An H1B visa is a temporary, non-immigrant visa that allows the visa holder to work for a specific company within the United States. Because it is the employer who petitions for the visa and the visa is granted in connection with a particular job, many people are unaware that the visa holder may change jobs after being granted an H1B visa. In fact, there is no limit on the number of job changes an H1B visa holder can make, though the worker may hold only one job at a time.
The new employer will have to petition, just as the original employer did. However, when the process is handled properly, the H1B visa holder already working in the United States has several advantages compared with an applicant just beginning the H1B process. An experienced immigration attorney can explain the steps an employer and current H1B visa holder must follow in order for the employee to legally change jobs.
H1B Visa Portability
Although you may hear “H1B portability” or “H1B visa transfer” associated with this process, the visa is not actually transferred from one employer to the other.
The H1B Visa Job Change Process
The new employer must complete the H1B application process, which includes:
- Providing a letter of employment that includes specific details such as the position, duties and dates of employment
- Filing a Labor Certificate Application (LCA) and waiting for certification
- Posting notices or providing notice to the collective bargaining representative for the company’s employees
- Filing the visa petition, including supporting documentation and fees
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue a receipt for the petition, which will allow the employee to begin working for the new employer although the petition has not yet been approved.
Along with the employer’s petition, the employee will be required to submit updated information, including paycheck stubs, a current resume, copies of the most recent valid visa, social security card, past approval notices, passport and I-94 records, as well as documentation of educational records.
H1B Visa Expiration
As noted above, the receipt issued for the H1B petition allows the employee to begin working for the new employer immediately. However, this does not automatically extend the visa. Often, a request for extension will be filed along with the new employer’s petition. However, there is a limit on how long the employee may continue to work beyond the initial expiration date. The employee’s authorization to work will terminate upon the sooner of:
- 240 days after the existing visa expires; or
- Upon a denial at any stage of the process
Thus, H1B visa holders and their new employers cannot afford to delay or to be careless in constructing the petition and supporting documentation. An experienced immigration attorney can be the best source of guidance in this process.
Advantages to H1B Visa Holders Who Change Jobs
The fact that the H1B visa does not actually transfer and the new employer must start the petition process from scratch may create the impression that an employee changing jobs has no advantage over a prospective employee initially attempting to obtain an H1B visa. However, the process is easier or more favorable to employees already holding H1B visas for several reasons.
An H1B Petition Associated with a Job Change is Not Subject to Caps
Perhaps the most significant advantage a current H1B visa holder enjoys is that because he or she is already working in the United States or has already been granted a visa, there is no need to wait for a visa number to become available. In addition to easing the process, this may make the employee more desirable to prospective employers, who need not be concerned about the potential delay before the employee can begin work.
A Current H1B Visa Holder Can Start Work While the Petition is Pending
The employer who hires a current H1B visa holder saves time in another manner as well; the employee can start work as soon as a receipt number is issued for the petition, rather than having to wait for approval and issuance of a visa number.
Work with an Experienced Immigration Attorney for an H1B Job Change
An H1B visa holder seeking to change jobs can move forward more quickly and confidently than an applicant attempting to obtain an initial H1B visa. However, the process offers many opportunities for missteps that could cause delays, requests for additional evidence, (RFEs), or even denial. The veteran immigration attorneys in our office have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process, minimizing complications and increasing the likelihood that the petition will be approved. Contact Pride Immigration today.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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