Sponsorship Policies

Sponsorship Policies

This information is provided for administrators at UMass Amherst. Please read below.

The International Programs Office (IPO) must comply with federal regulations regarding the employment of foreign nationals (non-United States citizens and non-permanent residents). It is important to ensure that each foreign national employed or on academic appointment at UMass Amherst, either paid or unpaid, has an immigration status that permits the affiliation or has been granted appropriate permission by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  1. Each UMass Amherst Department/Laboratory/Center has a primary liaison, typically the Grants Coordinator or Administrative Officer, through whom all requests to appoint/invite a foreign national must be channeled. 
    This department contact is familiar with the UMass Amherst personnel appointment system, IPO procedures and non-immigrant visa types and can be very helpful to faculty. This person will act as the liaison between the IPO and the faculty member inviting a foreign national to teach or conduct research at the University.

  2. Role of the International Programs Office
    The IPO has been designated by the University to handle applications and information regarding visas for foreign national staff. The IPO is UMass Amherst’s liaison with immigration authorities regarding this population as well as our international student body. The IPO is authorized by the Department of State to offer J-1 visa sponsorship in certain specific categories. The IPO is the only authorized petitioner to USCIS for H-1B, E-3, TN, and O-1 visas.  Permanent Residency applications based on UMass Amherst employment are filed by authorized outside legal counsel in coordination with the IPO and the Office of General Counsel.

Please Note: UMass Amherst does not provide visa sponsorship for technical, administrative, temporary, or non-specialized positions.

Administrator FAQ:

ISS Critical Updates

Current UMass Amherst requirements for visitors to campus.

This operating plan must be completed before visits can be initiated.

Administrators should be aware that scholars currently outside of the U.S. may be subject to various travel restrictions that make returning to or arriving in the U.S. difficult at this time. Please read below for more information:

If you are flying into the United States and traveling to Massachusetts, please be aware of certain Massachusetts travel requirements. Per Governor Baker on August 1, 2020, new COVID guidelines are in place. 

Massachusetts Quarantine Requirements

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA) has released updated travel guidance for out-of-state visitors.  As this guidance is likely to change as circumstances evolve, you should continue to monitor the requirements until you arrive. 
  • Visitors, including residents, must complete the Massachusetts Health Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health.
  • Visitors, including residents, must quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in MA.
  • Visitors into MA are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they have received a negative result from a COVID-19 test based on a sample obtained not longer than 72 hours before their arrival.
  • Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

Scholars Should be Aware of the Current Travel Restrictions Currently Active:

  • Schengen Transit Exception: J Visa Exception for academics in Research Scholar, Short Term Scholar, Professor, Student and Specialist category for traveling directly from and transiting through the Schengen Countries will require a National Interest Exemption. Scholars are urged to reach out to their consulates and airlines regarding how to obtain this before travel. 
  • Traveling to a third country and then flying to the US as a way to avoid the COVID travel ban: Note that the Department of Homeland Security has access to airline manifests and other information that may reveal your prior travel. People attempting to enter the US after spending 14 days in a third country have been denied entry to the US.
  • Canadian and Mexican Travel Ban: Until November 21, 2020, travel through Canadian and Mexican land borders are still restricted to essential personnel only. 

Routine Visa Issuance Resuming on a Country by Country Basis

As of July 15, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates have started to resume routine visa services depending on the in-country situation. Please note that different embassies and consulates have different policies and procedures in place about reopening, and they are facing severe backlogs of applications that have accrued during their closures. All incoming students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. require a visa stamp issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country in order to enter the U.S. with, except for Canadian citizens. For specific information, please go to the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel        

At this time, individuals are prohibited from entering the U.S. from one of the countries listed on the CDC website:

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

This suspension also applies to individuals traveling or connecting through one of the travel ban countries. 

 

Q: If an incoming scholar already has their visa in their passport but have delayed their start date due to COVID-19 and the UMass Amherst lab shutdown, how does this affect their visa and DS-2019?

A: The department will need to contact the IPO to see if they need to request an amendment of the scholar’s DS-2019 start date. The scholar can still use the visa that they have been issued in their passport, if the visa will not have expired by the time the scholar enters the U.S., with their amended DS-2019.

Q: What is a realistic start date for an incoming scholar?

A: The IPO recommends a start date of 1/1/2021 or later, given the current COVID-19 travel restrictions and that U.S. Consulates and Embassies have temporarily suspended visa appointments worldwide. We do expect a backlog at the Embassies and Consulates as a result of the COVID-19 closures. As COVID-19 is a fluid situation, the recommended start date could change if visa appointments remain suspended. The scholar and the department should be prepared to potentially need to amend start dates if travel restrictions are still in place and visa delays occur.

When requesting sponsorship for incoming scholars, departments should consider these travel restrictions and determine when would be the most realistic start date for both the scholar and for the department to onboard a new appointee. For scholars already in the US, please refer to normal processing times of at least 30 days before the intended start date.

Q: What if a scholar has dependents? Are they allowed to come?

A: Currently there are no restrictions to scholars bringing J-2 dependents however it is currently strongly discouraged due to limited resources on campus and the surrounding area. Childcare and local school restrictions need to be reviewed before a J-1 decides to request J-2 sponsorship.

Q: What if a student or scholar is currently staying in another country and cannot return to their home country to attend a visa appointment?

A: If a student or scholar cannot go back home to their country of citizenship to apply for the visa, then they should inquire with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, as to whether that Embassy or Consulate will accommodate third country nationals for student or scholar visa appointments. 

Q: Our department would like to hire an individual who is currently on a H or J at another company/university. Are we able to sponsor this individual’s appointment without them having to leave the country?

A: Yes, this is generally permissible if the scholar has not reached the maximum duration of their visa category. For J-1 Research Scholars, this is five years, and for H-1B visa holders, this is six years. Please be in touch with the IPO as this can be a case by case basis.

 

Q: Is it possible for a scholar to leave the country and come back to the U.S., if their J-1 visa in their passport is expired but they have a valid DS-2019

A: A scholar must have a valid visa in their passport (except Canadians) to re-enter the U.S. For a J-1 scholar to re-enter the US, they must have in their possession the following documents: their most current DS-2019 with a valid travel signature, valid passport, valid J-1 visa (except Canadian citizens), and their I-901 SEVIS Fee payment receipt.

At this time, please keep in mind that international travel is not encouraged if a visa renewal is needed. Most U.S. Embassies and Consulates have temporarily suspended visa appointments worldwide.  

Q: Are there any visa ramifications for international scholars who traveled to their home countries to work remotely, while UMass Amherst labs and departments are shut down?

A: Due to the current disruptions in travel and visa issuance, the Department of State has indicated J-1 Exchange Visitors may retain an active J-1 record until they are able to return to the United States to continue with his or her original program objectives.

Q: Given the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, how can a student or scholar renew their visa from inside the U.S.?

A: You cannot renew a visa from within the U.S. A visa is used solely for the purpose of entry and re-entry to the U.S. The visa does not determine how long an individual may remain in the U.S. Therefore, an individual may stay beyond the expiration date of an F or J visa, if the student or scholar has a valid Form I-20 or DS-2019 with an expiration date into the future.

Q: Can a scholar renew his/her visa while they are currently outside the U.S.? 

A: Most U.S. Consulates and Embassies have temporarily suspended visa appointments. The scholar should contact their U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country to inquire about scheduling a future appointment, when the Consulate or Embassy resumes visa processing.

Q: Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, is it a good idea to extend DS-2019 end dates for scholars who are already here, provided there is funding and support of an academic appointment extension?

A: If the academic appointment can be extended and proof of funding can be provided, the department can decide if they would like to move forward with an extension request. While the IPO staff works remotely due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we will be sending out the DS-2019 to the scholar via eShip Global. The scholar will receive a link to request this after the request has been approved. No pick ups are currently authorized. 

For all academic appointment extensions of a J-1, please visit UMass VIP and request the Amherst Extension.

Documents Required:

Funding Proof

Medical Coverage 

Residential address of Scholar

Updated offer letter

Q: If a student or scholar is moving from one visa type to another within the U.S., can they remain in the U.S. until this application is approved?

A: Before moving forward with a I-539 Change of Status application, students and scholars should discuss the time sensitive application process with their IPO Advisor.

 

Q: To whom does the University provide visa sponsorship?

A: Generally speaking, the University provides visa sponsorship for those individuals with temporary academic appointments at University departments, such as postdoctoral researchers and faculty members.

Q: Who is responsible to vet the funding?

A: As a department administrator, it is your responsibility to verify the validity of funding for incoming scholars. If it is personal funding, you may want to require evidence such as a bank statement to verify that the amount of funding exists and is available for the scholar to use at UMass Amherst. Please keep in mind that the only 10% of the funding for a J-1 can be personal funds and 0% for an H-1B.

Q. Are there any educational requirements for scholars?

A: In general, scholars must have at minimum a bachelor’s degree to qualify for visa sponsorship. If you are interested in bringing on an enrolled student in a bachelor’s degree program overseas, they will be required to be in the J-1 Short Term Scholar category with visits no more than 6 months and require the department to complete the Hosting an Undergraduate Visitor form

Q: When do we need to notify the IPO about an incoming scholar?

A: For a J-1 visa, we require 60 days notice before a scholar's start date. For an H-1B visa it takes up to 6 months due to the government agency’s processing time.

Q: Who monitors the arrival dates of scholars?

A: It is your responsibility to communicate with incoming scholars to notify you if they will arrive later than the start date listed on the DS-2019. J-1 scholar must enter the U.S. within 30 days of the start date listed on the Form DS-2019. It is also your responsibility to notify the IPO as soon as you know because the IPO may need to amend the DS-2019 and/or reissue the DS-2019. All amendments have to be authorized by the hosting department. 

Q: What do I do if the scholar decides not to come to the University at all?

A: You must notify the IPO immediately so we can notify the government.

Q: Once scholars arrive in my department, when should I send them to the IPO to register?

A: Currently in person validations are not allowable. Please have the scholar reach out to our office to set up their virtual orientation and validation.

Q: What type of things about a scholar do I/the scholar need to notify the IPO?

A: You must notify the IPO when:

  • A scholar leaves the University earlier than the date on their DS-2019 or I-797.

  • The PI wants to extend the appointment beyond the date on the DS-2019 or I-797.

  • A scholars funding amount and/or source(s) change with the exception of annual cost of living increases.

  • A scholar’s title or job description changes while on the H-1B visa.

  • A scholar works in more than one location in or out of the University.

  • A scholar’s job changes from full time to part time.

Q: Can I or a scholar use immigration attorneys to submit employment-based immigration petitions (e.g. H-1B, O-1 or green card)?

A: No. The IPO advising staff has the authority and responsibility to submit all employment-based petitions sponsored by UMass Amherst and is the only entity authorized to sign immigration petitions on behalf of the University. However, scholars may use immigration attorneys to file for green cards based on their own credentials and not based on their employment at UMass Amherst. Department administrators and/or PIs should not sign any green card related forms presented by immigration attorneys.