistar's Immigration Associate with questions about traveling to Wistar, accommodations, housing, health insurance, banking, climate and living in Philadelphia.

Nonimmigrant Status Information

J-1 Research Scholar

The US Department of State (DOS) administers the overall Exchange Visitor Program. The program provides foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in exchange programs in the United States so they may return home to share their experiences. The Wistar Institute has been designated as an Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor. As an exchange visitor in Wistar's Program, we offer you the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the world's foremost scientists. In addition, we support activities that will expose you to American society and culture, and encourage you to share the language, culture and history of your home country.

As an exchange visitor, you are required to engage in the category and subject or field of activity listed on your Form DS-2019. Compensation for such activities may be accepted only when permitted by the regulations. Exchange visitors must also comply with the specific program provisions of the regulations that govern their particular category.

Maintaining J-1 Status

Exchange visitors are required to have a valid passport and I-94, and an unexpired Form DS-2019.

Research scholars who hold J-1 status are also required to have medical insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents throughout their stay in the U.S. The Department of State (DOS) has mandated that any insurance plan purchased by a J-1 visa holder meet the following criteria:

  • medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
  • medical evacuation to the home country in the amount of $10,000
  • a deductible (the amount for which you are responsible before insurance coverage becomes effective) not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • co-payment of medical expenses (the portion not covered by insurance) of no more than 25% is paid by the insured

If you receive income in whole or part from Wistar you may enroll yourself and your J-2 dependents in one of the health insurance plans offered by Wistar. You will be required to contribute a percentage of the overall cost based on income earned. Your contribution or cost is called a "premium," and will be made through deductions from your paycheck.

If you do not receive income from Wistar you must purchase medical insurance for yourself and your J-2 dependents immediately upon arrival in the U.S. Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program.  Please contact the Immigration Associate for medical insurance providers’ recommendations. 

Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement (212.(e))

A two-year foreign residence requirement is imposed on some categories of exchange visitors once their U.S. stay is completed. Any J-1 exchange visitor subject to the foreign residence requirement is ineligible for U.S. permanent residence or nonimmigrant visas in the H category until he/she spends two years (after completion of stay) in his/her home country or country of last residence. The foreign residence requirement applies to three (3) categories of exchange visitors:

  • Exchange visitors who possess skills that have been determined to be in short supply in their own countries
  • Exchange visitors whose training program is financed in whole or in part by either an agency of the U.S. government or by the government of the alien’s home country
  • Exchange visitors who come to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training

212.(e) Waivers

For information on applying for a waiver visit:

Twelve-Month Bar

A foreign national is not eligible to participate in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program as a Professor or Research Scholar if he or she has held any J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status within the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the exchange program, unless the duration was less than 6 months.

Employment for Dependents

An individual in J-2 status may apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to accept employment in the U.S. Permission will be granted only if the employment is designed to provide extra income for activities such as sightseeing and travel and should not be used to support the J-1 exchange visitor.

H-B1 Temporary Professional

An H-1B temporary worker is defined as a person who will perform services in a “specialty occupation.” The H-1B classification is available for those occupations that require “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum entry into the occupation in the United States.” The H-1B classification is appropriate for faculty members and research scholars at the professional level.

The employer must meet requirements set both by USCIS and the Department of Labor (DOL) in order to file for H-1B1 status for a prospective employee. It usually takes four to six months to obtain approval of an H-1B petition, although USCIS now offers premium processing for an additional fee. This guarantees USCIS action within 15 days of receipt of the H-1B petition. Individuals who do not already have alternate employment authorization cannot be employed until final notice is received from USCIS approving Wistar’s H-1B petition. An approved H-1B notice for employment at The Wistar Institute allows you to be employed only by Wistar in the job described in the H-1B petition.

Maintaining H-1B Status

H-1B temporary workers are required to have a valid passport and I-94 card, and an unexpired Form I-797 indicating petition approval.

Portability of H-1B status

The H-1B status is time, job, and employer-specific. If you have valid H-1B status with another employer, you must still get the necessary authorization to begin employment at Wistar. In this case, however, once the Immigration Associate submits the H-1B petition and it is received by USCIS, you can begin working at Wistar under portability provisions in the H-1B regulations.

Employment for Dependents

H-4 status does not provide for employment authorization for dependents, although H-4 dependents may attend school while in this status. H-4 students who must work as part of their curriculum or program must change their status to an F-1 (student) visa.

Contact Us

Jo-Ann Mendel
Vice President, Human Resources
The Wistar Institute
3601 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: 215-898-3968 
Fax: 215-898-2204