H1-B visa holders are generally foreign nationals granted temporary permission to live and work in specialty occupations within the United States. This temporary H1-B visa status is usually granted for a maximum of three years. However, foreign nationals wishing to continue working within the U.S. under H1-B visa process can apply for an H1-B visa extension of their visa permissions near the end of their three-year term. Let’s discuss the H1-B visa renewal process.
The Renewal Process
One particularly positive thing about the renewal process is that H1-B visa status extensions are usually granted for an additional three years. This allows an H1-B visa holder to fully double their initial time in the U.S. Once a six-year term limit has been reached, a foreign worker may reapply for an additional three-year term (followed by a possible three-year renewal) after leaving the U.S. for a full uninterrupted year. It is in this way that foreign nationals can continue to take advantage of H1-B visa extension in three-year increments, provided that they leave the country every six years, for at least one full year, in order to reset the six-year “clock.”
It is important to note that there are exceptions to these terms. Notably, foreign nationals from Singapore and Chile are generally only granted a one-year stay and renewals must be processed annually. In addition, some H1-B visa holders may be able to extend beyond the six-year limitation period without leaving the U.S. for a year. In order to meet this exception, H1-B visa requirements state that holders must generally have either a Labor Certification Application pending for more than 365 days or a similarly pending employment-based preference immigration visa petition. Under these circumstances, H1-B visa extensions are granted in single-year increments until final decisions are reached on pending applications.
Other exceptions may apply as well. It is for this reason that it is especially helpful for anyone interested in extending their H1-B visa status to speak with a visa attorney before submitting a visa renewal application. An experienced immigration law attorney will be able to give informed counsel about the process and any exceptions to it that may be available depending on an applicant’s unique circumstances.
Two important events have occurred over the past two years that are significantly impacting H1-B visa holders. First, in early 2017, the Federal Register began implementing a final rule which holds that any applicant seeking an visa extension while working toward a green card (also known as lawful permanent resident status) must have their sponsoring employer file a I-140 petition at least 365 days before a six-year stay exemption may begin. Extension requests filed fewer than 365 days before the exemption period begins may be rejected due to the delay.
In addition, a rule is currently pending that would allow H1-B visa holders to be deported if their request for extension or transfer is denied. This rule is still pending due to operational guidance challenges. But if implemented, it could have serious consequences for applicants seeking H1-B visa renewal. If this change could affect you, please discuss your legal options with your attorney.
Assistance Is Available
If you are either a foreign national working in the U.S. and looking to extend your H1-B visa status or are an employer seeking to help a worker who holds an H1-B visa, help is available. Please consider reaching out to the experienced team at LawTrades for help with the visa renewal process or any other employment-based immigration questions you may have.