H-1B Department Toolkit

Administrative Toolkit

Most hiring units have a designated individual who serves as that unit’s liaison or “immigration contact person” with IFSS. This contact person is called the “Department Admin” in Terra Dotta, the UW’s immigration software. The department admin’s role is to maintain information relating to immigration matters, contact IFSS for information as needed, and initiate H-1B petitions, including extensions, transfers and amendments. Additionally, the department admin consults with IFSS regarding future employment changes, worksite location changes, and directly submits required documents in Terra Dotta.

It is most often the department admin who consults IFSS when an international individual requiring sponsorship is being considered for a position. Although we will discuss procedures and options with faculty members, supervisors, and other UW personnel, H-1B petitions can only be initiated by the contact person with permission of the hiring unit’s hiring authority.

Any hiring unit dealing with visa or immigration issues must have a designated department admin. The department admin will be added to the IFSS email list and will receive important updates and other notices relating to immigration issues.

Please notify IFSS when a new Department Admin is designated for a hiring unit, as well as when a department admin leaves the unit. An interim department admin must be designated by your hiring unit until a permanent replacement is found to ensure continuity of immigration services for the employee.

Due to the sensitive nature of the data, information and documents, all department admin are required to already have HRS access as part of their existing position. Yearly audits will be conducted by IFSS to remove department admin who are not regularly using the software.

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Recruitment Considerations

Hiring units can choose to sponsor H-1B status for an international individual regardless of the way the position was filled – whether through an open recruitment, an internal recruitment, or through a waiver. The critical element of this phase of the hiring process is to craft a detailed position description that accurately reflects the minimum requirement(s) for the job, regardless of how the position is filled or who fills it. The minimum job requirements that must be included are: type of degree, degree field(s) of study required, job experience required, training required, special skills required, license and/or certification required, etc.

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We understand the purpose of a waiver is to “waive” the recruitment for a particular person for a specific reason (sole source, spouse of UW employee, etc.). However, when crafting the waiver and/or detailed position description, it’s very important to “take the person” out of the waiver. Creating the waiver to include the specific qualifications of the person you’re hiring, skews the minimum job requirements and can have a negative impact on the H-1B petition we file (for example, it may result in a higher prevailing wage requirement). Therefore, it’s highly recommended that when creating a waiver, you list the minimum requirements of the job as if you didn’t know who was filling the position.


The H-1B was created for temporary workers who work in “specialty occupations.” According to the regulations, a specialty occupation means an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation. H-1B status has a wage requirement (known as the prevailing wage) and the wage requirement is solely based on the minimum job requirements.

Therefore, when creating a position description, hiring units must carefully consider whether or not the position requires an applicant to have a degree. But they must also consider what field(s) of study the degree must be in. It’s ok to list more than one field of study, but they must be closely related and must clearly relate to the duties of the position.

It’s crucial to only list the minimum degree requirement, not a list of any of the degrees that are acceptable. NOTE: if you are considering sponsoring permanent residency for a teaching position, please take note that preferences are considered “implicit requirements” on that application. Therefore, please take caution before putting preferences in your job postings.

Hiring units can research degree requirements for jobs (and what is considered the standard for “minimum entry into the occupation”) by using these resources:
Occupational Outlook Handbook (a U.S. Department of Labor resource)
O*Net OnLine (a U.S. Department of Labor resource)
● Other resources from the appropriate professional organization that represents the job

These are the same resources that USCIS will reference when reviewing an H-1B application to determine if a job is truly a specialty occupation.


For the H-1B application, it is also necessary for the job posting to include any minimum experience requirements or training requirements. Furthermore, it’s also important to quantify how much experience is minimally required.

For example:
● If your scientist position requires 5 years of postdoctoral training, use “training” instead of “experience”. It may be mistaken for employment experience if you do not clarify and could bump up the prevailing wage requirement as a result.
● If your researcher position requires lab management experience, be sure to specify how many years of experience. 1 year of experience is very different from 10 years of experience. It’s important to quantify experience requirements to ensure that the prevailing wage determination is accurate for the minimum amount of experience you require.


If the position requires a medical license, any professional certifications, or special skills, you must indicate those as well. Be specific – which state must the license be in? What certifications? Is the special skill normal to the job or above and beyond what is normally required for the job? 

Special skills are not things like transferable skills (ability to get along with others or work in a group setting), but are instead skills above and beyond what is standard for the job. For example, you require candidates to be able to speak a second language. Be sure to list what language and level of proficiency you require. 

Again, consider: is it required for the applicant to be successful in the job? If not, then there isn’t a need to list it.


Due to the TTC project, many position descriptions are now standardized. While that is okay from an HR perspective, when sponsoring an H-1B petition, USCIS requires that we provide a detailed position description. Therefore, past practice of submitting the position vacancy listing (PVL) or PVL waiver in the H-1B petition will no longer suffice if the duties are vague and generalized. It must be specific and include detailed responsibilities. If allowed, it is ideal to include those details in the PVL or PVL waiver itself. However, if detailed customization of PVLs is not allowed, IFSS highly recommends that if you anticipate considering international candidates for a position, you also create a detailed position description (PD) to complement the PVL or PVL waiver. 

HINT: after reading the duties, you still don’t know what type of research this person is doing or what kind of courses this person is teaching, etc., that is a clue to get a detailed PD form. Do not assume based on the job summary or the department area. Remember, USCIS adjudicators are not necessarily experts in that specific field. Being too technical or too vague will both result in Request For Evidence (RFE) because they won’t know what the job is doing. Use plain language.


An employer is not required to offer immigration sponsorship for anyone, regardless of whether the position qualifies for sponsorship or not. Of course, the flip side of that is, you may not get the best candidate for the job if you don’t. 

  • If you do not wish to offer immigration sponsorship, or know the position you are recruiting for does not qualify for any sponsorship options offered by the UW, please consult with the Office of Human Resources Talent Acquisition regarding options. 
  • If an applicant discloses that they require immigration sponsorship, yet you are unable or unwilling to, you must follow appropriate steps to let all applicants know sponsorship is not available. Please consult with the Office of Human Resources Talent Acquisition team for suggestions and recommended approaches. 

ALERT: teaching positions that do not conduct a national recruitment to test the national labor market, as per US Department of Labor regulations, are not eligible for EB-2 Special Handling permanent residency applications sponsored by the employer. Please consult IFSS for other permanent residency options or SEE PR TOOLKIT.


Processing Times

Due to the heavy demand for immigration documents, please allow as much time as possible for H-1B processing by the IFSS office. If the individual will be coming from abroad, remember that the individual may need time to obtain an entry visa stamp at a U.S. consulate or embassy before entering the U.S. In some countries this is a one-day process. In other countries, it can take several weeks or months. Even changes of status processed inside the U.S. can take several months.

IFSS processes cases, generally, in the order they are received. This allows IFSS to remain fair to all campus partners who request immigration services. IFSS reserves the right to reorder cases in its queue, depending on circumstances.

Processing time ranges encompass the initial submission to IFSS through final USCIS approval. Processing times may change without notice. Certain parts of the processing time can be expedited, but other parts cannot.

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  • New H-1B:
    • 6 months notice required, before the anticipated H-1B start date. The more time we have, the better. At minimum, we require 3 months to process an H-1B for an individual who is inside the U.S.
    • If an H-1B request is started more than 6 months in advance, IFSS cannot begin formal processing of the petition until the 6 month mark due to federal limitations. We will allow hiring units and individuals to start gathering information and documentation approximately 1 month prior to that to ensure that the information and documentation is the most up to date.
  • H-1B Portability (Transfer an H-1B from another employer)
    • 3 months notice required, but we will advise on a case by case basis. As always, the more time we have, the better.
  • H-1B Extensions
    • 6 months, ideally, before the employee’s current H-1B expiration date.
    • NOTE: Terra Dotta, our immigration software, will email the assigned Department Admin 180 days before the employee’s current expiration date. At that time, the “Apply H-1B extension” button will appear in the lower right-hand corner of the employee’s active H-1B card. Do NOT submit a New Sponsorship Request for an H-1B extension.
  • H-1B Amendments or Changes
    • 3-4 months notice required, but we will advise on a case by case basis. As always, the more time we have, the better. Do NOT submit a New Sponsorship Request for an H-1B amendment.

H-1B Application Process

The H-1B non-immigrant application involves the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and, in some cases, the U.S. Department of State. The H-1B process is a partnership between IFSS, the hiring unit, and the international individual (also known as the beneficiary). H-1B applications are initiated by the hiring unit’s designated Department Admin through the UW’s online immigration software called Terra Dotta System (TDS). All hiring units are encouraged to contact IFSS with any questions about the H-1B process and to discuss procedures if they are not familiar with filing an H-1B application. IFSS offers a wide variety of training geared toward educating hiring units about the various immigration statuses available, as well as specific training in TDS. Find our trainings in the Course Catalog (type “immigration” in the search box.)

General H-1B Process Flowchart    H-1B TDS Status Flowchart

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Depending on the type of request, do one of the following:

  • New H-1Bs and portability (transfer) H-1Bs: The Department Admin submits a New Sponsorship Request (NSR) within TDS.  However, before doing that, use this Intake Form to gather the required information from the prospective H-1B employee. Remember to search for them first, using their name or email, in case they already have a TDS account. IMPORTANT: the email entered will be used to communicate with the prospective H-1B employee until a wisc.edu email is assigned and IFSS is notified. Some email clients, such as Gmail, often filter TDS emails to the scholar’s junk or spam folders. Please be sure to inform your prospective H-1B employee to regularly check their junk or spam folders for communication from IFSS.


  • H-1B extension: The Department Admin can find the H-1B employee’s current card on their Active tab in TDS. Click on the card. Scroll to the bottom and click “Apply H-1B Extension” in the lower right-hand corner. A pop-up window will prompt the Department Admin to enter the dates of the H-1B extension. Click Submit. Wait for IFSS to approve the extension request. IFSS will email you and the H-1B employee further instructions. 


  • For H-1B amendments: The Department Admin can find the H-1B employee’s current card on their Active tab in TDS. Click on the card and click on the last tab in the card labeled Requests. Click the icon to start the Amendment Request. Once completed, click Submit. Wait for IFSS to make a decision on the amendment request. IFSS will email you and the H-1B employee further instructions, if appropriate. 

IMPORTANT! Please order the filing fee checks from Business Services at this time as well. See the Filing Fees section below for more information. However, be aware that UW checks are only valid for 6 months. If you are submitting a new or transfer H-1B request more than 8 months in advance, please wait to order checks until closer to the time of submission to USCIS.


Once IFSS has approved the type of H-1B petition initiated, the Department Admin must log into TDS, find the H-1B employee’s card on the Pending tab of their Dashboard, and click into the card. Once in the pending H-1B card, the Department Admin will see the five tabs explained below. 

  • The Department Admin is responsible for completing the Department tab, Processing tab, and uploading documents in the Document tab.
  • The H-1B employee is responsible for completing the Beneficiary Information tab and uploading documents in the Document tab as well.

Important! Before moving to any new page/tab, save the information using the Save button at the bottom of the page. A green “Saved Successfully” box will appear in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to confirm the save.

  • Department

This tab contains information about the position, such as title, salary, job location, etc. This tab also is where you will enter information regarding the minimum job requirements, actual wage information and standard occupational classification (SOC) code suggestions. Information on this tab is required for IFSS to begin the H-1B process. Follow the instructions at the top of the tab in TDS.

  • Beneficiary Information

This tab is intended for the H-1B employee to fill out, but the Department Admin can view it to see whether or not the H-1B employee has completed it and send reminders to the employee, if needed. Information provided on this tab is required for IFSS to generate the federal forms included in the H-1B petition.

  • Additional Information

Currently, there is nothing to update in the Additional Information tab. This tab houses custom forms/information that IFSS required you to enter when you filled out the initial NSR. That is why you may see some information already entered. However, you do not need to change/update anything. 

  • Processing

This tab is intended to help IFSS gather information needed for certain USCIS forms. Follow the instructions at the top of the tab in TDS.


When the Department tab is completed by the hiring unit, IFSS can determine the prevailing and actual wage. The hiring unit is required to pay the higher of the prevailing wage or actual wage.

  • In rare circumstances, IFSS may not be able to determine the prevailing wage. If this happens, we will need to submit a request to the DOL to make the determination. This can take 3-5 months and will still require IFSS to have all the information above to proceed. Keep in mind, this could significantly delay the employee’s anticipated start date or require your Department to request premium processing when filing the H-1B petition with USCIS. There is currently no way to expedite the DOL wage determination.

After the wage determination is completed, IFSS will submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the DOL attesting to comply with the requirements of the H-1B program. The LCA takes at least one week to be certified by the DOL and cannot be expedited.

The LCA requires the hiring unit to accurately disclose any known or anticipated places of employment. The term “place of employment” means the worksite or physical location where an H-1B employee actually performs their work, including any home worksites. The employer must have an LCA on file for each place of employment, with the exception of certain short-term worksites (30 days or less in a calendar year). 

  • If additional work locations are added after the LCA is filed, but before the petition is submitted to USCIS, notify IFSS immediately to get those locations added. 
  • If additional work locations are added after the petition is submitted to USCIS, the Department Admin should submit an Amendment Request in TDS.

Once the LCA is filed, IFSS will post the LCA online for any UW work locations. See here. LCAs are posted for a minimum of two weeks online. 

  • For non UW locations, the department admin is responsible for making arrangements to post a physical copy of the LCA in a conspicuous location at the worksite that is accessible to all UW and non-UW employees who work at that location. For example, the LCA should be posted where other employee notices are posted (break rooms, common areas, copy rooms or any room all employees can access). The LCA does not contain any information about the employee specifically, only general information about the position you are filling.

According to federal law, LCAs cannot be submitted more than 6 months before the beginning date of the period of employment. Therefore, we cannot submit an H-1B more than 6 months before the beginning date of the period of employment listed in the H-1B application.

IFSS will generate the applicable I-129 and I-907 forms directly from TDS and will sign as the Authorized Official of Employer.

More Information

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An Export Control form must be completed for every H-1B petition (including new employment, extensions, transfers, and amendments). Continue to use the paper Export Control Form and get it signed. Directions for this form are on page 2.

  • Planned projects/activities section: the job title is not a sufficient description of the project and/or activity. If there is a PVL associated with this position, you may put “See PVL #[add number]” in that section. The description should not be vague (i.e. “research and teaching”). It should be more specific (i.e. research in what? Teaching what and to whom?).
  • Once the form is filled out and signed, upload the Export Control Form into the Documents tab under the category Position Description/Other and add the description “Export Control Certification”.


It is the H-1B employee’s responsibility to file and/or prepare the necessary paperwork if they have a dependent spouse or children who need to change to or extend H-4 status while inside the U.S. Hiring units will not complete this paperwork, nor will IFSS. As a courtesy to the H-1B employee, if the UW is filing a petition for the employee, IFSS will mail the dependents’ H-4 petition to USCIS at the same time. Please note: This does not guarantee that USCIS will process the H-4 application(s) at the same time as the H-1B application.

For immigration purposes, dependents are the legally married spouse and/or any children under the age of 21.

The H-1B employee must list their dependents in TDS on the Beneficiary Information tab. They must also upload certain documents into TDS in the Documents tab.

  • List of suggested documentation to include with the Form I-539 – see last row only
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
    • Only the primary H-4 dependent fills out the I-539 (normally the spouse or oldest child)
    • Each additional dependent fills out a separate Form I-539A
    • Parents can sign on behalf of children under 14 years old
  • Filing fee must be paid by the employee using a personal check or money order made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security”. Checks can be dropped off at IFSS or mailed to IFSS. Please include a note with the name of the H-1B primary employee to ensure the check is put in the correct petition. Not sure how to write a check? See here.

Alternatively, if the UW is not filing a petition for the H-1B employee, the employee or their dependents can file the petition on their own, either via paper or online. IFSS encourages H-4 dependents to take advantage of filing their petitions online, when available. Sometimes filing online does not make sense. For example, when there is more than one dependent, it can be more expensive to file online. Dependents can check their eligibility to file online here.

If the dependents are outside the U.S., there is no application required to be filed with USCIS. The dependents will obtain H-4 status from a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad during their H-4 visa stamp appointment. They will need to show the consular officer evidence of their relationship to the H-1B employee (marriage license or birth/adoption certificate) and a copy of the H-1B employee’s approval notice (the I-797A or B Notice of Action) at minimum.

H-4 dependents, generally, cannot work. However, there are some exceptions for dependent spouses when the primary H-1B has completed certain parts of the permanent residency process. For more information, refer your employee to this resource: USCIS Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses.


Fee Amount Who Pays Comments
Filing Fee $460 UW employing unit All petitions
Anti-Fraud Fee $500 UW employing unit All petitions except extensions and amendments
Premium Processing Fee $2,805 UW employing unit when there is a documented business need Optional additional fee
H-4 Dependent Fee $470 – paper application

$420 – online application

Employee only Paper application – one fee covers all dependents; USCIS will accept a personal check or money order made payable to US Department of Homeland Security. If you want to file a paper application, with the H-1B employee’s application, IFSS will mail both applications to USCIS at the same time.

Online application – you may be required to pay this fee per person online. Therefore, if you have more than 1 dependent, it is less expensive to file paper applications. See USCIS guidance here on eligibility to file the I-539 online. IFSS advises waiting to file online dependent applications until the H-1B employee receives their receipt number. This will allow the dependent to include the H-1B employee’s receipt number as part of the online application, connecting the cases at USCIS.

How do I request checks?

  • Follow normal procedures in your Department. Checks are requested through ShopUW+.
  • Make checks payable to: US Department of Homeland Security
  • Each fee must be a separate check. Do not combine all fees into one check.
  • Attach this pre-signed Check Custodian Form to your check request.
  • Accounting Services will notify IFSS to pick up checks.
  • Need help? Contact Business Services. IFSS cannot answer questions about how to order checks.

For all other Universities of Wisconsin campuses (not UW-Madison), IFSS will request the appropriate filing fees and you will be invoiced for those fees by UW System Administration at a later date.

What is Premium Processing and what does it do?

  • Guarantees that USCIS will take action on the case within 15 business days of receipt of the application. An “action” can come in the form of an approval, a Request For Evidence (RFE), a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), or a denial.
  • Does not expedite the UW’s preparation of the case.
  • IFSS recommends requesting a premium processing check for all new H-1B cases when the H-1B start date is less than 4 months from the time the case is submitted in Terra Dotta.
  • Generally, premium processing is not needed for H-1B portability (transfer) or H-1B extension cases. 


Change happens. We understand. However, some changes require us to notify USCIS before the UW can implement those changes. USCIS will not retroactively approve changes, so it is critical to notify IFSS 3-4 months prior to changes occurring to allow for appropriate processing time. Failure to give proper notice to IFSS may result in employer and employee non-compliance and could have an impact on future applications. 

Examples of some changes that may require an amendment include, but are not limited to, are: 

  • changing jobs
  • changing departments
  • changing worksite locations (adding or removing)
  • changing to work at home, even as little as one day a week
  • changing from full time to part time or vice versa

To gather the necessary information IFSS needs to evaluate a particular situation, work with the employee and their supervisor to complete the Amendment Petition Determination Form. When completed, submit an Amendment Request in TDS. 

Once IFSS receives the Amendment Request, allow one week for review. IFSS will evaluate the totality of the changes to determine whether or not an H-1B amendment petition must be filed (and potentially approved) prior to the planned changes going into effect. 

  • If an amendment is needed, IFSS will approve and initiate the amendment in TDS. We will also email you and the scholar to provide next steps and further guidance. 
  • If an amendment is not needed, IFSS will deny the amendment request in TDS. We will also email you and the scholar to provide next steps and further guidance.


Notify IFSS using this Departure Form approximately 2-4 weeks prior to the H-1Bs last day worked. Email form to IFSS. Do not upload into Terra Dotta.

NOTE: if the UW is laying off or non-renewing an H-1B’s employment prior to the expiration date of their H-1B status, you may be required to offer reasonable return transportation to their last known foreign residence. Contact IFSS for further information and steps BEFORE the layoff or nonrenewal is issued to the employee.


  • Employee should update their Glacier account
  • Human Resources should enter the term date for the I-9

Questions? Contact hrcompliance@ohr.wisc.edu


CONGRATULATIONS! That is wonderful news!

Please inform your employee to notify IFSS as soon as possible. Email a copy of the PR card, front and back, to IFSS.


  • Employee should update their Glacier account with their new status
  • Human Resources should reverify the I-9

Questions? Contact: hrcompliance@ohr.wisc.edu 


Terra Dotta Scholar Portal Login Page

Basic H-1B Information

Document Library – includes forms, knowledgebase articles, etc. for Department Admin and for H-1B Employees

Frequently Asked Questions – look under both General and H-1B