The U.S. immigration system classifies people inside the U.S. as citizens or aliens. Aliens (referred to as Foreign Nationals (FN) throughout our site) are divided into two categories: immigrants and non-immigrants. Immigrants are permanent residents/green card holders. Non-immigrants are people with temporary authorization to be legally present in the United States. The authorization is linked to the individual's purpose for being in the U.S. and is correctly referred to as a "non-immigrant status."
The term “visa” is often used somewhat incorrectly. A visa is a stamp placed in a FN's passport by a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad that allows application for entry to the U.S. The visa must match the non-immigrant status. A visa stamp may expire after entry to the U.S.; however, the underlying non-immigrant status must remain valid at all times. Non-immigrant status is reflected on the I-94 card (departure record). Non-immigrant status can be changed or extended inside the U.S. upon approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A new I-94 card will be issued as part of the approval notice. If a FN's non-immigrant status is changed inside the U.S., the visa stamp in the FN's passport will not change until they visit a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and apply for an entry visa to return to the U.S.
Non-immigrant Status: The two most common non-immigrant statuses used at NDSU for international employees and visiting scholars are H-1B "Specialty Worker" and J-1 "Exchange Visitor." Our visa reference chart contains a quick list of factors to consider when proposing to hire or host an international employee or visiting scholar.
Immigrant Status (Green Card): A green card allows an international person to stay indefinitely in the U.S. After five years as an immigrant (green card holder) based on employment, an immigrant may apply for U.S. citizenship. Permanent immigrant/green card status based on employment at NDSU is obtained by working closely with the Assistant Director of Faculty Immigration upon authorization by the hiring department. There is a unique route to an employment based green card designed specifically for university teachers. This is the preferred method used by NDSU for obtaining a green card on behalf of teaching faculty whenever the situation permits use of this option. However, there are time limits related to the filing of this type of employment based immigrant petition and the position must have been advertised per very specific US Department of Labor regulations. At NDSU the process for obtaining this type of green card must be initiated within 15 months of the date of the offer letter. Other options used by NDSU when sponsoring employment-based permanent immigrant status are determined on an individual case basis.