LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff

H-1B extensions

You may be able to apply for an H-1B extension if your current H-1B visa will expire soon. You can usually extend it once, for an additional three years.

After six years, you must usually leave the country for at least one full year before you can come back on another H-1B. But there are a few very specific situations that allow you to stay longer.

Required H-1B extension documents

Form I-129 and the correct filing fee will need to be submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You and your employer will also need to include other documents to support your petition. These may include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

Employer required documents

Your employer should provide copies of:

  • Your job offer letter, signed by you and your employer. It should include your title and salary.
  • Your job description.
  • Information about the company. If possible, this should include copies of a recent financial statement or annual report and the Articles of Incorporation.

Your required documents

You need to include copies of documents that show proof of:

  • Status: These include your current visa, I-94s and I-797 notices.
  • Qualifications: These may include university diplomas, transcripts, and evaluation of a foreign degree if applicable.
  • Current employment: This can be your three most recent paychecks or a letter from your employer confirming employment.

H-1B extension rules require you submit your extension application before your current visa expires. If your application is late, it will most likely be denied.

You may apply up to six months before your visa will expire.

H-1B extensions are cap-exempt

Extension of an H-1B visa is not subject to the same cap new applications face.

If your H-1B visa expired less than 6 years ago, a new H-1B is also exempt from the cap.

Extending H-1B visas beyond six years

Three situations allow you to extend your H-1B visa even if you’re getting close to your six year limit.

One is based on time spent outside the US. The other two are based on delays to your application for permanent residence (green card) that are outside your control.

Situation 1: You need to recapture time spent abroad

If you spent a lot of time outside of the US during the past six years (for non-business reasons), you can extend your visa for the same amount of time. You’ll need proof of your exit and entry dates plus copies of your passport stamps and I-94s.

Situation 2: You're waiting for a PERM or I-140 petition decision

If you’re trying to get a green card based on employment, your employer will file a PERM petition (Permanent Labor Certification) and I-140 (petition for permanent residence based on employment) on your behalf.

It’s important to start this process at least 365 days before your six years are up. Doing so allows you to extend your H-1B visa for one year if the relevant agency has not made a decision by the time it expires. You can keep getting 1-year extensions for as long as it takes to get a decision.

Situation 3: Your I-140 petition is approved, but your priority date is not current

You can also get an extension if your I-140 petition has been approved but you can’t get an immigrant visa yet because your priority date is not current. These extensions are for three years.

Documentation and timing requirements can be confusing, so it’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer to make sure you get it right.

If your H-1B extension is denied, you may still be eligible for other work or education-related visas. A lawyer can help you figure that out too.

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