For International Scholars
Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office
Immigration Office is located at 575 Lexington Ave, Suite 690
Jeanie Huang, Immigration Manager
The Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office is available to provide immigration information and assistance with processing of employment visas. The office provides a wide range of services to foreign academic employees and their hiring departments, and ensures compliance with all government regulations relating to the employment of foreign nationals.
Upon arrival at the Medical College, all international Postdoctoral Associates & Fellows must contact the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office to schedule an appointment for the arrival orientation. During orientation, you will receive important information concerning your immigration status, visa renewal procedures, US taxation issues, and the application process for a US Social Security number. After this first visit, remember to consult with the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office anytime you are planning to travel outside the United States, and to verify any other information related to visa extensions, transfers, changes of status and all home and laboratory address and phone number changes. All Tax Treaty and exemption questions should also be directed to the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office.
Please click on each heading below for more details.
While there are a variety of visa options available for an assortment of purposes, the most common visas utilized for temporary research are those of J-1 Exchange Visitor and H-1B Temporary Worker. Pursuant to current Weill Cornell Medical College immigration policy, international Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows may be sponsored for H-1B or J-1 visas for the period of their initial appointment. Subsequent visa extensions may be granted for a period of up to 3 years, provided that there is sufficient funding for the requested visa extension period. A research visa has specific classifications and strict requirements, it is strongly recommended that these be discussed with the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office.
The "J-1" exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts and sciences. At the conclusion of their program, exchange visitor program participants are expected to return to their home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the US. Most foreign postdoctoral trainees will enter the US under a "J-1" visa category, for reasons of shorter visa processing time as well as income tax treaty applicability. Whether a tax treaty is applicable depends on the home country of the trainee, and it is the responsibility of the trainee to determine if the income is taxable in the home country. For more information about the exchange program for research scholars go to Professors and Research Scholars at the U.S. Department of State.
Once a postdoctoral trainee has been in the US for the maximum period allowed for J-1 research scholars (currently 5 years), the trainee will need to apply for a change of status to an H-1B visa should additional time be needed to complete the training. Some J-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country for two years before being eligible for change of status to other US visa classifications. This depends on agreements between your home country and the US government, as well as the source of funding for your postdoctoral research. In certain situations, the two-year rule can be waived by filing a J-1 waiver application with the US Department of State.
The "H-1B Temporary Worker" category applies to foreign nationals coming to the US temporarily to perform salaried services in a specialty occupation, which requires the completion of a specific course of higher education. The maximum time for an "H-1B" worker to remain under this visa category in the United States is 6 years. The first step to hiring "H-1B" workers is for the employer to fulfill the prevailing wage requirement. A prevailing wage request is to be filed and certified by the US Department of Labor indicating specific job title, duties and prevailing wage in that geographic area. Upon receipt of the prevailing wage determination, the employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, attesting to the wage that is offered for the "H-1B" position and the period of the "H-1B" employment. The employer is required to file the certified LCA with the "H-1B" visa petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please note that different guidelines may apply to individuals who are already holding "H-1B" Status. Applying for and renewing an "H-1B" is a lengthy process that can take 2-3 months to complete. This needs to be considered well in advance to avoid paying a Premium Processing fee of $1,000 to the USCIS to expedite the process in fifteen (15) business days.
Following are the steps for processing Visa requests:
- The hiring department must initiate contact with the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office to request J-1 or H-1B visa applications. The hiring department is responsible for completing the application and submitting it to the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office for review. The visa application is then sent to the USCIS for adjudication and final approval. Processing time varies depending upon which visa is being requested. In general, at least one month is necessary to process a J-1 visa, compared with 5-6 months for an H-1B application.
- Upon approval from the USCIS, the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office will notify the hiring department and provide detailed instructions to be forwarded to the foreign postdoctoral trainee.
- After the institutional certification process is completed and the documents have been received, postdoctoral trainees are required to secure the visa stamp at a US embassy or consulate-usually in the trainee's home country. Canadians are visa exempt and may present the H-1B Notice of Approval or J-1 Form DS-2019 at the US border for admission into the US. Please remember that internal policies and procedures affecting visa issuance at the US consulates will differ from country to country. Usually, when securing the visa stamp you must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond the anticipated ending date of your postdoctoral appointment.
- Upon arrival in the US, you will be interviewed by the immigration inspector at the airport (or port of entry) and asked to present appropriate entry documents (see below.) After the entry interview with the immigration officer, your "I-94" (the document you filled out on the airplane or, if entering by land, at the border) will be marked to reflect your visa classification and the authorized time granted for your research stay in the US J-1 visa holders are generally admitted for "Duration of Status" (D/S), meaning until the ending date of the J-1 Form DS-2019 (see below). H-1B visa holders are generally admitted until the ending date on the H-1B approval notice.
If you require additional time to remain in the same type of immigration status, you can request an extension of your visa status without departing from the US. Please note that while there is no need to travel outside the US to receive an extension, the time needed to obtain the approval of visa status extensions may vary by the USCIS regional processing center.
If you return to your home country during your research and desire to re-enter the US, you will need to have a valid visa stamp in your passport. If the visa stamp is no longer valid, you will need to renew it at a US Embassy or Consulate. Although it may not be necessary for you to apply at the US Consul where you received your original visa stamp, visa renewal applications are usually more successful in your home country.
You should have a picture of yourself taken before leaving the US, since the format has to meet the US standards. Pictures can be made at drugstores or in-house. The Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office keeps the postdoctoral community updated through regular bulletins and informative seminars. For more information on visa issues, J-1 waivers, green card lotteries, and permanent residence sponsorship, please consult with Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration and/or visit:
If you are a foreign national, please consider contacting/visiting your home country's consulate to register as a resident of New York City, which will enable you to vote in your home country while you are residing abroad.
- Social Security Number (SSN)
All US citizens are assigned a Social Security number (SSN). Foreign nationals paid by Weill Cornell must apply for a SSN as well. Although Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows who are paid by their home countries are not required to obtain a Social Security number, it is strongly recommended. You will need a Social Security number to open a bank account, apply for credit cards, obtain a drivers license and pay taxes. In order to obtain a Social Security number you must apply at a Social Security Administration Office and present evidence of your age, identity, lawful nonimmigrant visa status, and proof of work authorization. Following is acceptable evidence of age, identity and lawful nonimmigrant visa status:
- Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record (confirms nonimmigrant visa status)
- DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 Exchange Visitor*
- Form I-797A/B Notice of Action for H-1B visa status extension
*Evidence of J-1 employment authorization is determined by form DS-2019. A valid DS-2019 form authorizes the holder to work if one of the following categories is listed: trainee, teacher, professor, research scholar or specialist or medical trainee. Exchange visitors with "student" or "international visitor" are presumed not to have work authorization and must also present a sponsor's letter authorizing employment.
It takes approximately two weeks to process an application at the Social Security office. The Social Security office recommends you wait 10 days upon arriving in the United States to apply for a Social Security number. This will make it easier for the office to verify your US entry information online with the Department of Homeland Security, which will speed processing of your Social Security number application.
For specific information for noncitizens applying for an SSN.
For specific information for international students.
Social Security Administration Office
755 2nd Avenue (at 41st Street)
New York, NY 10017
Hours: 9 am-4 pm Mon-Fri
For more information about US Social Security numbers, call 800-772-1213 .
It is important that you bring your Social Security card to the Weill Cornell Medical College Immigration Office, Olin Hall 217, as soon as you receive it in the mail.
- Dependents of International Scholars
Dependents of J-1 exchange visitors can obtain a J-2 visa, while dependents of H1-B holders are eligible for an H-4 visa. H-4 visa holders are not eligible to get a Social Security Number and cannot be employed in the US.
J-2 visitors may request work authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by submitting a Form I-765. Adjudication typically takes between 3 and 5 months. The dependent must also provide a personal statement confirming that he or she is seeking employment to benefit from the cultural enrichment of living in New York, and the income from his or her earnings will not be used to support the J-1 principal postdoctoral trainee.