Visa Status Requirements for Short-Term International Visitors


If you plan to invite a foreign scholar to perform a short-term activity such as a lecture or presenting a paper at a conference and you would like to pay an honorarium or reimburse their expenses, you must be familiar with certain visa regulations. Recent changes in immigration law now make it possible to reimburse expenses and pay honoraria to visitors with tourist visas (B, WT/WB). Please bear in mind that visa laws are complex and what follows is a simplified summary. If you have questions about a visa not discussed here, or if you need clarification of this information, please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at 626-7100 and ask for a J-1 advisor. If your visitor is a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, please read the special note under WB/WT Visa.

See below for short descriptions of the various visa types. See Restrictions on Payments to Short-Term International Visitors for some rules about honoraria and other payments.

Anyone with a non-immigrant visa status described below may accept reimbursement of business expenses under the accountable plan rules. Non-immigrant visa holders may not accept other types of payments with specific authorization. Contact ISSS at 612-626-7100 for guidance.

Visa Types

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F-1 Visa

F-1 visas are for students who are pursuing a full course of study towards a specific educational objective. They are allowed to work on-campus at the institution that issued their I-20. They are allowed to work off-campus in limited cases with special authorization. They are limited to 20 hours of work per week during the academic year and 40 hours per week during vacation periods.

F-1 students whose I-20s were issued by the University of Minnesota, may receive honoraria only if the total number of hours they work in a given week (including all jobs) does not exceed the above maximums.

F-1 students whose I-20s were issued by other institutions (e.g., National Student Exchange participants) must have off-campus work permission in order to accept honoraria from the University of Minnesota.

F-1 OPT Visa

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows an F-1 student on an I-20 from any school to have employment related to his or her field of study. OPT authorization is issued by the Immigration Service only and is in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). F-1s with "post-completion" OPT are allowed to work full-time. F-1s with "pre-completion" OPT may have restricted hours. Please consult with ISSS (612-626-7100) for further information.

F-2 Visa

F-2 visa holders are the dependents (spouse and unmarried minor children) of F-1 students. F-2s are not allowed to engage in employment or business activities of any kind. They are not allowed to receive any type of compensation for service.

J-1 Visa

A J-1 visa is an exchange visitor visa that may be used for short-term, as well as long-term visits. It allows employment incidental to the visit and may be used for payment of honoraria and reimbursement of expenses.

Some J-1 visitors will become subject to a 2-year home residency requirement which would prevent them from obtaining legal permanent residence in the U.S., or an employment based visa (H-1 or L-1) until the visitor returns home for 2 years. This 2-year rule arises where the exchange visitor has received direct government funding, or has a career specialty designated by the visitor's home government as a critical specialty needed by the home country for its well being or continued development. Foreign medical graduates receiving medical training in the U.S. are also subject to the 2-year rule. A J-1 exchange visitor must obtain a form DS-2019 from his or her J-1 sponsor and then visit a United States Embassy or Consulate to apply for a J-1 entry visa in his or her passport. Canadian citizens are not required to obtain an entry visa or carry a passport.

The institution listed as sponsor on the DS-2019 is authorized to make payments to the J-1 visitor, and may also designate other sources of funding. Other sources must be disclosed in advance and written on the DS-2019 as additional sources of funding.

J-2 Visa

A J-2 visa holder is the dependent (spouse or child -- child must be under age 21) of a J-1. J-2's can apply for work permission from the Immigration Service. Once they have the permission, in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), they may accept honoraria. The EAD card is only valid until it expires or the J-1's DS-2019 expires, which ever comes first. There is no limit on the number of hours a J-2 with work permission can work.

B-1/B-2 Visa

A B-1 is a "visitor for business" visa. A B-2 is a "tourist" visa. Each allows reimbursement of expenses incidental to the visit, such as travel, lodging and meals, A visitor with B-1 or B-2 status may receive an honorarium from a university or non-profit research institution for activity lasting up to 9 days. A "B" visitor may receive only 6 such honoraria during any 180-day period. ISSS has a worksheet, which explains the criteria in more detail. A visitor with B-1 or B-2 status may be admitted to the United States for up to 6 months, with possibility for extension for another 6 months.

To help a visitor obtain a B visa, the inviting department should write a letter of invitation setting out the purpose of the visit and offering to reimburse the visitor's expenses. The visitor must then visit a United States Embassy or Consulate to apply for an entry visa in his or her passport, unless the individual is from a "visa waiver" country (see WB/WT below). Again, Canadians do not need an entry visa or passport.

WB/WT Visa

These designations are not really visas at all, but rather "visa waivers" for business or tourism. Visitors carrying passports issued by certain countries may enter the United States without entry visas in their passports. The WB is analogous to the B-1, while the WT is analogous to the B-2. The same honoraria and expense reimbursement rules apply. Visitors entering the U.S. in WB or WT status must leave the U.S. within 90 days, and cannot apply for an extension or change of visa status within the United States.

Visa waiver countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom refers only to British citizens who have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). It does not refer to British overseas citizens, British dependent territories' citizens, or citizens of British Commonwealth countries.

Special note for Canadians citizens : Some travel considerations are different for Canadian citizens and landed immigrants. Canadian citizens do not need to carry a passport or have an entry visa if they are entering the United States from within the Western Hemisphere. Canadian citizens entering the U.S. from outside the Western Hemisphere need a passport but not an entry visa stamp. Canadian citizens travelling without a passport or visa must be able to demonstrate the fact of Canadian citizenship or landed immigrant status at a U.S. port of entry, however. Canadian landed immigrants or permanent residents (non-citizens) need a valid passport and entry visa.

Mexican business visitors: Mexicans require B-1 visas from a U.S. consulate and an I-94 card and valid passport. Upon entry into the U.S., Mexican business visitors must present descriptions of the business purposes of their trips and evidence that they conform to NAFTA Schedule 1 and to general B-1 visitor restrictions.

Border Crossing Card limitations: Border Crossing Cardholders from Mexico are restricted to visits of 72 hours or less within 25 miles of the border. Those business visitors from Mexico with Border Crossing Cards, who seek to stay longer and travel further, MUST obtain form I-94 at the point of entry.

H-1B Visa

The H-1B is a temporary specialty worker visa. It is an employer-sponsored visa, which may only be obtained through an employer's petition to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ISSS handles H-1B petitions for the University of Minnesota. The H-1B may be used for temporary or tenure-track positions. The H-1B is employer specific, meaning the employee may only be employed by the employer which filed the petition. The H-1B status may last up to six years. An individual with H-1B status can work only for the petitioning employer, but may receive expense reimbursement from other sources.

H-4 Visa

The H-4 is a dependent visa for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 who accompany an H-1B or other H-visa employee. The H-4 does not provide for any employment. An H-4 visa holder can accept reimbursement of expenses, however.

TN Visa

The TN arises from the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). The TN is an employment visa which allows Canadian and Mexican citizens (but not Canadian or Mexican permanent residents) to be employed in the U.S. in certain occupations listed in the NAFTA treaty. The TN employee is admitted for temporary employment for one year. Renewals of TN status are possible however. ISSS will assist University of Minnesota departments who wish to invite a Canadian or Mexican citizen for temporary employment at the University. The TN status is not appropriate for tenured or tenure-track positions due to its strict temporary nature.

Canadians acquire TN status by presenting  a job offer letter to an INS inspector for a listed occupation, along with any required credentials for the job (diploma, licenses, etc.). Upon admission in TN status by an INS inspector, a Canadian citizen may only work for only the employer whose job offer was presented to the INS inspector. A TN employee may accept expense reimbursement from other sources, however.

Mexican citizens acquire TN status differently. A U.S. employer must file a petition with INS and have the petition approved before a Mexican citizen can enter the U.S. in TN status. ISSS handles TN petitions for the University of Minnesota. A Mexican TN may work only for the petitioning employer, but may accept expense reimbursement from other sources.

TD Visa

The TD is the dependent visa for spouses and unmarried children under age 21 who accompany a TN employee. The TD does not provide for any employment, but a TD visa holder may accept expense reimbursement.

O-1 Visa

The O-1 is for individuals of "extraordinary ability or achievement." The University of Minnesota may hire faculty or researchers with very strong academic records and credentials who may not be able to use an H-1B1 or J-1 visa for various reasons. The O-1 is appropriate for temporary positions but may be problematic for permanent positions. The O-1 process requires the employer to petition the INS before hiring the employee. The O-1 visa holder may work only for the petitioning employer, but may accept expense reimbursement from other sources.

O-3 Visa

The O-3 is for spouses and unmarried children under age 21 who accompany an O-1 employee. The O-3 does not provide for any employment, but an O-3 visa holder may accept expense reimbursement.