H1B Visa Extension – When to file petition? Visa extension Fee? Issues ?

by Kumar · 805 comments

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 myH1B visa extension when to filefuture 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
AICWA Fee 

(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

$2000
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.

Image Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/queenneveen/2792689962/

{ 805 comments… read them below or add one }

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Nithu Gopal April 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Hi,
I have a valid H1B visa with the current employer and its valid upto May16, 2014. I am now in India and I cant travel immediately hence asked for an extension of the Visa. Is it possible to apply for extension this late ? Its already end of April now ?

Reply

Vijay May 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Yes,you can apply within 6 yrs from the date of visa expiry.This is called exempt visa as you are staying in India.

Reply

Divya April 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

Hello- My case is

I797- validity- oct 2012-sept 2015
H1b visa- oct 2012-sept 2015
I94- validity is Sept 2013

The way the 2013 was written in te I94 was very ambiguous and looked like 2015. Thats how I got my state id as well for sept 2017. Not sure what will be the next steps for me !!

Reply

JDCH April 3, 2014 at 4:41 am

Hello Saurabh,
Thanks for your wonderful support to all of us.
I have attended for H-1b interview on dec-13 and got 221(g) white-slip stating that needed client letter (on letter head).
Unfortunately i am not able to submit as of now. Right now I had approved petition.
My question is I am having valid h-1b petition approval(i-797). If suppose any employer is ready to provide client letter what should be the chances of getting and how much time my i-797 would be valid..
Please tell me any alternative process to overcome this situation.
Please help me I have already spend lot of amount on this..Please guide me…Regards,JDCH

Reply

Sai March 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Can any one answer?

I got my H1-B visa with X company and my visa validity of May 28th 2014. But unfortunately my company couldn’t send me to US. Now my H1-B visa will soon gets expired and I asked my company to renew it. but at the same time my current project ends by May 28th. same day..

My question is :

Can I get my visa renew through another Y company, if i get a job there with them.

Reply

xyz March 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

Yes!

Reply

Gopi Verma March 12, 2014 at 9:01 am

Hi,
I am Gopeshwar verma. I have my H1B petition valid and i had my visa stamped and it got expired in Aug 2011. But petition is still valid and i come under cap exempted. I could not travel to USA because of some reason and i do not have I-94 with me.
Now i want to get my visa stamped again thru some sponsor. So do i need to have
I-94 form to apply for visa extension?

Please let me know what all are the documents are needed.

Thanks & Regards
Gopeshwar Verma

Reply

Robert March 8, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Hi,

I am currently in US working with an employer. My H1b petition expires on June 2015. If I change my employer now and go for a vacation around November 2014, should I have to go for stamping..?

Thanks,

Robert

Reply

Karthik June 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm

yes, if you change your employer before your vacation as you will get a new I797 approval notice due to job change.

Reply

shahid February 23, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi,

I got my H1-B visa with X company and my visa validity of I797 was from Dec 2012 to Dec 2013. But unfortunately my company couldn’t send me to US. Now my H1-B visa has got expired and my company is not willingly to renew it, as they don’t have the opening there.

My question is :

can somebody tell me, what i need to do for the renewal of my H1-B visa.
Should the another Y company will get it renew, if i get a job there with them.
And how much time it takes to get it renew it, fyi i’m in india.

Kindly help me with the above question.

Thanks.
Shahid

Reply

Kosta February 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Hey Guys,

I’ve got a question – my H1B petition has been approved through August of 2016 (first 3-year term). However, the actual visa stamp in my passport expires in August of this year. When I consulted my lawyer, he said I would have to renew/extend visa in my passport every year through August 2016. He also mentioned that I cannot do it from here, that I have to travel to a contiguous country (e.g. Canada, Mexico, Bahamas), make an interview appointment at a us consulate and come back the next day to pick up my visa…then travel back to the US.
Does anybody know anything about this or has anyone done this already?

Thanks

Reply

Ramesh February 16, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hi,

I came to India for vacation on last week and my visa got expire on Feb28 and my H1B-extension got approved and my employer received the hard copy on yesterday and they sent to me the soft copy to me. I am planning goto usa on next week end. I scheduled the usa embassy for biometrics on coming Tuesday. Is require the original approved-I797 petition or copy of I-797 petition

Regards,
Ramesh

Reply

Babu Chokka February 8, 2014 at 5:46 am

Hi,

My name is Babu Chokka and I got H1b visa in October 2008 but couldn’t travel to US since then due to personal reasons. I would like to travel to US now and kindly suggest the way of Visa extension process and further proceedings.

Regards
Babu Chokka
+91-9986492921

Reply

as February 2, 2014 at 1:24 am

Hi Saurabh,

I’am in a situation :
I797 vaild till – Sept 2015
H1b Visa valid till- Sept 2014
I-94 valid till- Sept 2014

Do i need to file for visa extension or i can just get my i-94 extended?

Please advice on this urgently. Thank you in advance!!

Reply

Avinash Joshi February 2, 2014 at 9:50 am

No need to do anything if you are not going outside of the United States till Sep 2015.
If you want to go overseas between Sept 2014 to Sept 2015, you need to come only after VISA stamping.

Thanks
Avinash Joshi

Reply

as February 2, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Avinash,

But i have heard that i-94 date supersedes everything and date of stay is valid only upto the maximum date of i-94

Reply

Avinash Joshi February 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm

No, its not correct.
You can stay in USA until you have valid I797 but yes if you have any travel plans after visa expiry or I-94 expiry you can go out of United States but you can’t come back without visa stamping.
In port of entry immigration officer will ask you for your visa and you should have a valid visa at that time and according to your visa expiry he will provide you a new I-94 (In general it depends upon officers mood that how long your I-94 will be valid but 99% changes are it will be valid upto your visa expiry date or you can say +-10 days of your visa expiry)

For more information contact me on avijoshi4u (at)gmail com
- Thanks

Reply

Rambo B January 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hello Saurabh,
Thanks for helping.
My que is I have valid I797,I94 & visa stamped until Sep’2016 with current company say A.

Now I got offer and h1 transfered to company B but i797 expiry date came as Jan’2015 only with I94 of company A printed on it. So it means if I join company B I have to file ext again before Jan’2015, right?

Or as i94 of company A is tagged to i797 of company B, can I just stay and continue working with B. I am little confused ? Please guide.

Thanks Rambo b

Reply

BG January 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Hi Saurabh,

I am in US on my H1B VISA for a long term onsite assignment. My VISA is getting expired on 1st August 2014. I am planning for a vacation to India on the month of May (1st May to 31st May). When can I raise my VISA extension request? (Before 1st May or after 31st May). Also will it be a problem if I am coming back on 1st June, since my VISA will be valid for only 2 more months after that. Can I travel back to US with only 2 months of valid VISA remaining?

Cheers,
BG

Reply

Suhas January 22, 2014 at 1:57 am

Yes,

You can travel as long as you have valid visa. When you will be back, they might ask you whether your current employer is going to file extension for you(might ask) and definite answer is yes. This is coming from experience I had.
Some of my friends where not asked any question with same scenario.

Reply

Amit Dhingra January 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Hello Saurabh,
My H1B i797 has expired in Dec13. I never travelled USA.
My company filed H1b Cap exempt on 22nd Nov 2013 with premium processing. How much time it will tkae more?

Thanks…

Reply

Puneet January 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Hello Saurabh,

I am in US on H1B my current petition was for 2 years which is due to expire in April 2014. My company suggested my to go for transfer H1b to L1A so can apply for GC for me. I want to know if company’s attorney file for transfer from H1B to L1A now do i still need to file my H1b Extension separately? If i get L1A petition approved then do i need to exit US for stamping for i can continue to be in US till my GC is filled through L1A i.e. EB1 category. Please advise

Thanks

Reply

Saurabh January 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Puneet,
The petition extension is always filed by the company or their attorney. If the same company is moving you from H-1 to L-1A, then no action on your H-1 petition is required. You can continue working in US on L-1A as long as L-1A petition remains valid. It can be extended for up to 7 years (H-1 + L-1 time). If you travel outside of US in b/w, then you will have to get L-1A visa stamped in order to return to US on L-1A.

Reply

Ramesh January 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hello,

My petition was filed on 27th December 2013 with premium processing but the uscis site still show case status as acceptance state. Please let me know many days take to move from acceptance to initial state? Shall my employer need to take any further action? All the site mention that Premium processing take 15 business days.

Regards,
Ramesh

Reply

Avinash Joshi January 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Yes..it will not take more than 15 business days. Even I have filed my petition in Feb 2014 and got the documents within 10-12 days only.
Don’t worry they will change the status directly to the final status. Cheers and let me know if you need any more information.

Reply

Avinash Joshi January 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Sorry it was Feb 2013 :P

Reply

Ramesh January 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Thanks Avinash !!

Reply

Divya January 6, 2014 at 12:09 am

Hi,

I am currently in US on H1B. Unfortunately my H1B validity is only for one year and will be expiring in Sep 2014. Below are my questions.

1. What is the earliest date by when I can apply for an extension?
2. Since my first H1B was approved only for a year, are there still chances of getting extension for 3 years?

Thanks in advance

Reply

Saurabh January 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Divya,
1. Extension can be applied at most 6 months prior to expiration date
2. It depends upon the submitted documents and USCIS review. It is not necessary that it will be approved for 1 year only, and can be issued for 3 years.

Reply

Divya January 8, 2014 at 9:11 am

Thanks Saurabh.

Reply

jb February 16, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Hi Divya\all,

I have the same case, my first H1b was approved in Sep 2013, valid till 4th oct 2014.

Now, I have to travel to india in april, I have concern if in case you had the same thing or know about it.

Is there any risk associate with stamping in regards to H1b validity remains around 6 months only at the time of traveling (stamping interview).

Reply

Shanthi March 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Hi Jb,

I am also in the same situation as you. I have my H1 currently until end of Sep 2014 and I am planning to visit India in June 2014.

Did you get to know what are the issues or risks surrounding the stamping with only 4 months time in my case ?

Are you travelling to India this April?

Thanks in Advance

Reply

Manu February 26, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Divya

Mine is exactly same case as yours, I think we should ask our employer to start the extn process from April 1st.
Let me know your email, We’ll connect wd each other to exchange more details.

Thx
Manu

Reply

Puneet December 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hello Saurabh,

I am in US on H1B my current petition was for 2 years which is due to expire in April 2014. My company suggested my to go for transfer H1b to L1A so can apply for GC for me. I want to know if company’s attorney file for transfer from H1B to L1A now do i still need to file my H1b Extension separately? If i get L1A petition approved then do i need to exit US for stamping for i can continue to be in US till my GC is filled through L1A i.e. EB1 category. Please advise

Thanks

Reply

Suhas January 22, 2014 at 1:59 am

Yes,

You can travel as long as you have valid visa. When you will be back, they might ask you whether your current employer is going to file extension for you(might ask) and definite answer is yes. This is coming from experience I had.
Some of my friends where not asked any question with same scenario.

Reply

Suhas January 22, 2014 at 2:04 am

Sorry! wrong thread

Anyways to your queries:
I have seen people filing for L1B extension along with petition for new H1B. If option is open then file for both – H1 extension and L1A transfer

Once you get approved L1A and have valid I94 expiry date, you can stay in US as long as I94 date is valid. But in case if you are planning to visit India for some reason, then you can enter US only after stamping because I94 becomes invalid once you leave US

Reply

JD December 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Dear Friend,
There are two issues which i think your article is mixing.
1) VISA expiration on passport.
2) I797 expiration.

If you have a valid I -797 , and if you are in the US, and if you dont want to travel outside US, then you can stay in US till I-797 expiration date. And apply for I-797 extension 6 months before its expiring.
Valid (unexpired) I-797 is must for stay in US.

If your VISA on passport is expiring, or if already expired while in US, then you dont need new VISA stamped unless you are planning to travel outside of US.
When you will go for VISA stamping it will be just stamped till the date present on I-797 extension.

In my case, my visa is expiring in OCT 2014 but still my I 7979 is valid till june 2015. I was thinking if i can apply for extension right now to get 3 yr extension and then go for stamping otherwise if i go for stamping now then i will be stamped only for a year.

Reply

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Suhas November 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hi,

Right now I am in India for 2 weeks and my visa is expiring on 31st Dec 2013. I asked my employer to file extension once I am back in US but they already filed my extension when I was in India.
Now I have t travel back to US on 17th Nov.

What are the consequences of this?
Will I be questioned at port of entry about the extension?
Will I be stopped?
Do I need to leave US after 31st Dec 2013?
Can I cancel current extension case and file a new extension?

Reply

Pradeep November 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Saurabh,

I am working for TCS and My H1B Extension petition got approved for 3 years for client A and now i will be start working for client B(different location) from december 2013 and my company dont apply for H1B Amendment and they apply only LCA and i am planning to go to India during Feb 2014.

During Stamping can i say to the interviewer about client A itself for which i H1B approved or should i say about the new client B for which LCA is applied.

Few of friends told the USCIS will not be aware about the LCA as it is processed by different department and they will be aware about only the H1B Approved Petition.

Your advise on this will be highly appreciatable.Thanks

Reply

Saurabh November 12, 2013 at 2:40 am

Pradeep,
My rule of thumb is to not lie to the officer. If you reply A and they decide to do background check, you will be in a pretty bad spot. Talk to your H-1 attorney on how to handle this case. The right thing was to apply for H-1 amendment which they didn’t do.

Reply

Jawahar October 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Hi Saurabh,
I am working with company A in India. I was travelled to US from company A and stayed around 2 year on H1B there. I return to India in Aug 2013. As my company A’s petition was getting expired (Sept 2013), I have applied for H1B extension from company A While coming to India. I got RFE for the extension now.

When I was in US, I got offer from Company B and they transferred my petition and it was approved in year 2011 and I have I-797A with me, but some reasons I didn’t join company B. I continued with Company A only.

Now Company B offered me job in India, Plan to use my old company B petition to travel to US.

Questions:
1. Can I go for stamping using Company B petition which is valid till Dec 2014?
2. Is there any issue to get stamp using Company B petition now (Company A’s petition extension is in progress and got RFE)?
3. As I Said company A petition extension got RFE, will you suggest me to give reply to the RFE?
4. If I give reply to the REF, will this create issue while stamping using company B petition?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

Reply

Jawahar November 1, 2013 at 10:16 am

Hi Saurabh,

Could you please reply to my post?

Thank you.

Reply

Venkat October 17, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hi Saurabh,
My situation is very bad.
1. H1b visa filed in Dec 2012 at Delhi Embessy declined due to insufficient document from company.
2.Working for same company from offshore india office. Petition is getting expired by November 2013. Company i saying they will file for Renewal after expiry of petition since they didn’t receive any document of Intention to revoke from USCIS and filing for extension on same petition is risky.
I don’t know after expiry of petition can they file for another h1b? Are they bluffing or this is a rule? I spent 1 year on h1b in usa. Thanks.

Reply

Saurabh October 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Venkat,
Even after the petition expires, they can file for a cap-exempt petition for you. This doesn’t need to go through the cap. Approval and duration will depend upon the documents your employer will submit at that time.

Reply

Sandeep September 30, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hello,

My H1 Visa is expiring on Dec 31st 2013, I am visiting india in November and coming back on Dec 1st 2013. I had applied for H1-b Extension and it got approved but the start date in I797-A is January 7th 2014. I am planning to go for Visa Stamping when I visit india. when I go for visa stamping will they cancel my current visa and will give new visa with start date of whenever I went for visa stamping? or will they give start date as my extension approval date which is jan 7th? If I don’t go for Visa stamping can I come back on Dec 1st using current visa which is expiring on dec 31st and the extension approval letter which start date is jan 7th 2014. Will there be an issue at port of entry? will they ask me what will i do for these 6days..i.e, from jan 1 to jan 6th?

Please reply and very much confused and worried.

Reply

H1B September 29, 2013 at 12:26 am

Hi I have filed my h1 b extension on may 1 still its initial review.
Any idea which applications are being processed?

Reply

phani September 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hi Saurabh.. My H1B extension is due on May 31st 2014. My employer is asking me to pay a short visit to India to support the offshore team for a month and be back by Mid January. I am just wondering isn’t it little riskier to come back to USA when the extension is nearing ? Would nt I be faced with lotta questions PoE?

Reply

Rajendra M Shetty September 5, 2013 at 3:57 am

Hi Saurabh,

1)My H1B visa was stamped only for 10 months and is expiring on 16 Dec2013. And due to some personal reasons, I’m not able to travel to USA till end of this year 2013 . S0 is it possible to get the extension done in India itself without travelling to USA once.
2)And if it can be extended in India then how long it may take for the extension process.
3)Also please let me know the period for H1B extension after the expiry of visa(within month of visa expiry or do we have some more grace period?)
Please do the needful.
Thanks in advance.

Thanks and Regards,
Rajendra

Reply

Rajendra M Shetty September 5, 2013 at 3:53 am

Hi Saurabh,

1)My H1B visa was stamped only for 10 months and is expiring on 16 Dec2013. And due to some personal reasons, I’m not able to travel to USA till end of this year 20.S13t possible to get the extension done in India io I think my visa will expire on 16DEC2013. So is itself without travelling to USA.
2)And if it can be extended in India then how long it may take for the extension process.
3)Also please let me know the period for H1B extension after the expiry of visa(within month of visa expiry or do we have some more grace period?)
Please do the needful.
Thanks in advance.

Thanks and Regards,
Rajendra

Reply

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