July 8, 2020

Q&A Postdoc Session – July 2 (Transcript)

Q&A Session for Postdocs

The Keck Postdoctoral Advisory Committee (KPAC) and the USC Postdoctoral Association held a Q&A session with Joseph Elias (Director, Faculty/Staff Visa Services), Brett Wobbe (International Student and Scholar Advisor, Office of International Services), Dan Carino (Senior Manager for Postdoctoral Affairs, Office of the Provost), and Peggy Farnham (Vice Dean, Health and Biomedical Science Education) on July 2nd.

A recording of the Q&A session is available on Zoom (to access the recording you will be required to register for the webinar): https://usc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8dodOkI2SceIW7L7DXekiQ


Joseph Elias – Director, Faculty/Staff Visa Services (H1B visa inquiries)

Brett Wobbe – International Student and Scholar Advisor, Office of International Services (J1 visa inquiries)

Dan Carino – Senior Manager for Postdoctoral Affairs, Office of the Provost

Peggy Farnham – Vice Dean, Health and Biomedical Science Education


General Visa Questions

  1. What are the current timeframe and restrictions required to renew a visa? When should the renewal be initiated?


If the visa stays (distinct from the visa stamp obtained at a U.S. consulate/embassy abroad) is renewed within the US, the renewal is easy to manage. Visa status is maintained by ensuring that that the DS-2019 is valid at all times; this may require an extension, which takes OIS up to 10 business days to process. The visa stamp (the blue sticker placed in the passport, used for admission to the country) can only be renewed outside the U.S. The visa stamp can expire at any time once the EV has entered without a problem. Visa status must be valid/unexpired at all times. If the EV travels abroad, at that point, a valid visa stamp is required to re-enter the U.S. If there is no intention of departing the U.S., having an expired visa stamp has no consequences. You can renew the DS-2019 anytime before the end date. This may be done far in advance of the actual end date as long as your supervisor agrees to it.

Please visit the Office of International Studies website for more information (https://ois.usc.edu/j1-scholars/current-scholars/extensions/).

It is not recommended to start a renewal outside of the US under the current pandemic, since most renewals/applications are on-hold. If you are abroad, please visit the OIS website (https://ois.usc.edu/covid-19-updates-for-international-students-and-scholars/) for the most up-to-date information and contact the OIS if you have questions.


Please visit the Faculty/Staff Visa services website (https://visaservices.usc.edu/) and info for the recent executive order (https://visaservices.usc.edu/executive-order-suspends-entry-into-the-us-of-h-1b-h-2b-j-and-l-workers-until-december-31-2020-limited-impact-on-usc-faculty-and-staff-petitions/).

Clearance times for foreign residence waivers for J1 has significantly slowed down, however the clearance time is faster for those working on COVID-19 related research.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, it is difficult to visit the US consulate in other countries. H1B visa holders who are participating in COVID-19 care and/or research may experience an easier time in visiting the consulates. The timeframe to get H1B has remained the same, despite the executive order. Typically processing times are between 12-16 weeks. Furthermore, immigration services is still offering premium services in which case immigration services will offer a decision on the H1B application within 15 calendar days. It is strongly recommended to begin the application as soon as possible.

It is important note that there is a 30 day grace period for J1 visa holders. During this grace period, you can remain in the US however you cannot work until your new visa has been issued.


  1. Does the recent executive order affect the ability of visa holders to transition to other visa categories (J1 to H1B, etc)?


No, visa application times remain the same. However, process times for foreign residence waivers for J1s are significantly slower. Premium processing is currently available.


Please contact the OIS and FSVS early when considering transitioning to make sure that the proper sequencing of changes in visa status is handled properly.


  1. Due to the coronavirus, expedited services to process certain visas (H1B) have been removed. How do you manage the gap between the start date of the contract and having a valid visa?



Premium processing is currently available.

It is important note that there is a 30 day grace period for J1 visa holders. During this grace period, you can remain in the US however you cannot work until your new visa has been issued.

Please visit the FSVS website (https://visaservices.usc.edu/) or contact FSVS for more information.


  1. Would there be any issues for holders of a valid J1/H1B/TN1 visa to leave and re-enter the US with the current restrictions on the border?


Brett & Joseph

We strongly recommend against leaving and re-entering the country due to the fluidity of the travel restrictions.

Please see the CDC site for more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html.


  1. In light of the recent executive order, will USC continue to support new workers applying for H1B1, H1B, TN1, and J1 visas?


Yes, business as usual. However, processing J1 waivers will present as a significant slow down.


USC J1 visa holders are not strongly affected by the current executive order. There are several restrictions, please see the OIS website (ois.usc.edu) for more information.


Questions from audience


  1. Does USC consider pregnant post-docs as a vulnerable population and are there any policies regarding on-campus work for them?


We recommend that you consult your supervisor and work together with them to formulate a policy and plan to handle the specific situation. If a conclusion cannot be reached, we recommend that you elevate the issue to your mentoring committee and/or the department chair. If a satisfactory solution is still not found, then contact the Health and Biomedical Science Education office who will work with you on this issue.


The USC Office of the Ombuds provides a safe-space to talk about potential issues and concerns. Please visit https://www.provost.usc.edu/office-of-the-ombuds/.


  1. Is there a way to expedite changing the status from J1 to F1?


With the current pandemic, it will likely take anywhere from 2-6 months. We recommend that you postpone the change of status if possible.


  1. What do you recommend for postdocs who have their DS2019 and are planning on entering the country on a J1?

Brett & Joseph

As long as they have a visa without a travel ban, they can still be admitted. But travel restrictions are fluid. If you have a visa but no stamp, we recommend to postpone due to ongoing issues.


  1. Does an amended start date (new DS-2019) need to be stamped again by a consular officer?


Technically, the endorsement from the consular/immigration officer on the DS-2019’s bottom left-hand corner is inconsequential; if endorsed during the visa appointment, but a subsequent DS-2019 is issued (amended, extended, etc.), the EV is not expected to revisit the embassy/consulate just to have the newest form annotated. Moreover, if program dates are amended, the previously issued J-1 visa stamp (with the same SEVIS ID) does not need to be updated, so long as it’s unexpired at the time of entry to the U.S.


  1. What are the rules for working remotely from a different country in the case that I can’t return to the US due to embassies being closed? Will USC terminate my contract?


OIS is not shortening or terminating SEVIS records; please remain attentive to your program end date listed on the DS-2019; as of this webinar, if your SEVIS program is active, we will not shorten your program unless requested to do so by you or your department; if DOS issues guidance on remote work, OIS will notify all EVs/departments; please note that there may be labor law/HR implications outside the OIS purview; we recommend consulting with your department too


For H1B visas, working remotely is complicated due to foreign work policy. This will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis.


Please start contacting your department ahead of time. Be sure to contact either OIS or FSVS as needed.


  1. Postdoc with a J1 visa is expiring at the end of August. Does this postdoc have enough time to extend their DS-2019 by the August deadline?


Yes. We recommend submitting as soon as possible. 10 business days are required for processing.