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.
What is H1B Visa Transfer ?
First of all, there is no official term that is called as “H1B transfer”. It is a term coined for our convenience. The official option that corresponds to the H1B transfer is is called “Change of Employer”. It is selected on I-129 Form, which is filed with USCIS when you file a H1B transfer petition. See below Screenshot.
H1B transfer process is nothing but filing a new H1B visa petition with USCIS that is done using the above “Change Employer” option, but that does not have through go through the H1B Registration process or H1B Visa lottery, because the applicant has already been counted in the H1B visa quota cap. There is nothing really transferred from your old employer to new employer or even your visa related stuff. You are only using the previous employer’s approval notice to file it as cap exempt petition.
H1B Visa Transfer Eligibility Scenarios
Depending on where the H1B applicant is during the time of H1B transfer process, USCIS would look at various requirements related to the applicant, including the visa status of the individual. Below are the various common scenarios :
- H1B Transfer Applicant Outside of US, never visited US.
- H1B Transfer after entering US in short time
- H1B Transfer after working in US, applicant in US
- H1B Transfer after working in US, applicant outside of US
- H1B Transfer with I-140 Approved
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.
H1B Transfer Applicant Outside of US, never visited US
Usually, this situation arrives, when you are living outside of US and a Company applies for your H1B Petition and gets it approved. For some reason your old employer is not able to get you to US, you want to transfer to other company. In some situations, you may even have H1B visa stamped in passport using old employer.
USCIS usually looks at two aspects, one is applicant’s current status and second is cap exempt situation.
- Applicant Status : The concept of status is not relevant as the applicant is outside of US and will not have status, so you as applicant do not have to prove status. So, there is no need to submit I-94 Arrival Departure Card or any relevant documentation to say that you were in status.
- Cap Exempt Qualification : The second part is cap exempt situation….This is the tricky part, in the past USCIS used to consider a petition as cap exempt, if you had H1B approved from employer. But, in the recent years, it has become more grey area. USCIS at times questions, if the applicant had H1B status at any point of time. Usually, you would get H1B status, if you work on H1B Visa or you got H1B stamped. So, if you had H1B stamped, you technically had H1B status and you maybe eligible for cap exempt transfer…but, if you did not get stamping, then you never had status, so you do not qualify for cap exempt. This is slightly grey area and some users also shared that they were able to get H1B transfer done, without having stamping…So, you may try, if you have an employer willing to take chance…But, usually, if you have H1B stamping done, then you have better approval chances.
H1B Transfer after entering US in short time
Usually, this situation arises when the H1B holder after arriving in US, realizes that the employer is not the right fit or they have a better offer from another employer and they want to transfer immediately. Usually, if someone want to transfer within 15 days or less. Similar to above, USCIS would look at applicant’s current status and cap exempt situation.
- Applicant Status : As the H1B transfer applicant has arrived in US, they have a status, which is H1B given to them at port of entry in a Stamp and I-94 reflects the status as well. The applicant has to prove status, but there is no additional information, except I-94 and copy of Stamp on passport that they need to submit to prove status. They do not have to submit pay stubs or other tax documents to prove that they maintained status. This is because the duration is less than 15 days and most employers do not run payroll before 15 days.
- Cap Exempt Qualification : The applicant is cap exempt as they have both H1B stamping and entered inside US on H1B visa status.
In the above situation, as the applicant meets both of these, they can do H1B transfer to a new employer, if someone is willing to file a new H1B petition on their behalf. They do not have to exit the country, they can do H1B transfer within US.
H1B Transfer after working in US, applicant in US
This is the most common scenarios of the three as many are in US on H1B Visa working for a company and they get a better offer outside and they plan to move. Similar to above situation, USCIS looks at Status and Cap exempt situation for transfer.
- Applicant Status : As the H1B transfer applicant is working in US for sometime, they need to submit additional documents like pay stubs, Tax returns from previous employers, including approval notice to prove that they maintained proper status all along. If an applicant does not submit most recent pay stubs or tax documents, ( if over year), USCIS may question the transfer and they may not approve the H1B Transfer with I-94. In such cases, employee has to leave US and get stamping done at consulate, re-enter US to work for the new employer.
- Cap Exempt Qualification : The applicant is cap exempt as they worked on H1B before. So, this is implicit and applicant need to put in approval notice of previous employer.
H1B Transfer after working in US, applicant outside of US
This situation arises, when someone left US after few years of working on H1B, for whatever reason, and plan to come back to US as they haven not used all 6 years. In general, you can Recapture un-used H1B Time. Now, even in this situation, USCIS typically looks at Status and Cap exempt situation for transfer.
- Applicant Status : As the H1B transfer applicant is not in US, the concept of status is not relevant, so applicant does not have to prove status.
- Cap Exempt Qualification : The applicant is considered cap exempt as they worked in US on H1B before and had H1B status at least once. Usually, applicant need to put in copy of approval notice of previous employer. Optionally, applicant may even submit 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
So, applicant can transfer as long as they worked in the past and not used up all 6 years.
H1B Transfer with I-140 Approved
One more common situation is when someone has I-140 Approved. Usually I-140 is applied as part of Green Card process steps, where you wait for the priority date to become current. In context of H1B transfers, you can continue to work in US after 6 years on H1B, if you have I-140 approved and it also applies for H1B Transfers too. If you have I-140 approved for over 180 days and not withdrawn, you can use it to apply for H1B transfer as long as you want without any time limit of 6 years. To avail this option, USCIS looks at the below
- Applicant Status : If the applicant is isn US, they need to submit the status related documents like I-94, Current Pay stubs, tax documents, etc.. If the applicant is not in US, then it is not relevant.
- Cap Exempt Qualification: As the applicant of H1B transfer has used all 6 years, they need to prove that they have green card process going on and I-140 is approved. So, you need to submit a copy of the I-140 along with the H1B transfer. If your employer has not shared, you can get it using FOIA request with USCIS.
Now that we know the eligibility for H1B transfer, let’s look at the process involved.
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 Registration Lottery to be counted for cap. The reason is that H1B applicant was already counted towards cap and has not used up all 6 years or either cap exempt using I-140 approval. Also, with H1B transfer, you do not have to wait until march or April 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 in separate section.
- 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 Approval, RFE : 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.
- Step 7 : Employee or Applicant Decision : Once the H1B transfer approval is through, now it is up to the employee or applicant to make the decision to join the company. Unless, it is a Change of Status petition, the applicant has choice to either join or continue with previous employer…
Let’s look at the documents check list now.
H1B Transfer Documents, Checklist
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 complete 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.
- 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.
- Education related University Transcripts in sealed cover.
- I-140 Approval copy ( if applicable)
- 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 Visa Transfer Fees, Cost
The H1B transfer cost for employer includes application fees that are paid to USCIS and other fee such as attorney fee. Depending on the size of the company, the H1B filing fee can vary anywhere from $1,700 USD to $7,900 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)||$1,440||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|
H1B Visa Transfer Process Time
H1B transfer includes many steps from filing LCA, to working with attorney and processing by USCIS. Each of these have their own processing time, so you need to factor in time for all of these below.
- LCA Processing time : As part of the H1B transfer, employer has to get a New Labor Condition Application (LCA) for the job role at the location of employment. Getting LCA with US Dept of Labor can take anywhere from few days to 7 business days, it is online and is quite fast.
- Attorney or Employe Processing time to Submit Petition :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. You need to factor in at least couple of weeks or more for this step.
- USCIS Processing time for H1B petition : After the petition is ready and submitted to USCIS, the processing time with USCIS for H1B transfer petition can range from few weeks 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. If you file in premium processing, you will get response in 15 calendar days. Check USCIS Premium Processing
Overall, you can expect anywhere from few weeks to few months, depending on if you choose premium or regular processing.
H1B Transfer FAQs
You can work for 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 that you get H1B approval notice, before you start working to avoid any issues with 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.
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.
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 registration and lottery process, if you wish to do so.
No, there are no limits. You can have multiple employers apply for H1B transfer on behalf of you at the same time. In general, many work full time for one H1B employer. But, you may work for multiple employers simultaneously, if working part time. This is called concurrent H1B and you need to apply for the same to work for more than on employer.
No, there are no such limits, you can apply for H1B transfer as many times as you want in a month or year.
Your H1B visa stamp dates are not fully relevant for H1B transfer. You are eligible for H1B transfer, if you were counted in cap once and have not used up all 6 years of time. Also, you are eligible for transfer, if you have an approved I-140 petition.
What has been your experience with H1B Transfer ? Share your thoughts in comments.