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International Independent Researchers & ObserversIn addition to assisting with immigration documents for F-1 international students, J-1 Alien Physicians, and J-1 Research Scholars, the UAB Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) works with UAB units to make sure that international researchers, observers, and speakers who do not need express institutional sponsorship provide the documentation necessary to participate in their desired study, research, or clinical experience at UAB.

Even though UAB will not need to file immigration-related paperwork with a government agency as a sponsor on your behalf, you still must follow the proper institutional protocols for health & safety, confidentiality, immunizations, and other administrative rules of the UAB community.

Activities Appropriate for the B-1/B-2/ESTA Visa Waiver Program

The B-1 visa (or Visa Waiver Program, VWP, for those countries on the list) is for business travelers and is not an option simply to avoid the additional paperwork and compliance issues of applying for a J-1 or H-1B visa in order to visit UAB. B-1/VWP status is appropriate ONLY for visitors who will come to UAB to engage in independent research as long as BOTH: a) neither UAB nor any other US source is paying the visitor, AND b) the results of the visitor’s independent research will not benefit UAB. If the visitor will receive payment from a US source and/or UAB will benefit from the results of the research, the visitor MUST come to UAB in J-1 or H-1B status.


International visitors who enter the US on a B1/B2 visa or Visa Waiver (tourist and business) and Entry Without Inspection (walkovers) from Canada can receive honorarium payments only for “usual academic activity or activities” paid by UAB. The activity must:

  • Last no longer than nine (9) days at UAB;
  • Be conducted for UAB’s benefit;
  • The visitor has not accepted such payment or expenses from more than five institutions or organizations within the last six months.

Under US immigration law, B1/B2, VW, WB, and WT visitors cannot perform work and/or receive employment compensation for any services outside the scope of the honorarium rules.

Honorarium recipients will be treated as independent contractors. The honorarium payment will be reported on a Form 1042-S and will be subject to 30% federal tax withholding unless you are eligible for a tax exemption.

Honoraria Conditions

  • You will not need a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) UNLESS you are from a country which has a tax treaty with the US, and you wish to claim a tax treaty exemption from federal tax withholding.
  • If you do not have an SSN and/or ITIN prior to your request for payment, UAB will not be able to offer treaty benefits, and your payment will be taxed at 30%.


International visitors to UAB who enter the US in B1/B2, VW, WB, or WT immigration status cannot receive a salary from UAB (or any other US source) for services rendered in connection with your activities in the US. However, you can receive expense reimbursement. The expense reimbursement cannot exceed the actual reasonable expenses you incur in traveling to and from the event. UAB can reimburse expenses related only to your visit, such as travel, meals, hotel, and other basic services necessary during your time at UAB.

If You Already Have an EAD and Wish to Work at UAB on That Basis

Many of our clinical faculty, researchers, and staff have EAD cards based on various stages of their immigration career, such as a pending permanent residence application, H-4 work authorization, STEM OPT, TPS, J-2 spouse, or any of the other categories of work authorization that do not require an employer to file paperwork with USCIS. Please let your department administrator know of your EAD card so that they can work with ISSS to make sure you are entered into the system correctly for Form I-9 purposes and take advantage of automatic renewal update emails so that your work authorization doesn’t expire.

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