The H-1B is a highly competitive U.S. work visa thanks to its dual intent allowance and stay periods. It has grown in popularity lately, which has also led to increased competition for the visa. Holders of the H-1B visa who want to remain in the U.S. under the visa are permitted to file an H-1B extension or renewal.
Status is initially granted for an initial stay of up to three years. After that, a renewal application can be filed with USCIS, extending the stay for another three years. The maximum number of years an employee can stay in the United States is six years.
H-1B extension processing time
USCIS allows petitioners to file for an extension within six months of the expiration date of the current H-1B visa. USCIS typically takes two to three months to process H-1B extension requests, but the actual response time can vary. As of April 3, 2017 Premium Processing has been suspended for H-1B visa petitions, including extension requests. This temporary change was put in place so USCIS could get to the backlog of pending requests and decrease the overall wait time, which has become overloaded thanks to a surge in demand for the H-1B over the past few years.
Because processing time can be unpredictable, collecting documentation and other information necessary for the H-1B extension should begin at least four months before the petitioner’s H-1B visa is set to expire. Allowing for ample time to complete the process will help you submit a request that’s more likely to be accepted.
What documentation do I need?
The documentation for the petitioner filing the H-1B renewal is extensive but similar to the initial H-1B visa petition. Necessary documentation should include job-related information such as visa copies, diplomas, letters from previous employers, resume and recent paychecks. From the employer, the documentation could include items such as a job offer letter, job description, and an official report indicating financial viability.
What happens after I file an H-1B extension?
After a renewal petition has been filed, the employee has a 240 day period during which he or she can continue to work for the current employer while USCIS makes a decision on the renewal. During this time, the petitioner can leave the country but may not necessarily be permitted to come back into the U.S. before the H-1B renewal is processed.
Pro tip: The H-1B visa is dual intent, which means holders can apply for green card status while on their H-1B visa. To that end, H-1B holders who’ve completed select portions of the green card application process can extend their status beyond the six-year max-out date.
Read the complete H-1B Visa Overview for a step-by-step process to help you through H-1B petitions and renewals.