The H-1B non-immigrant visa category is used by U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and for which attainment of a baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) is a minimum for entry into the position.
An individual may hold H-1B status for a maximum of six years, available in increments not to exceed three years.

There are few exceptions to this, though if you have spent time outside of the U.S. during your status, you may "recapture" that time to add on to the end of your original six year period.

You may also extend your H-1B beyond six years if you have received an approved I-140 Immigrant Worker petition, either by Georgia State or by self-petition, but are unable to file for a green card due to backlogs.

See more on these exceptions below under "How do I extend my H-1B?"

An employer wanting to hire an H-1B worker must file a petition with the Department of Homeland Security. The employee cannot petition for H-1B status or obtain it independently. At Georgia State University the Office of International Student and Scholar Services will assist departments in filing H-1B petitions for their prospective employees. To begin a petition please have your department visit the GSU Departments section of our website. You may check the status of your H-1B petition through the iStart system as well after you and your department have initiated.  See below for a general timeline for H-1B processing.


Dependents of H-1B employees (spouses or children) can be in the U.S. in H-4 visa status. If dependents are in the U.S. at the time the H-1B is applied for then ISSS will assist in changing their status to H-4. If dependents are outside of the U.S. at the time the H-1B is filed for, then nothing is filed. Later, the H-1B’s dependents can use the H-1B’s paperwork along with what is required by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain H-4 visas for themselves.

H-4 status holders are allowed to attend school either on a part time or full time basis.

H-4 status holders are NOT allowed to work while in the U.S.

1) H-1B visa holders can only work for the employer indicated on their H-1B approval notice. Consultation for other employers or working at other locations is not allowed.  A concurrently filed H-1B with another employer may be allowed in limited circumstances.

2) H-1B visa holders can attend school, incidental to their status. This means that it must not impact your work or keep you from fulfilling your work duties.

3) H-1Bs have a ten day grace period after their status expires, during which they cannot work. The work authorization dates are at the top right of your I-797 Approval Notice. At the end of this grace period, you should depart the U.S.  If you are entering the U.S. on an H-1B, you may only enter up to ten days prior to your status start date.

4) If you decide to terminate your position at GSU prior to the end date listed on your approval notice you must contact ISSS so that this can be reported to immigration. Your H-1B status will end on the day you stop working, though USCIS does allow for a discretionary 60 day period during which you may find another employer (though again, you must still have valid time left in your H-1B status).  Being discretionary, this 60 day period is not allows approved in retrospect.

5) If you are terminated from your position at GSU then your hiring department must offer you a reasonably priced plane ticket to your home country so that you can immediately return.

When traveling outside of the U.S. as an H-1B there are many things that should be considered prior to your departure. Please ensure that you have the necessary documents for entering whichever country you choose to visit. To find out what documents you will need to travel to a certain country please visit that country’s U.S. Embassy or Consulate web site at www.embassy.org.

The next thing to consider is whether or not you will need an H-1B visa stamp in your passport. Being approved for H-1B status in the U.S. and having an H-1B visa stamp in your passport are two very different things. If you changed your status from F or J to H-1B within the U.S., then you will not have an H-1B visa stamp in your passport and will therefore have to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain one before you can re-enter the U.S.

A visa is essentially a travel pass that allows you to board a plane or boat and come to the border of the U.S. Your H-1B approval notice (I-797) is what actually allows you to enter the U.S. and stay here. To obtain a visa stamp in your passport you will need to make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to where you will be (ISSS recommends that you always obtain your visas in your home country, though you may always inquire with a country that is not your own to see if they issue visas to "third country nationals"). You will need to take the following items with you to your visa appointment:

  • Valid Passport: this is a passport that has not expired and has at least 6 months of validity left on it.
  • Original I-797 approval notice: ISSS will give you this at the time that your H-1B status is approved.
  • One photocopy of the H-1B application filed on your behalf by GSU: you will receive a copy from our office when we receive your the approval notice from USCIS.
  • Letter from employing department (ISSS suggests that you have 2 original copies of this: one for obtaining the visa and one for re-entering the U.S.) that states the following:

"(Name of H-1B1 employee) is currently employed in H-1B status in the Department of (Name of department) in the position of (position title) earning an annual salary of (dollar amount). (Name of H-1B employee) is authorized to work in the department until (end date of H-1B approval period).

(Name of H-1B employee) is traveling to (country name) to (state purpose of trip, i.e. visit family and friends, or attend a conference) and is expected to return to Georgia State University to resume (his/her) H-1B employment on (date)."

For Research Positions Only:

"(Name of H-1B employee) is performing research in the field(s) of (state general field(s) of research, i.e. genetics, molecular biology). The nature and purpose of this research is to (state the nature and purpose of the research responsibilities in terms that a mother could understand, i.e. discover the genetic and/or molecular causes of prostate cancer, or improve on therapeutic treatments of prostate cancer). To the best of our knowledge, this research can only be useful to persons researching (state general goal of research, i.e. prostate cancer) and could not be used for a dual purpose.

Kindly issue (Name of H-1B employee) an H-1B visa stamp so that (he/she) may return to the U.S. to resume (his/her) work."

 “Know Your Rights”  is published by the American Civil Liberties Union and contains information about your rights in case you come into contact with law enforcement at the airport or other ports of entry into the U.S. ISSS encourages you to review this information, especially before international travel into the U.S. It contains useful questions and answers, and a list of other resources and referral contacts should you ever need them.

Employees in H-1B status are subject to Social Security and Medicare tax. H-1B employment is also subject to federal and state income tax, unless tax exemption is specifically provided by treaty.

All foreign nationals, regardless of visa status, who receive payment while in the U.S. are required to file U.S. income tax returns.

Employees should contact the Tax Accountant in Disbursements to find out more information concerning these issues.

While you can use your international driver’s license to drive in the U.S. for the first 12 months you are here, you will find it is much easier to have a driver’s license issued to you by the state of Georgia. In the U.S. driver’s licenses are used for identification purposes so you will use it quite often and it will reduce the cost of your car insurance.

The closest Driver’s License Customer Service Center to downtown is the South DeKalb Center located at 2801 Candler Road, Decatur, GA 30034. However, go to the Department of Driver Services (DDS) website (www.dds.ga.gov ) to find the most convenient location for you. All locations are open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am to 5pm. Note that they are closed on Mondays, and Tuesdays are normally very busy.

You may make an appointment at the South DeKalb Mall, Marietta, Lithonia, and Lawrenceville Centers by calling (678)413-8500 and selecting option 3. Other Centers will provide the service but do not accept appointments.

Take the following documents with you:

  • Passport
  • I-94 Card
  • H-1B Approval Notice
  • Proof of local residence (such as a signed lease agreement, a utility bill with your name and local address on it, or a bank statement—each must be issued within the last 45 days)
  • $20 cash
  • Social Security Card (Your number will be verified if you do not have the original SSN card.)

You will be asked to surrender all foreign drivers’ licenses before you are issued a Georgia license. If you state that you do not have a license from your home country, then you will have to take both the road and written tests, which are waived if you give up your home country license. However, all applicants are subject to taking the eye exam.

For more information about obtaining your Georgia driver’s license you can visit the Georgia Department of Driver Services web page at http://www.dds.ga.gov or call them at 866-754-3687 or 678-413-8400.

Georgia State scholars who are actively employed on campus need to apply for a Social Security number for the purposes of filing taxes. The Social Security number is used by the U.S. Government to identify wage earners for tax purposes.

You should wait until you have been in the U.S. at least ten days before applying for a social security number. This will allow for enough time for your immigration information to be entered into the system, which is then verified by the social security office. You will need to have the following in order to apply for a social security number:

  • Valid passport
  • I-94 card (showing H-1B status)
  • I-797 (H-1B approval notice)
  • Departmental Letter confirming employment at Georgia State University
  • Completed Form SS-5 (available on the SSA website at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.html)

You should expect to receive your social security card by mail in approximately two-four weeks.

IMPORTANT!!:  If you are told by the SSA that your admission number (I-94 number) has not been put in the system/database, the SSN representative should make photocopies of all your documents and give you a receipt. If you are told to come back or go to USCIS, kindly ask them to verify your immigration status by faxing a request for verification to LOSISV (Los Angeles Immigration Status Verification) unit. Make sure they make copies of your immigration documents for verification. If this happens to you, the SSA office has indicated that it can take up to 90 days to receive your SSN. If denied, request a written denial, and come see us!

H-4 visa holders are not eligible for a Social Security number.

Like with an initial or transfer H-1B, your department must choose to continue sponsorship of your H-1B status. As a reminder, you have a maximum of 6 years of H-1B time, with some exceptions.* GSU can only request three years of time maximum per petition to USCIS. In order to receive an extension, ISSS will have to submit another petition to USCIS. Upon receipt of this petition, USCIS will grant an automatic 240 day period of extra work authorization beyond your current H-1B end date. Please bear in mind that you should not travel outside of the U.S. during this 240 day period unless your H-1B extension has been approved.

*Exceptions to the 6 year rule include:

  • Recapture: Any time spent outside of the United States after an H-1B status has been approved can be recaptured to add on to the end of your H-1B status. Ex. If you are a professor with a summer break and you choose to go home for 3 months each summer, then you will have another 18 months that can be added on to the end of your H-1B maximum time. Please be sure to keep records of all air travel, exit and entries to the U.S. and other countries.
  • Green card delays: If either you or ISSS has successfully petitioned you for a green card via the I-140, but you do not have a current priority date that allows you to file for your I-485 Application to Adjust Status (typically occurs if you are an Indian or Chinese national) then you are eligible for three year extensions of your H-1B beyond the maximum 6 year time until your priority date becomes current.  For more information on the green card, please see the section "U.S. Permanent Residency Process".