H-1B - Current Scholars

The H-1B visa status can be granted for up to three (3) years at a time, with a maximum of six (6) years of presence in the U.S. on H-1B status, with some exceptions.  H-1B status is very different from other statuses and has some complex regulations that are followed.  Below are some of the most important regulations to understand about H-1B status.  Please contact the International Scholar Team with any questions at any time.

Change of Employer

It is possible to “port” (or transfer) an H-1B to another university or institution that is not under the H-1B quota (“cap-exempt”).  However, the new institution must still follow all the usual requirements to file a new H-1B petition.  The difference is that an H-1B employee can begin working at a new place of employment once the new employer has a receipt from USCIS for filing a new H-1B petition; it is not required to wait for an approval notice.  If the new employer is in the private sector (corporate business, small business, etc.), the H-1B employment will most like fall under the H-1B quota (“cap”) and this type of transfer is much more complex and can be impossible in certain circumstances.

SISS does not advise on cap employment issues. For for information, please refer to the U.S. Customs and Immigration website, which publishes ongoing information about  H-1B “cap” policies and quota numbers to its bulletins and updates throughout the year.

Exceptional 7th Year H-1B

The H-1B status is limited to 6 years.  However, if an H-1B scholar has an employment-based permanent residency case pending at USCIS for 365 days prior to the end of the 6th year on H-1B status, the department can request an additional 7th year of H-1B status time and continue to request extensions in one-year increments until the permanent resident petition is approved.  If the scholar is from a country where there are currently no immigrant visas available when their permanent resident petition is approved, the department can request extensions of H-1B status past the normal 6-year limit for up to three years at a time, until an immigrant visa is available.

Recapture Time

The H-1B status is limited to 6 years of physical presence in the United States.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep track of absences outside of the U.S. while here in H-1B status using the H-1B Recapture Evidence Form.  This time can be added back (or “recaptured”) to your total maximum stay in H-1B status (6 years), allowing for additional time past 6 calendar years.  To do this, the USCIS will require good evidence, such as copies of I-94 records showing entry; stamps in the passport showing entry to other countries; copies of boarding passes, et cetera.

Travel Information for H-1B Scholars

The Department of State now provides visa applicants with Administrative Processing Information and estimates of the Average Wait Time to obtain a visa interview (which is now required for all H, O, J, F applicants) or for a nonimmigrant visa to be processed at individual consular posts. These are estimates only and because government processing times are always subject to change,  plan ahead and apply as early as possible.

Special Considerations for Travel

The H-1B status has some special considerations for travel for H-1B scholars who have changed employers; are pending an extension of status; or who have applied for a change to H-1B status that is not yet granted.  Please consult with an international scholar advisor in any of these situations, prior to making travel arrangements.

H-1B Visa Requirements

Scholars should check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to get specific information on applying for an H-1B visa.  In general, you will have provide the following documents:

  • The original H-1B approval notice (be sure to keep the original).
  • A copy of the H-1B petition (this is picked up at SISS by the scholar or department after the H is approved).
  • A current letter from the department, confirming that the scholar continues to be employed in H-1B status under the terms for which the H-1B petition was originally filed.
  • For scholars previously employed in H-1B status:  paystubs for the past 3 months.
  • Any other items listed on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Documents Needed to Apply for an H-4 Visa

Dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders and their children under the age of 21 would need to present the following documents to apply for H-4 visas:

  • Copy of the H-1B spouse’s approval notice (if granted inside the US).
  • Proof of marriage or proof of parent-child relationship (birth certificate).
  • A current letter from the department, confirming that the scholar continues to be employed in H-1B status under the terms for which the H-1B petition was originally filed.
  • Any other items listed on the website of the US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Travel to Canada or Mexico for 30 Days or Less (Automatic Revalidation)

An H-1B worker must have a valid H-1B visa to re-enter the United States after a trip abroad (with the exception of Canadian nationals).  However, under the "automatic revalidation,," an H-1B alien may re-enter the U.S. after a trip solely to Canada or Mexico that lasted no more than 30 days, without the need to obtain a new H-1B visa.  This is true even if the individual's prior H-1B visa has expired, or the prior visa listed a different status.  H-1B travel under this provision is limited to travel to Canada and Mexico.  Nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba cannot request automatic revalidation.

Information about Automatic Revalidation: