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A Mini-Handbook on H1B Expiry
ilustration depicting the expiry of H1B visa with a timer

In this article, you will find information about:

An H1B visa carries an initial validity of three years. Towards the end of the three years, the worker can apply for an H1B visa extension for up to six years. Follow the link to read more about H1B visa extension in detail.

All You Need To Know About H1B Expiry Dates

A US Visa holder is a foreign national who has been granted permission to enter the United States legally. A visa approval shows that a US Embassy or Consulate officer accepted the visa holder's application and that they have been approved for travel to a US port of entry for a specific purpose.

The US Consulate reviews your H1B petition and issues a visa if they are satisfied. This visa will expire in three years.

You will find the issue date and the H1B expiration date displayed on the visa. The period between these two dates is called visa validity. You can travel to any US port of entry within this time frame.

How is 'Length Of Stay' For H1B Visa Defined?

A visa allowing you to arrive at a US port of entry does not guarantee that you can enter the US or stay for any length of time. US immigration officers from the Department of Homeland Security need to approve your entry into the US and will also determine the length of your stay. Following this, a Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBP Officer) will provide an admission stamp or an I-94 form, with the admitted-until date or the D/S notation. This stamp will be the official record of the length of your stay in the US, authorized by the immigration officers. The visa expiration date does not determine or refer to the permitted length of stay in the US.

What Happens During The H1B Visa Renewal Process?

After three years, the H-1B visa holder can opt for an H1B extension for an additional three years. Once they complete six years in this way, the candidate can opt for visa renewal. Fortunately, H1B renewal is independent of the number of visas issued every year or the current cap on H1B visas.

Filing petitions for extension are fairly similar to the initial H1B petition pack and will involve:

  • Filing fees
  • H forms
  • A new LCA
  • A new letter from the employer
  • Copies of the H1B approval notice from the original petition
  • Other supporting documents

For a full list of documents required for extension, click here.

Steps To Take If Your H1B Expires

The immigration officer will mark down your visa category and the date you must depart or apply for an extension with a handwritten note in your passport. Abiding by all the regulations and policies surrounding your visa or authorized period of stay in the US is crucial. Keeping the expiration date or departure date in mind will help you plan your course of action in good time.

The US government offers you three options if your H1B visa expired after travel:

  • Leave the US
  • Apply for a change of status
  • Apply for an extension

Applications for extending your visa will depend on your employer. If they do not plan on extending your employment, you will need to plan your departure from the US before your I-94 expiration. If your employer plans to retain you as an employee, they must apply for extensions on your behalf six months before the date mentioned as the visa end date.

What happens after expires?

Staying in the US as an 'out-of-status' visa holder, or beyond the period authorized by the Department of Homeland Security, violates US immigration laws. Your visa will be voided or canceled. An unlawful stay of 180 days on an expired H1B will earn you a three-year ban from the date you leave the country. The ban will extend to ten years if you overstay by a year. Keep your I-94 expiry in mind and plan your extension or departure procedures well in advance.

There is one more provisional measure visa holders could take advantage of if their visa category falls within the E, H, L, O, or TN categories. An immigration officer could allow you a ten-day grace period to enter the US before your starting date at your job or beyond the H1B expiration date on your visa. The ten-day provisions were put in place to allow for preparation before starting work or settlement of affairs such as housing, car, bank, etc., at the end of your employment period. Unfortunately, immigration officers can be inconsistent about granting the ten-day grace period pre- or post-employment.

Also Read: All Your Queries About Visa Revocation & Cancellation Answered

The Sixty-Day Maximum Grace Period When Changing Jobs

Before the new policy was issued on January 17, 2017, people who held E, H, L, O, and TN category visas faced an uncertain period if they had to switch between employers. With the new policy, these workers have been granted a sixty-day period of lawful stay to make the switch.

There are, however, two circumstances that could shorten this period:

  • The departure date on your I-94 record occurs before the end of the sixty days. Here, the expiration date on your I-94 takes precedence.
  • The USCIS exercises discretion to shorten this period. While the new policy allows for a full sixty-day period to search for a new employer or apply to change visa category for those in the E, H, L, O, or TN visa categories, comments to this rule stipulate that you need to search for new employment in "an expedient manner".

H1B Expiry: What If You Haven't Travelled Yet?

Irrespective of whether you could travel to the US, your H1B visa will expire after the maximum three-year period from the date of issue. If you can take action within the three years, you can utilize an H1B Cap Exempt to either apply for an extension or use the unused days for travel.

TechFetch H1B- Arm Yourself With Better Information About Visa Expiry

For details regarding H1B Visa Expiry, visit TechFetch H1B where you will find a wealth of information to guide you through the entire process.

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

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Article by Techfetch H1B team

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