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The H1B Visa Duration Information Hand-book
On the background of the American flag the text " H1B VISA DURATION" written in bold and in blue color font. Vector Illustration, H1B Work Visa.

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The H1B visa holder comes under the nonimmigrant worker category. People who have this visa do not have the permanent residency rights of immigrants. Now, how many years is H1B visa valid? The H1B is valid only for a specified period. The holder can choose to apply either for an extension, a change in visa status or leave the United States at the end of the validity period. Workers who continue to stay in the country beyond the visa validity period will lose their legal status and could be deported.

Before you read about the H1B Visa Duration and how it could be extended, checkout the H1B Visa Process.

H1B Duration - How It Works

So, how long does H1B visa last?

Under normal circumstances, the H1B visa time period is initially issued for three years. Towards the end of this period, the visa holder can apply for an extension, usually for a maximum of six years. Six years is the maximum time you can stay in the U.S. on an H1B visa. You may be eligible for a U.S. Green Card at the end of this time.

At the end of the six years, the visa holder can apply for a change in visa category (F-1 student visa, O-1 'extraordinary ability' worker, etc.). Alternatively, they could also leave the U.S. and return on a newly issued H1B visa after a one-year period.

How the H1B Six-year Maximum Is Calculated

As a general rule, only the duration for which the H1B visa holder lives within the country counts toward the six-year count. Any time spent outside the country will not factor in, even if the visa holder leaves the country and returns on an H1B visa. This provision allows the visa holder to "recapture" any lost time and take full advantage of the maximum term.

Further, the time a person spends in the U.S. on an L-1 visa can also count towards the six-year maximum. Many workers usually swap between L-1 and H1B visa categories. A categorized record of your time spent in the U.S. under each category will help you make accurate calculations. However, applicants who lived as dependents (spouses or children) of an H or L category visa holder cannot include this period of their stay when they get their own H1B.

Can H1B Duration be Extended Beyond the Maximum Period?

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) allows the H1B visa to be extended beyond six years in certain scenarios:

  • The applicant is the subject of an approved Immigrant Worker Petition (I-140) but cannot apply for a Green Card since their priority date isn't current. The visa holder's employer could apply for a 3-year extension in this scenario.
  • The H1B holder also has the option to extend visa validity if a U.S. employer files for a Labour Certification application (a PERM or ETA 9089) or an I-140 petition on behalf of H1B employees before the start of the sixth year in H1B status. This option will be valid as long as the petition or application has not been denied - it has either been approved or is pending approval.

Here are a few other points to note about H1B visa extensions:

  • There are no limits to the number of times an H1B visa holder can petition for visa extensions using the AC-21 provisions.
  • Only H1B visa holders who are beneficiaries of employment-based petitions are eligible to apply for extensions using the AC-21 provisions.
  • The AC-21 provisions do not apply to beneficiaries of family-based immigrant petitions.
  • As with any other U.S. visa, apply for an extension of your H1B visa six months before the expiration date indicated on your visa.
  • Employers can file for either yearly visa extensions or an extension for a maximum three-year period. This process will usually involve completing an I-129 Form on your behalf and filing it with the required supporting documents after paying the filing fee.

Also Read : H1B Extension: How it Works for H1B Holders

Renewal of the H1B Visa

Two sections allow the H1B visa holder to apply for a renewal after the maximum six-year period: the A.C. 21 104 C (American Competitiveness in the twenty-first Century Act) and the A.C. 21 106 (a).

Section AC-21 104 C allows the visa holder to apply for visa renewal under the following conditions:

  1. Employment-based Green Card petitions filed under EB1, EB2, or EB3 slots
  2. The H1B visa holder has an approved I -140 petition but is ineligible to file for Adjustment of Status since they are from a country (usually India or China) with no priority date (the visa number is unavailable).

Section AC-21 106 (a) holds the following requirements for an H1B visa renewal if applicants are:

  1. Beneficiaries of an Adjustment of Status application
  2. Beneficiaries of an Employment-based immigration petition, or I-140
  3. Beneficiaries of a labor-certification application filed one year ago
  4. Holding an I-140 or E.B. Immigration Petition filed one year ago.

Changing an H1B Visa to Green Card Status

The H-1B visa is unique because it is a 'dual intent' visa. Unlike most other categories, the H1B visa holder can apply to become a permanent resident of the U.S.A. Therefore, you can apply for a green card while still holding your H1B status.

Applying for a Green Card starts with a sponsoring employer who will petition for the employee's status to change from visa holder to green card status. Once an employer files a PERM Labor Certification with the Department of Labor (D.O.L.), they must file a Form I-140 - the Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker. Finally, the employee will file Form I-485 to change their status from H1B to a Green Card.

TechFetch H1B - For all Your H-1B Information Needs

Getting an H1-B visa is tough, especially through the lottery system. So, the visa holder must proceed very carefully with renewals, extensions, and other changes to avoid the loss of time, effort, and money. You must also be mindful of U.S. federal law and regulations during the length of your H1B visa duration, as any case of violation could cause the loss of immigration status.

With TechFetch H1B, you will be able to find the right information about H1B.

**Disclaimer: H1B rules and regulations keep changing from time to time. For updated information, always refer to the USCIS official website.**

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Article by Techfetch H1B team

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