Hiring Foreign Nationals and Immigration Employment Sponsorship

Applies to: Faculty (including part-time and visiting faculty), postdoctoral scholars, staff and students (including graduate/undergraduate student workers and graduate assistants) employed by University of Southern California and its subsidiaries including USC Health System (“USC employees”).  This policy continues to apply to individuals on sabbatical, other leaves or while visiting other institutions.


Issued: December 1, 2011
Last Revised: October 25, 2023
Last Reviewed: October 31, 2023              

2. Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that USC complies with federal rules governing the sponsorship of foreign national faculty and staff for employment. As a global and pluralistic institution, USC attracts and employs a diverse group of individuals from different countries to further its mission of developing human beings and society as a whole. USC must follow the federal immigration regulations for foreign national faculty and staff who require sponsorship.

This policy outlines the responsibilities of USC’s hiring units that employ or intend to employ foreign nationals ensuring that they adhere to federal immigration regulations. Additionally, this policy clarifies that in cases where there is a conflict between University policies and state or local laws with federal immigration rules, federal immigration rules govern.

3. Scope and Application

This policy applies to all University Hiring Units and Departments seeking to engage foreign nationals in new employment, extend existing employment authorization, and sponsor foreign nationals for lawful permanent residency (also known as the green card).

4. Definitions

Foreign NationalIndividual who requires USC employment sponsorship because the are not a U.S. citizens, noncitizen national, lawful permanent residents, or other noncitizens authorized to work in the U.S..Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on several factors including their citizenship or immigration status, or their national origin. Hiring managers should therefore not try to ascertain the basis of employment eligibility. The need for immigration sponsorship may be addressed after an offer is made.
Immigration ServicesFederal government agencies that administer and enforce U.S. immigration laws including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of State (DOS, State Department), and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Immigration Employment FilingsPetitions, applications, and formal University correspondence submitted to the Immigration Services in connection with immigration benefits sponsorship foreign national faculty and staff for employment with USC.
NonimmigrantImmigration status that allows temporary entrance into the US for a limited scope and duration. This includes both employment-prohibited immigration statuses and employment-authorized immigration statuses. Most employment-authorized nonimmigrants require USC sponsorship and include the following restricted employment visa categories:

– H-1B – Specialized Knowledge Professional.
– TN – USMCA (formerly NAFTA) Treaty Professional.
– O-1 – Foreign national of Extraordinary Ability.
– E-3 – Australian Specialized Knowledge Professional.
Immigrant VisaVisa that permits a foreign national to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.  This includes employment-based and family-based sponsorship. Also known as the I-140 for employment-based sponsorship and I-130 for family-based sponsorship
PetitionEmployment sponsorship application submitted by USC before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Lawful Permanent Resident StatusImmigration status that permits a foreign national to live and work permanently in the U.S. also known as the green card.
Lawful Permanent Resident sponsorshipThe process of obtaining an approved employment-based immigrant visa on behalf of foreign national faculty or staff o allow them to become lawful permanent residents
PERMApplication filed by USC with the U.S. Department of Labor in support of an immigrant visa on behalf of foreign national faculty or staff.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD)Document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service that authorizes unrestricted employment with any employer in the U.S. during its validity period. An EAD is obtained through a foreign national’s personal application. The University does not apply for an EAD on behalf of a foreign national.
F-1Foreign student nonimmigrant status.
J-1Cultural exchange nonimmigrant status for international scholars, researchers and students.

5. Policy Details

Faculty/Staff Visa Services (FSVS) and the Office of International Services (OIS) are the designated offices that ensure University compliance with applicable federal immigration rules regarding the employment of foreign nationals.  FSVS and OIS are also responsible for determining whether a foreign national may be petitioned for University employment. FSVS and OIS are the sole offices authorized to prepare and submit immigration employment fillings on behalf of foreign national faculty and staff. 

FSVS is responsible for all foreign national faculty and staff (excluding F-1 and J-1 nonimmigrants) employment fillings and compliance including H-1B, TN, O-1 and E-3 professionals. FSVS is also responsible for USC’s employment-based permanent resident sponsorship on behalf of foreign national Faculty and Staff.

OIS is responsible for managing USC’s J-1 and F-1 immigration employment filings for foreign national faculty and staff including ensuring compliance with the applicable immigration rules and regulations. 

Only University-designated outside counsel approved by the Office of General Counsel may act as agents of the University in the filing of immigration employment petitions on behalf of foreign national faculty and staff. FSVS engages University-designated outside counsel for complex immigration sponsorship matters.

Immigration employment authorization is limited in scope and duration. FSVS or OIS will advise and provide guidance to Departments on the necessary steps to undertake for immigration sponsorship, as well as advising them on the permissible activities within the boundaries of the sponsorship..

Given required University processing times and U.S. Immigration Services processing times, Departments and Schools should begin obtaining necessary governmental approval far in advance of a job offer start date. Whenever possible, FSVS recommends that Hiring Departments should submit an employment-visa sponsorship request 6 months in advance of an anticipated hiring need.  

6. Procedures

Permanent resident and Nonimmigrant Visa Sponsorship

Hiring units seeking to sponsor foreign national faculty or staff for employment authorization in visa categories other than F or J must designate a FSVS Liaison to submit a Service Request with FSVS. More guidance for FSVS Liaisons is available at https://visaservices.usc.edu/administrators/starting-a-case/.

F-1 and J-1 Employment

OIS guidance for hiring units seeking to employ foreign national faculty or staff in F-1 Student or J-1 status is available at https://ois.usc.edu/employment/. Hiring units’ guidance for J-1 Scholar applications is available at https://ois.usc.edu/j1-scholars/obtaining-a-ds-2019/.

7. Forms

FSVS Forms and documents are available at:

8. Responsibilities

Faculty/Staff Visa Services1. Administer the University’s foreign national faculty and staff immigration employment sponsorship and compliance program.

2. Review and assess immigration sponsorship of foreign national faculty and staff for lawful permanent residence and nonimmigrant visas  (excluding F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrants).

3. Maintain immigration sponsorship compliance records.
Office of International Services1. Administer the University’s F-1 and J-1 visa program for employment of foreign national Faculty and Staff.
Hiring Unit Responsibilities1. Hiring units are responsible for contacting FSVS or OIS early in the recruitment process. When it becomes evident that one or more of the top candidates being considered for a faculty or staff position will require immigration sponsorship for employment, FSVS or OIS should be consulted.

2. Hiring units are responsible for providing FSVS or OIS an accurate description of the foreign national’s duties and responsibilities. The University is required to provide the Immigration Services with a description of the foreign national’s responsibilities. The foreign national may not engage in activities outside of the description under federal immigration rules.  

3. Hiring units are responsible for following FSVS and OIS instructions regarding the scope and limitations of a foreign national’s employment. Hiring units must ensure the foreign national is employed as represented within the petition submitted to the Immigration Services.

4. Hiring units must notify FSVS or OIS of any proposed changes in a foreign national’s employment before any changes are made. Changes in a foreign national’s responsibilities such as promotions, demotions, change in occupation, changes in job site, changes in department, reduction in hours, overload requests, and reduction in wages may either be prohibited or require amended filings with the Immigration Services before implementation. Failure to file required amendments can jeopardize not only the offending hiring unit but the entire University’s ability to sponsor foreign nationals.

5. Hiring units are responsible for notifying FSVS or OIS as far in advance as possible of the termination of a foreign national. Termination of a foreign national can trigger specific University responsibilities and mandated reporting to the Immigration Services.

6. Hiring units should consult with FSVS or OIS whenever there is a question regarding whether a foreign national’s employment activities are permitted under immigration rules,

7. Hiring units must immediately notify FSVS if the US Immigration Services provides them notice that it wishes to conduct a site visit, or agents of the immigration services arrive on site and requests information about a pending or approved USC petition, requests information about a sponsored foreign national, or requests to speak with the sponsored foreign national or their manager.

9. Related Information

10. Contacts

Please direct any questions regarding this policy to:

Faculty/Staff Visa Services213-740-5257fsvs@usc.edu
Office of International Services ois@usc.edu
Office of International Services J-1 Applications J1exchg@usc.edu

11. Policy URL

Hiring Foreign Nationals