International Postdoc Visa Process

(For FAQs, click here)

An approved visa/work authorization is required prior to appointment finalization.

For J-1 Scholars, please visit the UW International Scholars Organization’s J-1 Reference Guide:

For H-1B Scholars, please visit the UW International Scholars Organization’s H-1B Reference Guide:

For TN Scholars, please visit the UW International Scholars Organization’s TN Reference Guide:

 For J-1 and H-1B applicants:
Please note that applying for a J-1 visa can take up to six months; applying for an H1-B visa can take up to 12 months.
Important information for all visa holders:
Required Insurance, before arriving in the US.
Leaving the UW:  important visa and tax information

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I get a visa?

A. Your PI, the Microbiology Department, and the International Scholars Organization (ISO) will work with you to decide which visa option is right for you.

J-1 visa, The Exchange Visitor Program: The University of Washington (commonly called "U-Dub") has been designated by the Department of State as an exchange visitor program sponsor. The UW sponsors Exchange Visitors for a variety of educational purposes including teaching, research, observation, consultation, and student internships. The UW will issue you (and your dependents) a DS-2019 to obtain a J-1 visa. The DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status at the University of Washington. Check this document for accuracy, carefully read the instructions on page 2, then sign and date it. The DS-2019 was issued by an adviser ("Responsible Officer") in the International Scholars Operations (ISO), and records your biographical data, identifies your UW academic department, and lists the beginning and ending dates of your exchange program, category of participation, and source and amount of funding. The DS-2019 serves several important purposes (for example, permitting you to apply for a visa) and must remain valid at all times. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record - do not discard the old ones.

H-1B visa: The H-1B visa permits temporary employment in “specialty occupations” which require “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge to fully perform the occupation.” The H-1B is employer-specific, position-specific, and location-specific. Any change in employer, position title or worksite location must be reported to International Scholars Operations (ISO) in advance of the change. The UW sponsors H-1B visas for full-time academic appointmentsincluding postdoctoral researchers and professors. Please direct any questions about visa sponsorship to ISO. Without exception, all H-1B visas based on UW employment are processed by ISO. Only the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel has authority to sign a Labor Condition Application or H-1B petition on behalf of the UW. Attorneys are not permitted to represent the UW’s interests in immigration matters.

TN: The TN classification is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens who seek to enter the US on a temporary basis to work in a professional-level job under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. You must be employed in one of the professions listed in the NAFTA Professional Job Series List and have at least a baccalaureate degree unless an alternative credential is specified. The list includes university professors and researchers. Although the regulations do not limit the number of years you may remain in the US, TN is a nonimmigrant status. You must establish to the satisfaction of USCIS that the employment opportunity is both temporary and short-term. Canadian professionals are admitted into the US in TN-1 status. Mexican professionals are admitted into the U.S. in TN-2 status. Though the procedures are similar, the procedures for Mexican citizens are a bit more complex than for Canadians.

Q. Do I need to have medical evacuation & repatriation insurance before I arrive in Seattle?

A. Yes, please make these arrangements before arriving in the US. For more information, please seehealth insurance requirements and insurance certification.

Q. When can I come to the US with my new J-1 visa?

A. You must enter the US within the 30-day period prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. If unable to enter the US before the start date, contact your sponsoring department to request a new DS-2019 and enter using the new form

Q. What is the SEVIS fee and am I responsible for paying it?

A. SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a government database that maintains and manages information on exchange visitors during their stay in the US. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires payment of a $180 SEVIS fee to cover operational costs of the SEVIS program. New J-1 Exchange Visitors who use a Form DS-2019 to "begin a new program" are required to pay the fee. However, continuing J-1 Exchange Visitors do not pay the fee and neither do dependents in J-2 status. The fee must be paid at least three days prior to applying for a J-1 visa at a US consulate (or, for Canadian citizens, three days prior to entering the US). The SEVIS fee can be paid on-line with a credit card, or by mail with a check, or by using Western Union's "Quick Pay" service. Another person can pay the fee on your behalf. You will be issued a receipt and must present the receipt to the consular officer when applying for a visa, and to the immigration officer when entering the US. We suggest you staple the receipt to your DS-2019.

Q. Will I be eligible for UW sponsored health insurance?

A. Yes, you are eligible for the same benefits as the UW faculty. There are several insurance carries and policies to choose from and you will have the opportunity to attend a benefits orientation to learn more about each option. More information is available on the University of Washington Benefits website.

Q. When will my UW health insurance benefits begin?

A. If your appointment effective date is other than the first of the month or the first business day of the month, medical coverage will be effective the first day of the following month. A comprehensive description of UW benefits is available on the University of Washington Benefits website.

Q. Will my spouse and children be eligible for UW health insurance benefits?

A. Yes, you may include your dependents on your insurance policy. When you decide which insurance carrier and policy is right for you, you will be able to add your dependents to the plan.

Q. Will I be subject to the 12 or 24 month bars on repeat participation on my J-1?

A. Time spent in the US as a J-1 or J-2 might affect your eligibility for future J-1 status. The 12 and 24 month "bars" apply only to persons beginning an Exchange Visitor program in the categories of Research Scholar or Professor.

Q. Will I be subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement on my J-1?

A. Exchange Visitors subject to the 212(e) two-year home country physical presence requirementmust return to their home countries and be physically present there for an aggregate of two years before being eligible to return to the US in H, L, or immigrant (permanent resident/green card) status.

Q. What documentation is necessary for a TN visa?

A. Documentation for a TN is listed below:

Valid passport

Diplomas, academic transcripts, and professional license (if required). Submit originals for verification purposes; they will be returned.

Letter from the US employer (UW hiring department) addressed to the "US Department of Homeland Security" which identifies the TN profession in which you will be working, a detailed summary of job responsibilities, salary, and anticipated length of stay. The letter should state the job's minimum degree and experience requirements and describe how you qualify to perform the job.

Mexican citizens must apply for and obtain a US TN-2 visa at a US consulate (generally in Mexico) before they will be permitted to enter the US in TN status. Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa.

Canadians entering the US in TN status pay a $56 TN fee at the port of entry. Mexican citizens pay a nonimmigrant visa application fee when applying for the TN visa at the US consulate.

Q. How do I obtain a Social Security Card?

A. You are required to attend an ISO check-in session as soon as possible after arrival on campus. This must be done prior to applying for a social security number. Information on obtaining SS Cards, Washington State Driver License and other IDs will be made available. More information is available on the social security website and elsewhere on the social security website.

Q. If I have a change of address, who do I report it to?

A. Report any change of address to ISO within ten days of the change. Failure to report a change of address may result in revocation of your exchange visitor status.

Q. Prior to my move to Seattle, may I ship boxes of personal effects to the Microbiology Department, in preparation for my move?

A. Please contact your PI and new lab directly. They will let you know if they have sufficient room to accept and hold boxes.

Q. If I need to apply for a work permit for my spouse, will Microbiology pay for the filing fee?

A. No. Other than the visa itself, any document filings on behalf of your spouse must be paid by you directly through USCIS. UW and the Department of Genome Sciences only work directly with the employee visa holder- all other questions should be routed to a professional, in other words, you may choose to contact an Immigration Attorney for specifics.

Q. Where should I open a bank account? How do I transfer money from my old account to the US?

A. To transfer money to the US, your financial institution will need to make arrangements with a bank that has an office in Seattle. There may be a limit to the amount of funds which may be transferred. Banks within walking distance of campus include:

Bank of America, 4701 University Way NE
Key Bank, 400 NE Ravenna Blvd.
Chase Bank, 4300 Brooklyn Ave NE
Wells Fargo, 4100 University Way NE

Q.  How do I get a Washington State Driver’s license or photo ID card?

A. For a small fee, the Washington State Department of Licensing issues driver's licenses, and also photo identification (ID) cards for non-drivers. Identification cards can be issued at any age and are valid for 5 years. As a J-1 scholar, you may drive in Washington State with your valid home country driver's license for one year. After one year, you will need a Washington State driver's license.  The Washington State driver's license also serves as an official identification card.

Q. I’ve applied for a Washington State Driver’s License and need a print-out of my SEVIS. Where do I get this?

A. The Department of Licensing has reinstated the proof of local residence requirement for individuals without a Social Security number who are applying for a Washington State driver's license. (If you have a Social Security number, or if you are applying for a Washington State ID, additional proof of residency is not required.) Prior to visiting a Department of Licensing location, you must obtain a printout of your electronic SEVIS record which indicates your current address. Please fill out thisRequest for SEVIS Printout and return to the ISO office.

Q. Will I be able to leave the US while on my J-1 visa and return at a later date?

A. You are able to travel for short periods (i.e. conferences, vacations, etc.), but for periods of time outside the US longer than a week, please contact ISO so they may review your documents and discuss travel procedures. Trips over 30 days are permissible only is the travel is consistent with the purpose and goals of your UW program. If you will be outside of the US longer than 30 days to perform research or other collaborative UW activities, you must complete and have ISO approve an Out of Country Request before you leave the US. You can then return to the US after an absence of more than 30 days to continue your J-1 program. If the Out of Country Request is not completed and approved, your exchange activity will be considered ended, and you may be subject to 12 or 24 month barson repeat participation in J-1 status. 

Q. Will I be able to transfer from one UW department to another while on my visa?

A. You may transfer from one program sponsor to another if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the academic objective for which you were admitted. The transfer process requires coordination between the Responsible Officer of the current J-1 program and the Responsible Officer of the new J-1 program. The Responsible Officer is the administrator of an institution's Exchange Visitor program and is typically a staff member in a university international student and scholar office.

Q. Can I receive a consulting fee or honorarium payment?

A. You can work only for the employer that sponsored your H-1B status. Although you may have oppurtunities to give lectures or speeches at other institutions or conferences, you may cannot receive compensation for these activites other than reimbursement for travel and resonable expenses.

Q. Can I take classes?

A. Yes, provided that taking classes does not become your primary purpose for being in the United States. At all times you must fulfill the terms and conditions of your H-1B status, including full-time employment. There are no study restrictions for H-4 dependents.

Q. How do I maintain my visa status while in the US?

A. It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your visa during your stay in the US. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, a J-1 visa holder’s failure to check in with ISO within 30 days of your program start date) could have serious consequences. Review this information carefully, and contact ISO if you have questions. 

Mandatory check-in requirement
Federal law requires that J-1 Exchange Visitors report in person to their program sponsor within 30 days of the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. You must visit ISO in Gerberding Hall, Room 239, so that your arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law. Check-in is conducted every Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., followed by a one-hour presentation of information. Register on-line to attend a Tuesday J-1 Scholar Check-in Session. Bring your passport, DS-2019, I-94 record, Seattle-area residence address and Insurance Compliance Statement.
Change of address
Report your address (where you live in Seattle, not where you work) to ISO at the Tuesday check-in. Report any change of address to ISO within ten days of the change. Failure to report a change of address may result in revocation of your exchange visitor status. For H-1B and TN visa holders, you must also report changes of address to USCIS via the AR-11 form.
Don’t let your visa expire
J-1: This document allows you to apply for a visa, to enter or re-enter the US, and establishes your legal eligibility to remain in the US. The DS-2019 must remain valid at all times. The duration of your program is stated in item 3 of your DS-2019. Request a new form prior to the current form's expiration date. To request an extension, contact your sponsoring academic department. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record.
H-1B: The I-797 Approval Notice allows you to apply for a visa and enter or re-enter the US It also establishes your legal eligibility to remain in the United States. Note that the Approval Notice has an expiration date. To request an extension, contact your host UW department six months prior to that date. Do not assume your department's administrator will automatically know when it is time to renew your H-1B status. Be proactive and don't let your documents expire. Keep every I-797 Approval Notice for your permanent record.

TN: The I-94 record indicates your TN status in the US, as well as the dates, occupation, and employer associated with that TN status. To renew your TN status you may either: Make a timely departure and return to the US following procedures detailed underComing to the US in TN Status or Aaply by mail for a renewal of your TN status with the assistance of your hiring department and ISO. Note that this option requires the UW to file an immigration petition on your behalf, and only the UW Vice Provost for Academic Personnel has authority to sign this form. Outside attorneys are not permitted to represent the UW's interests in immigration matters. Government regulations do not limit the number of years you may hold TN status. However, TN status is meant to be temporary. Although TN status can be renewed in increments of up to three years, without limit, each request for extension must satisfy US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that your employment is temporary and that you will depart the US upon completion of your work assignment.

Don’t let your passport expire
Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep it and other important documents in a safe place. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police, as your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the US. While in the US, always carry with you a photocopy of your passport's identity page, and a photocopy of your DS-2019. When traveling, carry the original documents, but guard them carefully against theft.
Work only with authorization

J-1 Exchange Visitors may receive compensation for the employment stated in item 5 on the DS-2019. Additionally, occasional lectures or short-term consultations that involve wages or other remuneration may be authorized by ISO on a case-by-case basis. The occasional lectures or consultations must be authorized in advance and in writing. Dependents in J-2 status may request employment authorization from USCIS. Income from the J-2's employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if the income is needed to support the J-1.

H-1B visitors may only work in the position for which their H-1B was approved. Your H-1B status is also location-specific. You may work only at the worksites listed in part G of the Labor Condition Application. Any change in worksite must be authorized in advance.Contact ISO for more information. You may have opportunities to give lectures at other institutions or conferences. You cannot receive an honorarium or other monetary or material gain for such activities, although reimbursement for travel and reasonable expenses is allowed.

TN visitors may only work where and when approved. Your TN status is job and employer-specific. It is possible to hold more than one position but each must be a TN-approved occupation and noted on an I-94 record. It is possible to change employers using the procedures described in “Renew your I-94 record when needed.”

J-1 visa holders must maintain health insurance

The US government requires all J-1 visa holders to carry health insurance. Failure to maintain health insurance will result in termination of your J-1 visa Visitor program.

Leaving the UW and US

J-1 visitors: The Department of Homeland Security allows all Exchange Visitors 30 days of lawful status in the US following completion of their program. This 30-day "grace period" is NOT included in the program dates listed in item 3 of your DS-2019 form. During the grace period you are expected to settle your affairs and prepare to return home. If you travel outside the U.S. during the grace period you will not be permitted to re-enter the U.S. in J-1 or J-2 status. Employment is prohibited during the 30-day grace period.

H-1B visitors: Because the H-1B is an “employment visa,” your lawful status in the US ends when your paid employment ends. If your paid employment ends before your I-797 Approval Notice expires, you must depart the US immediately upon termination of employment. There is no grace period following a termination. If your paid employment and the I-797 Approval Notice end at the same time, check the expiration date on your I-94 record as it may indicate an additional ten-day “grace period” for departure.

TN visitors: TN does not provide any “grace period” for departure. Your lawful status in the US ends either when your paid employment ends or when your I-94 record expires, whichever comes first. Following completion of your TN employment you must depart the US immediately. You may return to the US as a “visitor.”

Keep your registration documentation on you at all times
You may be surprised to learn that US law requires foreign nationals 18 years of age and older to carry “registration” documentation with them “at all times.”

For individuals in J-1 and J-2 status, evidence of registration is your most recentForm I-94 Record of Departure. If you were issued an electronic I-94 record, the stamp in your passport is your registration document. The law is found at INA § 264(e) and the list of documents that qualify as evidence of registration is found at 8 CFR § 264.1(b).

For individuals in H-1B and H-4 status, evidence of registration is your most recentForm I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or, if you were issued an electronic I-94 record, the entry stamp in your passport. The law is found at INA § 264(e) and the list of documents that qualify as evidence of registration is found at 8 CFR § 264.1(b).

For individuals in TN and TD status, evidence of registration is your most recent Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record or, if you were issued an electronic I-94 record, the entry stamp in your passport. The law is found at INA § 264(e) and the list of documents that qualify as evidence of registration is found at 8 CFR § 264.1(b).

Travel within the US
If you travel by air, train, bus or ship within the US, you may be required to show your passport and I-94 record when boarding. Keep photocopies of your passport and I-94 in a separate location from the original documents. Photocopies do not substitute for the originals but can make replacing them a bit easier in the event they are lost or stolen. Guard your documents carefully!
US taxes
As you prepare to leave the UW please review this important informationIt was our pleasure serving you and we wish you success in your future activities.

Click here for frequently asked questions pertaining to H-1B visas only