It is a one of the most common questions for H1-B workers that “Can I transfer my 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, I will try to address this question.
Legally, is there something really called H1B 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 a new H1B visa petition which is not counted in the H1B visa quota or lottery, because the applicant has already been counted in the quota once in the past 6 years. This is typically used to change employers.
What does USCIS Look for when any applicant goes for a H1B Transfer ?
So in order to approve any such petition USCIS considers two things:
- Did the applicant maintain the status (US Visa vs Status) before applying for the petition.
- Will the applicant be able to maintain the status if the petition is approved
Let us look at different situations by keeping above two conditions in mind. In each of the below scenarios, 2nd consideration can be proved by showing petitioner’s ability to pay the alien once petition has been approved. For consulting companies, this is determined by a client/project letter.
Scenario 1: Applicant has never been to US
In this case, question regarding prior status doesn’t exist because as long as you are outside of US you don’t a legal status.
Scenario 2: Applicant has landed in US and applies for transfer within 15 days of landing
Because the applicant has landed in US, s/he now has a status. However, because it has been less than 15 days, that status is not 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.
Scenario 3: Applicant has landed in US and applies for transfer after 15 days of landing
This is the scenario where USCIS definitely wants the alien to prove that s/he maintained his/her status. Some of the documents that can be submitted as valid proof are recent pay checks (3 should be sufficient), bank statements that show salary deposits and W2.
Scenario 4: Applicant worked in US for sometime, then left for India and files the petition while being in India
This is more like scenario 3. The applicant will have to submit most recent US payslips and W2s in order to prove that legal status was maintained while s/he was in US. No proof is required for the period for the time spent in India.
So if a person needs to file a new petition through a new employer (on in raw terms wants to apply for H1 transfer), then s/he needs to think about the above two considerations and see if s/he can satisfy both of them. As long as the person is able to satisfy both requirements, H1 transfer shouldn’t be a problem – it shouldn’t matter whether you are in US or in India.
What has been your experience ?