The UCSF H-1B Process and Processing Times

The H-1B visa process at UCSF is a multi-stage process that involves your PI, your department, Campus HR, the ISSO and the USCIS. All H-1B visa request types (initial, extension, amendment, or transfer) follow the same campus process.

The H-1B Request Process at UCSF

The UCSF H-1B Process is composed of three stages:

  1. UCSF Department and Campus HR Processing Stage
  2. ISSO Processing Stage
  3. USCIS Processing Stage

The first stage is unique to each department on campus. Unfortunately, the ISSO cannot comment matters during the first stage since they are limited to your department and campus HR.

If you have not yet been notified that your H-1B visa request has been submitted to the ISSO, please work with your department to learn more about the status of your request.

H-1B Processing Times

Since the ISSO in not involved in the first stage of the H-1B process, we cannot comment on the processing time for this stage. The ISSO can only discuss the processing times of the second and third stage of the H-1B process. Please note that the ISSO generally recommends beginning the H-1B discussion with your department around six months before the anticipated start date on your H-1B request, regardless of whether you are seeking an initial or extension H-1B.

ISSO Processing Time

Once Campus HR submits your H-1B request, the ISSO (on average) three months to process a request and mail it to the USCIS.

Please note that H-1B regulations do not allow the ISSO to file an H-1B request more than six months in advance of the requested H-1B start date. While requests can be submitted to the ISSO more than six months in advance of the requested start date, processing will not begin until the six-month mark.

USCIS Processing Times

The USCIS offers two processing methods: Regular Processing and Premium Processing. Your department decides which processing method to use, not the ISSO. If you have a preference on which method to use, please discuss this matter with your department prior to submitting your H-1B request to the ISSO.

Regular Processing

Regular Processing has the benefit of being significantly cheaper than Premium Processing but comes with the uncertainty of not knowing when the H-1B request will be approved. Regular Processing times can vary quite dramatically, sometimes as short as 2 months but can be as long as 8 months. The average is between 3-5 months. For the most up-to-date processing times for the Form I-129 (H-1B) at the California Service Center, please see their Case Processing Times webpage.

Because of the uncertainty around the processing times, the ISSO does not recommend Regular Processing for H-1B initial requests. However, for H-1B extension and H-1B amendment requests, Regular Processing is a viable option since an approval notice is not needed to continue working at UCSF. Please see the H-1B Extension and H-1B Amendment pages for more information on this topic.

It is possible for a request submitted under Regular Processing to be upgraded to Premium Processing after it has been submitted to the USCIS. See below for more details.

Premium Processing

Requests filed under Premium Processing are generally approved within 15 business days of being submitted to the USCIS.

While it is possible for the USCIS to request additional materials from UCSF (which will effectively ‘reset’ the 15-day processing clock), Premium Processing removes the uncertainty of an open-ended processing timeline that comes with Regular Processing.

Because Premium Processing is more predictable and consistent, the ISSO strongly recommends this service for all H-1B initial requests and encourages it for all other H-1B requests.

In general, departments are obligated to pay for all visa processing fees, including Premium Processing. However, it is possible for you to offer to pay for Premium Processing in the following circumstances:

  • An H-1B approval notice is needed to travel abroad for personal reasons.
  • An H-1B approval notice is needed to obtain or renew the visa holder’s driver’s license.

Upgrading a Request from Regular Processing to Premium Processing

It is possible to upgrade a request submitted under Regular Processing to Premium Processing.

Please reach out the ISSO advisor that filed the original H-1B request to begin the upgrade process. The ISSO will need a check for the premium processing fee before an upgrade can be requested. If requesting an upgrade to Premium Processing for an H-1B initial request, please be sure to request the upgrade at least 6 weeks prior to the H-1B start date.