It is a one of the most common questions for H1B workers that “Can I transfer my H1B visa to another company?”. This question can arrive after working for a company for several years, or just after landing in US, or even before flying to US. As part of this article, we will look at various scenarios, look at overall process, documents required, understand the cost, timelines, and common FAQs.
Legally, is there something really called H1B Visa Transfer ?
First of all, there is nothing called “H1B transfer” (i.e. legally). It is a term coined for our convenience. H1B transfer is basically filing a new H1B visa petition, which is not counted in the H1B visa quota cap or H1B Visa lottery, because the applicant has already been counted in the quota once in the past 6 years. This term is typically used, when one plans to change current employer and join another employer.
Various H1B Visa Transfer Scenarios or Situations by Employees
Below are some of the common situations for H1B Visa transfer that are encountered by employees, who are planning for it.
- H1B Transfer Applicant has never been to US, but wants to do H1B transfer to change employers.
- H1B holder, who just arrived in US plans for H1B Transfer within 15 days of Landing in US
- H1B Holder plans to do H1B transfer and change employers anytime after 15 days of Landing in US
- H1B visa holder worked in US for sometime, left to home country and files petition from home country
USCIS looks at the H1B transfer applicant’s status and verifies, if the applicant has maintained proper status in US, in order to approve the petition. Now, let us look at the above listed four scenarios in context of applicant’s ‘status’ in US. It is important to understand this because, applicants have to provide relevant documents like Pay Stubs, Tax Documents, etc for H1B transfer to prove that they were in status at the time of filing. You may read article US Visa vs Status to understand the difference.
Did the applicant Maintain Status in US ?
- Scenario 1: H1B Transfer Applicant has never been to US, but wants to do H1B transfer to change employers: In this case, for question regarding prior status in US doesn’t exist, because the applicant never visited status and as long as you are outside of US you don’t have a valid US status. No need to provide any documents to prove status, when you plan to transfer from one employer to other, without visiting USA.
- Scenario 2: H1B Transfer Applicant, who just arrived in US plans for H1B Transfer within 15 days of Landing in US : Because the applicant has just landed in US, he/ she now has a status. However, because it has been less than 15 days, that status is not fully defined yet (payroll typically starts in 15 days). So one can still dodge the bullet and may not have to prove his/her current legal status. So, in this case, the applicant does not need to submit pay slips to prove status, just I-94 and Port of entry stamp would do.
- Scenario 3: H1B Transfer Applicant plans to do H1B transfer and change employers anytime after 15 days of Landing in US : In this scenario where USCIS definitely wants the applicant to prove that they have maintained their valid status. Some of the common documents that can be submitted as valid proof are recent pay stubs/ slips (most recent 3 pay slips should be sufficient), bank statements that show salary deposits, and W2 tax returns. You may or may not have all of these, depending on how soon you apply for H1B transfer, but at the minimum you need to submit Pay slips, bank statements.
- Scenario 4: H1B visa Transfer applicant holder worked in US for sometime, left to home country and files petition from home country: This is more like scenario 3, as they had valid status in US at least once on H1B. So the the applicant will have to submit most recent payslips from his previous H1B employer, Bank statements, W2 tax forms, in order to prove that legal status was maintained while the applicant was in US. No proof is required for the period for the time spent in India. You can even submit your I-94 Travel History
What is H1B Visa Transfer Process ?
H1B Visa Transfer process is exactly same as filing a fresh H1B petition with a new employer. The fundamental difference is that with H1B transfer, the applicant does not have to go through H1B lottery or H1B cap process, the reason is the applicant was already counted towards cap in the last 6 years and using the same to file a H1B cap exempt petition. Also, with H1B transfer, you do not have to wait until April 1st of next year, when H1B season starts, to file H1B petition. Below are the typical process steps on a high level for H1B transfer. We will look at additional details for each of these after these steps.
- Step 1 : Find Job at H1B Sponsoring Employer : You need to get a job at a H1B sponsoring employer. Once you have the job offer, you need to work with their attorney and indicate that you already went through the H1B cap process and eligible for cap exempt petition filing as H1B transfer.
- Step 2 : Submit all H1B transfer Documents : You need to provide all the required H1B transfer documents to your new employer to start the H1B transfer process. The complete list of documents is listed below as new heading.
- Step 3 : H1B Sponsoring Employer / Attorney Files LCA with DOL : Once you send all documents, your new employer or their designated attorney will file Labor Condition Application(LCA) with US Department of Labor (DOL). LCA has the job offered, salary offered, prevailing wage and other info. For more info, read What is H1B LCA, why file it, info in it.
- Step 4 : File H1B Transfer Petition with USCIS : After the LCA is approved by US DOL, your new employer will file H1B transfer petition with USCIS. Basically, they will file form I-129 with USCIS with all the relevant fee, supporting documents regarding the offered job, etc.
- Step 5 : USCIS gives Receipt Notice and Adjudicates : Once the H1B transfer Petition is received by USCIS, they will issue receipt notice to employer/ attorney indicating that they have received the H1B petition and for tracking purposes. Depending on the load of the Service Center and filing type either regular or premium processing, the H1B transfer petition is adjudicated by USCIS in few days to few months.
- Step 6 : USCIS Decision : USCIS either gives approval decision or requests for additional information as RFE, depending on the case and makes a decision of either approval or denial based on the overall petition. The H1B transfer applicant can make a decision to join or no join after the decision is made by USCIS.
Below are additional details on each of the steps in detail.
H1B Transfer Documents Checklist – Required Documents :
The H1B transfer documents are pretty much same as regular H1B petition, but additional details like current status in US and previous H1B details has to be submitted. Below is the list. Some of these are optional or may not be relevant for the applicant, if they are in their home country and have never traveled to US.
H1B Transfer Documents Checklist from Applicant
- Copy of Job offer letter from New employer, with details of the Job title, Salary offered and signed by both applicant and employer.
- Resume of applicant.
- Copy of Passport
- Copy of I-94 ( if already in US)
- Copy of H1B Stamp on passport ( if already in US or have done stamping)
- Copy of Previous approved H1B petition ( I-797 approval notice)
- Copy of SSN ( if already in US and worked before)
- Copy of 3 or more most recent Pay stubs/ pay slips ( if already in US )
- Copy of W2 Tax forms from employer ( if already in US and filed taxes)
- Copy of Bachelors/ Masters Degrees or any higher education.
- University Transcripts in sealed cover.
- Academic Evaluation (depending on country, degree and university awarded it, there may be need for education evaluation and submit that as well, check with your attorney )
- Copies of experience letters, if any from your previous employers
- Any other letters of recommendation ( if any – optional)
H1B Transfer Documents Checklist from Employer / Sponsor
- Detailed Job description of the job offered
- Details of the company like company info, marketing material.
- Financial Statements, Annual Reports or Business Plans
- Copies of company incorporation documents, as applicable.
- Additional supporting documentation as needed based on the Job role.
H1B Visa Transfer Fees, Cost
The H1B transfer cost includes fees that are paid for various aspects of the H1B petition as listed below. Depending on the size of the company, the H1B filing fee can vary anywhere from $1,750 USD to $7,400 USD + the attorney fee( if any).
|H1B Transfer Fee Component||Fee in USD||Additional Details|
|Base filing fee for I-129||$460||Standard fee for every H1B petition|
(American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998)
| $750 – for employers with 1 to 25 full time employees )|
$1500 – for employers with 26 or more full time equivalent employee )
|Fraud prevent & detection fee||$500||Needed as there is change of employers|
|Fee based on Public Law 114-113||$4000||Applicable, if 50 or more employees and more than 50% of employees are on H1B or L1 Visa status, required for new H1B filing and change of employers.|
Read H1B fee increase $4000 rule to check if it applies to your case
|Premium processing fee (Optional)||$1,410||Applicable only if H1B Transfer petition is filed under premium processing.|
|Immigration Attorney Fee||Varies from $500 to $3000||Varies by attorney and can be anywhere from $500 to $3000. If the employer has in-house immigration team, this may not be an expense|
When can you start working for New Employer with H1B Transfer ?
You can work with New H1B Employer after USCIS receives the H1B transfer petition and issues Receipt Notice ( I797C Notice of Receipt). This working provision with USCIS receipt notice is as per AC21 regulation. Unless really needed, it is recommended to get H1B approval notice, before you start working to avoid any issues with transfer.
Overall H1B Visa Transfer Processing Timeline :
H1B transfer includes many steps from filing LCA, to working with attorney and processing by USCIS.
Processing time for Applying LCA with DOL for H1B Transfer :
Getting LCA with US Dept of Labor can take anywhere from few days to 7 business days, it is online and is quite fast, but can be delayed at times due to load, so factor in for delays.
Processing time by Attorney or Employe to Submit Petition with USCIS :
Depending on the complexity of the petition, both employer and applicant require time to gather documents needed for H1B transfer petition. It can vary from few days to couple of weeks or more depending on speed to get documents like transcripts, education evaluation, etc.
H1B Visa Transfer Processing Times with USCIS
After the petition is ready and submitted to USCIS, the processing time with USCIS for H1B transfer petition can range from few days to few months or sometimes many months. There is no required SLA for H1B transfer petitions filed under regular processing and USCIS can take their own time based on load. It is recommended to file it under Premium processing, if you plan to work soon for new employer after H1B transfer.
Do you need permission from Current / Previous Employer to do H1B Transfer ?
No, you do not need permission of your current employer to file H1B transfer by a new employer. Any H1B Sponsor can file H1B transfer petition, which is basically a new H1B petition based on your current approval notice, on your behalf without any permission from your current employer.
Do I have to inform my current employer that I have applied for H1B transfer ?
No, you do not have to inform your current employer that you have applied for H1B transfer. Having said that you are still governed by your employer contracts for the notice period and other obligations that you need to fulfil, when you leave the employer. So, plan the start date at new employer and other things factoring in these things.
H1B Transfer from Cap Exempt Employer to Cap Subject Employer – Is it possible ?
No, you cannot do H1B transfer from Cap exempt employer like University or non-profit research institution to a cap subject employer like general MNC companies. You will need go through standard H1B cap process in April, if you wish to do so.
Are there any limits on number of H1B Transfer Petitions employers can apply on behalf of an Applicant ?
No, there are no limits. You can have multiple employers apply for H1B transfer on behalf of you. Also, you may work for multiple employers simultaneously, if working part time.
Any limit on How many times you can apply for H1B transfer in a Year or Month ?
No, there are no such limits, you can apply for H1B transfer as many times as you want in a month or year.
I have returned from US and my H1B Visa stamp on passport is expiring soon. Can I do H1B Transfer ?
Your H1B visa stamp dates are not fully relevant for H1B transfer. You are eligible for H1B transfer, if your previous petition is filed within last 6 years.
What has been your experience ?