The initial amount of time that foreign nationals under the H1B visa can stay in the U.S. is three years. After that three years is up, it is possible for them to get an extension of another three years if their employer still has work for them to do (the maximum being six years).
If that is you, you may be wondering just how to go about applying for an H1B visa renewal. The process can take a while, and if you searched online the instructions given by the government, it can be horribly confusing. In this article we will go over the steps involved with applying for your 3-year extension, as well as what is required of both you and your employer during the process.
Steps for Extending H1B Visa
1. Documents Needed
The USCIS allows you to apply for an extension of your H1B Visa six months before the expiration date. That said, the earlier you apply, the more time the USCIS has to make a decision whether to approve or deny. Also, make sure to talk to your employer before you apply, as they will need to provide certain documents that need to be included in your application.
The USCIS can take three or four months to process your extension, sometimes longer. If your visa expires while you await an answer, you will be fine. The USCIS allows a 240 day grace period after expiration, as long as you filed before the expiration date.
2. Documents Needed
When filing for an H1B visa renewal, there are a few documents that you and your employer must provide.
- Job offer letter (including your job title, detailed job description, and salary offered), which must be signed by both you and your employer
- Copy of Articles of Incorporation
- Company brochure or any marketing material
- Copy of financial statement, annual report, or business plan
- Copies of all your visas, I-94s, and I-797 approvals
- Copies of all academic documents, including diplomas, transcripts, and Academic Evaluation of Foreign Degree
- Copies of your resume and any letters of experience from previous employers you may have
- Proof of employment (3 recent paychecks, unpaid leave of absence letter, or letter from your employer).
All of these documents must be included when you submit your application for extension. If you are missing any of the required documents, the approval process could take longer, or there is a chance that you could be denied.
How Much Does It Cost?
Applying for an extension costs about the same amount as it did when you first applied for your visa. The only difference is if you will be working with the same employer, you do not have to pay the fraud detection/prevention fee.
Is It Possible to Renew Past Six Years?
If you were approved for the additional three year term, great! When your full six years are up, what do you do then?
In most situations, extending beyond six years is not possible. You must leave the U.S. and stay out of the country for at least a year before being able to file for a new H1B visa.
Your employer can, however, file a petition for you to become a permanent U.S. resident on a work-related basis. They must submit this petition at least a year (or more) before your full 6 years are up, as it can take a substantial amount of time to get it approved.
There are two ways employers can do this. One is with Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The other is a PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) Petition. Either one of these must be filed by your employer through the USCIS to petition for you to receive a permanent green card.
While waiting for a decision on either the I-140 or PERM petition, it is also possible to get a 1 or 3-year extension, provided that there is a pending petition in place.
You can also stay past 6 years by “reclaiming lost time”. If you did any travelling out of the U.S. during your six years, and you can prove the dates you left and re-entered the country, you can petition the USCIS to reclaim that time beyond your six year period.
Learn More About H1B Visa Renewal
Applying for an extension on your H1B visa need not be as complicated as it seems if you follow the rules and take the necessary steps. Remember to apply as early as possible and provide every required document needed.
If you are unsure about doing it yourself, we advise seeking assistance from an immigration attorney. Contact Pride Immigration online today, and our immigration attorneys will be happy to assist you with your H1B visa renewal process, as well as answer any other questions you may have.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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