H1b or J1 ?

Old Sep 27th 2002, 2:35 pm
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Default H1b or J1 ?

I received a job offer from a public
institution (a 1-year contract with possible
extension). they proposed me to join
them on either H1b or J1 visa
and told me H1b would be preferred
but takes more time.
What would be best H1b or J1 ???
What are the advantages...of H1b over
J1 ???
Thanks in advance.
Max is offline  
Old Sep 27th 2002, 9:08 pm
Vladimir Menkov
Posts: n/a
Default Re: H1b or J1 ?

In article ,
Max wrote:
    >I received a job offer from a public
    >institution (a 1-year contract with possible
    >extension). they proposed me to join
    >them on either H1b or J1 visa
    >and told me H1b would be preferred
    >but takes more time.
    >What would be best H1b or J1 ???
    >What are the advantages...of H1b over
    >J1 ???

It's been a while since I last worked south of the border, so my knowledge
may be a bit out-of-date, but I will try to summarize it nonetheless...

First, some references:


If your entire plan is to come to the USA to work for a year as a
postdoc or somesuch and then go away, then the difference for you is
very small (except for the possible tax implications; see below). But
in the context of one's longer-term plans, there may be some
differences. What's best, depends on your individual circumstances and

1) J-1 visas are issued in many subcategories (students, trainees,
etc.); in your case, I assume, it would be one of the "Professor" or
"Research Scholar" categories. They are intended for work in
comparatively short term teaching or research projects, not to exceed
3 years; so they wouldn't be suitable e.g. for a tenure-track
position. On the other hand, H-1b can be used for either short- or
lomger-term positions, for I believe up to 6 years. Since you said
that your institution offered you a choice, it must mean that your
position qualifies for either category; but if you are offered a more
permanent position (e.g. a tenure-track appointment) later on, you
would have to change status to H.

2) Should you decide to look a for a job at a different US employer
after the end of your appointment at this institution, teh visa type
does matter. If you have J-1, you may be able to switch to a J-1 at a
similar research or teaching institution later on (but subject to teh
overall 3 year limit); if you have H-1b, you can switch to H-1b at
another institution or private company. Neither procedure is all that
hassle-free, but, as far as I know, is still easier tan getting a new
visa (or change of status) from scratch. Therefore, having H-1b now
may be more convenient if you happen to be offered a private sector
job elsewhere later on. (Of course, you can enter on J-1 now and then
change status to H-1b closer to the end of your currentg
appointment... but that's extra expense for your employer, and you may
need to reapply for a passport visa next time you travel abroad).

3) H-1b allows "dual intent" while most other non-immigrant visas
(including J-1) do not. This has two implications: (a) When you apply
for the visa the first time, the consulate may deny a J visa to the
applicant if the consul does not believe that the applicant has an
established residence in his "home country" to which he will return;
with H, this should not be an issue. (b) If a J visa holder decides to
adjust later on to permanent residence, he may have more problems
(e.g. when leaving and re-entering the USA) than an H visa holder.

4) In some cases a J-1 visa comes with a "home residence requirement":
that is, the visa holder must live in his home country for 2 years
after the end of his J-1 stay in the USA before he can enter the USA
again in an H or L status or as a permanent resident. This restriction
is usually associated with student and trainee categories (= the
people who study in the US at the expense of their government or the
US government), not visting researchers or professors; but if this is
a concern for you, you should check with the institution's
international office that issues you the necessary paperwork for the
consulate or the INS.

5) If you are married, you need to know that a spouse of an H-1b
holder is issued an H-4 visa and is not allowed to work in the States
(unles of course she secures an H or J visa in her own right); on the
other hand, the rules for J-2 holders (spouses of J-1 holders) may be

6) Income tax implications. The IRS divides all aliens into "resident
aliens" and "non-resident aliens" for tax purposes. A "resident alien"
for tax purposes is anybody who is either an immigrant (has a "green
card") or a non-immigrant who spends a sufficient amount of time -- at
least several months -- in the USA (e.g., on a B or H visa). An H visa
holder usually becomes a "resident alien" for tax purposes in his
first or second year in the USA, due to teh "substantial presence
test" (counting the days you have spent in the country), but an alien
on a J or F visa stays a "non-resident alien" for several years,
because days of presence on a J or F visa are exempt from the day
count. What does this all mean? A resident taxpayer is usually
subject to a lower income tax than a non-resident alien taxpayer; for
example, if you are a single person in the 25% tax bracket, you may
have to pay some extra $1000 in income tax per year if you are
ona J visa (a non-resident alien taxpayer) than if you were on an H
visa (a resident alient taxpayer), because non-resident aliens
are denied standard deduction. The tax differential may be much
greater if you have a spouse and children with you in the USA.

You may want to read the IRS publication 519 for more
details. (www.irs.gov).

7) On the other hand, an H visa holder, like most other US workers, is
subject to the FICA and Medicare taxes, which are used by the
government to provide old-age pensions and medical services for US
senior citizens. These taxes are *additional* to the federal and state
income tax that you pay. You will have around 7.5% of your salary
withheld for these taxes (that is, around $3000 a year at $40,000
salary), and your employer will pay another 7.5%. On the other hand,
if you are on a J visa, you are usually exempt from these social
security taxes, at least as long as you have not stayed in the USA on
F and J visas for more than several years.

It is up to you to decide whether it is a good thing for you to pay
these taxes, based on your previous history and future plans. Based on
the current laws, if a person has paid FICA for at least 10 years in
his life, he will be entitled to a government old-age pension ("social
security benefits") based on the amount of his lifetime contributions,
upon the age of 65 (or is it 67 now?), even if he does not live in the
USA anymore (there are some rare exception though). But if a person
has paid FICA for less than 10 years, he either won't get anything
back form Uncle Sam at all, or (if he retires in a country with a
social security totalization treaty with the USA) he may only get a
much, much smaller "prorated" pension.

Vladimir Meñkov, in Penticton, BC. (http-
"Anyone who is knowledgeable and skilled at butchering can be trained
in six months to perform many surgical operations, but only surgeons
know that, and they aren't telling".
(Gene Logsdon, "Organic Orcharding", 1981).

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