I got my H1B visa extension approval notice just a day before my first 3 year H1B visa and I94 were expiring. I have experienced some real nervous days in US when I had to wait for my H1B visa extension. I was not sure about myfuture as some of my friends got H1B extension denied or got RFEs. Anyways, the point is I could have avoided some of those tensions if I had planned well. I will explain few things that might be helpful about extending your visa.
When to file H1B visa extension petition ?
USCIS lets you apply for H1B visa extension 6 months before the expiration. What it means is, let’s say your H1B visa is expiring October 1st, 2010 then you can apply your visa petition anytime after April 1st, 2010. The question arises is, How soon should you start the H1B renewal process ? It depends, the sooner the better. Ideally, USCIS takes two to three months for processing the H1B visa petitions. If you are not applying for premium processing, you should apply at least 3 months before your H1B is expiring. It gives enough time for USCIS to process the application. There are cases where they take longer, but at least you planned ahead of time. What it means is, you should talk to your employer and attorney at least 4 months before your H1B visa is expiring and get the ball rolling. They may need some documents and you might need some time to gather them. Also, with the new H1B visa rules of 2011, you should do it as soon as you can as there may be more paper work from your employer side and USCIS may take longer too.
What if your H1B extension was filed, but USCIS has not processed your application yet and your H1B visa expired ? Can you still work ?
This question was something that bothered me a lot as I was waiting for my H1B approval notice. You will not believe how many people I have talked to about this to clarify. Anyways, the information I have gathered after talking to few employers, lawyers, friends is : as long as you have filed the H1B extension before the expiration of the visa, you are good. You can keep working until you get a response from USCIS. You do not have to worry about anything because as per law, you have done your job and you are waiting for USCIS to respond. So, how long can you work ? Well, as per my knowledge I know people who have been working for 6 months too…I do not know exactly how long can you work though. You must talk to attorney or your employer.
Is it worth doing Premium for extension ? How long does it take ?
Well, the answer depends on your need. If you switching employers, then it may a good idea to do premium processing. But, if you are applying through the same employer, I do not really see any point in spending extra $1,225 dollars for premium processing. As you know you can file for extension before 6 months, you can plan ahead of time and avoid this expense. Typically, USCIS guarantees the premium processing time for H1B visa is 15 Calendar days. They say that they expect to have a decision within 15 Calendar days.
How much does it cost for H1B visa extension ?
The extension filing fee is same as filing a new H1B visa petition except if you are filing H1B extension through the same company, you do not have to pay the $500 Fraud detection/ prevention fee. Here is the breakdown:
|Base filing fee||$325|
(American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998)
|$750 ( For employers with 1 to 25)
$1,500 ( For employers with 26 or more full time equivalent employee )
|Attorney Fee||Depends on attorney anywhere from $400 – $1400 or more|
|Fee based on Public Law 111 – 230( If you are transferring employers)
Read H1B fee $2000 rule to check if it applies to your case
|Premium processing fee||$1,225 (If you intend to do premium)|
You should check USCIS website for correct H1B filing fee, as they revise fee every year or 6 months.
You must also read : documents needed for H1B visa and filing fee for full information on what NOT to give and what to give…
Consequences If no H1B visa extension approval document by the visa expiration date:
- You will have an expired driver’s license, unless you were proactive and contacted the DMV and they agreed to give you an exception. You cannot really drive because your drivers license will be expired and it is illegal to drive with an expired driver’s license. You can read my horrible experience with expired driver’s license and H1b visa expired situation issues
- You do not really have any legal ID given by US government because you may not have driver’s license. You will have to carry your passport all the time for any travel or going to bar. Imagine, you going to bar with a passport and you losing it ? not so good… This is a very critical thing for travel.
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