The statements of

"Applicants who are invited to campus for interviews must be able to show proof that they will be eligible and qualified to work in the United States by the time of hire."

is almost associated with every open academic positions in US and I am wondering what does this statement clearly mean?

As far as I know, academic positions in US are opened to the scientifically eligible candidates worldwide, but receiving US work permit requires a sponsor (employer) inside US who should initiate visa application.

My 1st question: Does this sentence show unwillingness of the employer (university in this case) to support applicants' visa application? Does this position only open to those residing in US? or work permit holders?

From the immigration website, I learnt that there are some costs for the employer who is offering job to an outsider. But, universities are exempted from paying the biggest chunk ($1500).

My 2nd question: Considering low visa petition cost, what else is the problem that US-based universities are hesitant to hire such candidates.

My 3rd question: Is faculty selection in US-based universities based on candidate's merit or there are other parameters when selecting them.

Edit: I think the email received from UW can be of help to get better idea of the situation.

Dear XYZ,

When completing your application for employment at the University of Washington you were asked to complete the US Work Authorization Assessment. The second question asked was:

To legally work in the United States, will you require University of Washington sponsorship for an H1-B, other UW sponsored visa, or UW sponsored green card now or in the future?

You responded yes, that you would need sponsorship, either now or in the future. As a result you are not eligible for employment in staff positions at the University.

I emailed to HR of UW for clarification with this note:

Does UW consider only those foreigners for staff position who are currently having work permit in US? Those who are willing to obtain work permit based on the UW job offer are ineligible to work in UW?

UW Reply (Though I think the reply is by a robot):

Unfortunately, the UW does not provide sponsorship for Green Cards( or HB-1 visas, or any other type of work authorization requiring sponsorship.) for staff positions.

EDIT 2: Though my question is about academic staff position, about university of washington, I applied for research scientist. Here is the link to the job opening.

  • 1
    Your third question is independent of the first two and should be asked separately. But of course there are many considerations apart from "merit", which is a subjective criterion to begin with. May 23, 2014 at 5:22
  • 4
    My department has just recently helped a new hire to get a H1B, and has offered to do the same for a couple of candidates we interviewed this year. May 23, 2014 at 5:34
  • 4
    It's odd that they emphasize staff positions. In US universities "staff" is the opposite of "faculty" and usually refers only to non-academic jobs. You're sure it was an assistant professorship you applied for? May 23, 2014 at 17:51
  • 4
    Aha, the UW letter was in response to an application for a position as Research Scientist, which normally would not be a faculty position. It's plausible that their policy is to sponsor visas for faculty (professors, maybe some postdocs) but not for other staff, on the theory that faculty candidates may have unique skills that can't be duplicated by a domestic candidate, but for other staff that is less often the case. I think your question is kind of mixing up several issues and might benefit from a cleanup. May 24, 2014 at 5:37
  • 2
    It is (unfortunately) common for universities not to be as willing to support H-1B visas for research scientists/postdocs as they are for permanent faculty. I imagine one reason is cost: they want some return on the effort and cost of processing an application, and research scientists are temporary by definition.
    – Suresh
    May 24, 2014 at 10:37

3 Answers 3


My suspicion is that this phrase is primarily to cover the university legally in case the person hired in fact does not have the eligibility to work in the US. In such a case, without this clause, the person could make the argument that the university is in breach of contract for not hiring them and doing whatever is necessary in order to make them eligible. But IANAL !

In general I'd imagine only very small universities or places with limited resources would have trouble sponsoring a candidate for an H1-B. Certainly not a university like UW. Most universities are quite willing and able to sponsor new applicants for H1Bs and green cards.

The correct interpretation here is I think as is mentioned in the comments: the candidate should be eligible to work in that they can get an H1B visa.

  • 1
    Also, notice that it says "by the time of hire". I believe that mean by the time the start date of the position, not the date the offer letter is signed. (Like Suresh: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)
    – JeffE
    May 23, 2014 at 12:52
  • 1
    @Suresh and JeffE, thanks. please read the text I added to the question in Edit part. It might be of help.
    – Espanta
    May 23, 2014 at 17:09
  • 2
    What position were you applying for ? your edit refers to a "staff position". My answer refers to tenure-track faculty positions which are not usually considered 'staff' positions.
    – Suresh
    May 23, 2014 at 17:56

Preamble: What they are trying to do here is protect themselves from a lawsuit later on. In the application for an H1B, the employer must prove that there was no American citizen who was qualified for the position that is being sponsored (c.f. http://www.immihelp.com/gc/employment/labor/).

  1. Perhaps. Most employers will sponsor the H1B at the very least -- and the larger universities and colleges will even pay for the legal and application fees if they want you. But they have to advertise the positions for Americans (and legal residents first) and if the search results in only one person (YOU!) who is able to fill the position, then (gee shucks) they will sponsor you for the H1B.

  2. The law. See preamble. The cost including the lawyer can go up to around $10,000. If it's just a short-term position why spend the money and do the paperwork (an H1B filing can easily be hundreds of pages of filings)? Also H1Bs are tricky. If you apply late when the pool runs out, you may not get one regardless of how qualified the candidate is. H1B applications have been known to get held up for all sorts of reasons by the State Department or the DoL. So it's often safer to go with a legal candidate.

  3. Depends on the location. While it would be nice to think that merit is the only factor, we all know (or at least suspect) that there are other factors including the all amorphous "collegiality". If there are two candidates of equal worth but one candidate will require literally 3 inches of paperwork filed to the Department of Labor and there's uncertainty as to whether he/she can start work in August if the process gets delayed, then what would be the rational choice?

Edit: H1Bs are not subject to caps (http://internationaloffice.berkeley.edu/h-1b_faqs#10). I'm not sure if this is a new thing as I can vaguely remember caps in the distant past... but at least there aren't any now.

  • Thanks @RoboKaren, I don't think the UW response is any kind of lawsuit protection, rather it would be something like lawsuit dismissal because the HR even did not let academician look at the application and simply rejected based on sponsorship.
    – Espanta
    May 24, 2014 at 8:34
  • about number 3, I think it is fare and rational to select the US resident if there are two EQUAL applicant, one local and one offshore. But, the question is that how could they find out such equality? After all, should I keep applying for job in US while I have no permit or forget US?
    – Espanta
    May 24, 2014 at 8:36
  • 2
    Caps are for industrial positions. Universities are cap-exempt. So your recollection is correct.
    – Suresh
    May 24, 2014 at 10:36
  • @Espanta - The lawsuit I'm envisioning would be either the Department of Labor suing the institution for violations of its H1B rules (by not properly ascertaining the lack of a suitable US Citizen to take the spot), or by a US Citizen who felt that they were unfairly passed over for the non-citizen who was given the H1B and a job.
    – RoboKaren
    May 25, 2014 at 6:00
  • Note that state schools are considerably more concerned about following federal hiring laws, so it's not surprising that this case involves UW.
    – RoboKaren
    May 25, 2014 at 6:01

Based on what you've written so far, here is my interpretation of the situation:

  • at some point, the university sets a blanket ban on sponsoring visas for "staff positions" (this is standard terminology for "not faculty positions"). This is not so unreasonable; you can understand why it would seem like a waste of money to sponsor a secretary or a janitor for a visa.
  • at some later point, the position you're applying for is created. There are a lot of complicated negotiations that go into creating such a position. This particular one involves 3 universities and 2 private foundations, so I'm sure it was very tricky to set them up. For some reason, the position is classified as "staff." The line between "staff" and "faculty" is not 100% clean-cut (for example, librarians can be on one side or another, depending on the institution). I can only guess at what advantage this had (it seems likely there was one, though you should never completely count out the possibility of a straight-up mistake).

And, voilà! I would bet a reasonable sum of money that the people "on the ground" running this program are unhappy with the situation, and would like nothing more than to make decisions without considering immigration status, but these things can be pretty complicated. Universities are big institutions, and it can often be very hard to change these sorts of things. The money they would spend on lawyers for visas has to come from somewhere, and it's possible it's just not there.

  • 1
    Thanks Ben. I thought things in US are more routine and clear compared to asian countries where people like me leave and keep complaining about complexities and bureaucracies. Anyway, cross the finger for good.
    – Espanta
    May 25, 2014 at 14:20

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