Visa Requirements to Reimburse Expenses and Pay Honoraria

Peter S. Levitov
Associate Dean, International Affairs and Special Assistant General Counsel (Immigration)

Many departments invite foreign academic visitors and colleagues to participate in a symposium, to give a lecture, to present a conference paper or to collaborate on a research project. In order for UNL to process any form of payment to the visitor, it is absolutely necessary that the visitor have the appropriate immigration documentation. These requirements apply to all overseas visitors, including Canadians and citizens of those countries who may not need a formal visa to come to the U.S.

To avoid a department's embarrassment at its inability to make the promised reimbursement or other payment, it is imperative that the visitor arrive in the U.S. with the appropriate immigration documentation. It takes months to change visa classification within the country and may well be impossible in many situations. Therefore, it is important to consult with International Affairs months in advance of the visit so that the academic visitor can, in fact, come to UNL and receive payment.

Only certain payments may be made to individuals who are lawfully in the U.S., depending on their visa classification. Each classification has distinct rules with regard to payments. They are outlined below. The most common visitor classifications are B-1 (Visitor for Business ) and B-2 (Visitor for Pleasure) or tourist. A brief comment regarding the J-1 (Exchange Visitor ) visa classification appears following the discussion.

Generally, foreigners seeking to visit the U.S. make application, have a visa interview and are given a combination B-1/B-2 visa by an American Consulate. In order to hold the B-1 classification in the U.S., which is less restrictive in terms of payments, they must make their business (that is, academic or professional) intention known to the immigration officer upon entering this country and insist on receiving documentation on arrival (Form I-94) with the B-1 designation.

By virtue of treaties between nations, certain foreign citizens are able to enter the U.S. as visitors without a formal visa stamped in their passport by an American Consulate. They also are issued Form I-94 upon entry. Their Form I-94 will be notated either WB (Visitor for Business from a Waiver country ), which is governed by the same rules as the B-1, or WT (Visitor for Pleasure from a Waiver country) , which is the same as the B-2. Frequently business/academic/professional visitors must insist that the U.S. immigration officer at the port of entry issue such business documentation (a WB notation on their Form I-94) rather than the tourist documentation (WT), which is more restrictive in terms of payments, including reimbursement for travel expenses.

Canadians do not need visas to enter the U.S. but are issued Form I-94 upon entry. If they wish to be present in the U.S. in the B-1 classification, they should make that intention known to the U.S. Immigration Inspector at the port of entry and insist on receiving the B-1 notation on Form I-94. Occasionally, a Canadian will be admitted to the U.S. without having been issued Form I-94. In that instance, the host department should ask the individual to submit a signed statement to the effect that a request for B-1 documentation was made to the Immigration Inspector upon entering the U.S.. This signed statement must be attached to the University of Nebraska Independent Contractor and Miscellaneous Expense Invoice for Nonresident Aliens in order to process payment.

In all instances where any form of payment will be made the academic visitor should have a letter of invitation from UNL in hand at the time of entry to the U.S. International Affairs can provide departments with a sample letter that will meet these requirements. After the visitor arrives, the host department must photocopy all relevant immigration documentation in order to process the payment.

B-1 and WB visa classifications:

The visitor may be reimbursed for travel associated with the visit. He or she also may be reimbursed for lodging and/or meals or may receive a reasonable per diem allowance.

The visitor may receive an honorarium* for usual academic activities only in connection with a visit lasting no longer than nine days , provided that the visitor has not received reimbursement of expenses or honoraria from more than five institutions or organizations within a six-month period. Visits to the same institution within the six month period are treated as a single visit. If the visitor is not conducting academic activities, such as on a Saturday or Sunday, such days are not counted toward the nine day maximum.

The individual may not receive a salary .

B-2 and WT classification:

Only in connection with a visit lasting no longer than nine days , provided that the visitor has not received reimbursement of expenses or honoraria from more than five institutions or organizations within a six-month period:

a. The visitor may be reimbursed for travel associated with the visit. He or she also may be reimbursed for
lodging and/or meals or may receive a reasonable per diem allowance.

b. The visitor may receive an honorarium* for usual academic activities. Visits to the same institution within the
six month period must be treated as a single visit. If the visitor is not conducting academic activities, such as on a Saturday or Sunday, such days are not counted toward the nine day maximum.

The individual may not receive a salary.

* Individuals receiving an honorarium must have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) or a U.S. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Individuals who do not already have either of these must apply for the appropriate document and complete certain forms with the assistance of the department inviting you before the honorarium payment may be made.

By federal regulation taxes must be withheld at the rate of 30% unless (a) the visitor's country has a treaty with the U.S. that would exempt such income from taxation and (b) the visitor has a SSN or ITIN.

Individuals who have been offered payments by the University which require another visa classification, such as a J-1 Exchange Visitor vis a(in the Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar, Student or Specialist category) or the H-1B visa classification (fora temporary professional employee) should not plan to enter the U.S. with the B-1, B-2, WB or WT visa classification.

J-1 classification:

Please be aware that the university could also utilize the J-1 (Exchange Visitor) visa for an academic visitor. This would be advisable only if the visitor would not be eligible for the intended payment as a B-1, B-2, WB or WT. Entering the U.S. in the J-1 visa classification, however, could be problematical for some visitors whose areas of specialization have been reported to the U.S. government as being in scarce supply in their home country because it could obligate them to return home and be physically present in their home country for two years before they may (a) change their visa classification in the U.S. or (b) re-enter the U.S. with an H, L or permanent resident (immigrant) visa. On the other hand, this obligation may not be applicable to particular visitors. There also is a small fee that the visitor must pay, in addition to the visa fee, prior to appearing for a J-1 visa interview. Units considering the J-1 visa for a short-term academic visitor should consult with an International Student and Scholar Advisor in International Affairs (2-5358).