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 my future 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 ? What is USCIS Guidance ?
USCIS only allows you to apply for H1B visa extension 6 months before the expiration. USCIS guidance for general form I-129 filing, which is used for H1B petition, is that you cannot file more than 6 months before the start date of the employment. The same applies for H1B extensions that are filed using Form I-129. See below from form I-129 instructions.
What it means is, let’s say your H1B visa is expiring October 1st, 2019 then you can apply your visa petition anytime after April 1st, 2019. The question arises is, How soon should you start the H1B renewal process ? It depends, the sooner the better. Ideally, USCIS takes anywhere from few weeks to few months 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 rules after Trump and previous rules for H1B Extensions like Employer -Employee Relationship, 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 ?
Employees with pending H1B visa extension petitions with USCIS are authorized to work for up to 240 days or until USCIS Denies H1B Extension petitions, whichever comes early. You can read complete details with references at H1B Visa 240 days Rule for Extensions . As long as you have filed the H1B extension before the expiration of your status and I-94, 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. Always keep checking with your attorney and raise case inquiry, if it is getting delayed.
Is it worth doing Premium for H1B 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, you may avoid spending extra $1,440 US dollars for premium processing. But, in recent years, since Trump Administration took office, many RFEs are given by USCIS and it can be tricky to keep hanging in there. So, you should consider premium processing, if you can convince your employer. The good part is you can plan your options, if you have a decision before your H1B expiration. Typically, USCIS guarantees the premium processing time for H1B visa is 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. Check out H1B Visa Filing Fee Summary to get an idea. 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.
What has been your experience with H1B Visa Extension ? Please share your thoughts.
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