FAQ » H-1B Status

Now that my H-1B petition is approved, when can I work?



A: To be employed in the United States, you must: (1) be in legal status as reflected on a valid and unexpired I-94 card; and (2) have permission granted by the USCIS to work. If you changed status or employers while in the U.S., you and your family’s new I-94 cards can be found at the bottom of the H-1B and H-4 approval notices. If you are currently outside the U.S. or have traveled outside of the U.S., you will obtain new I-94 cards upon re-entering the U.S. Unless you have another form of valid employment authorization, you cannot begin working before the commencement date noted on your H-1B approval notice nor continue to work beyond the expiration date on your I-94 card. Since a new entry into the U.S. results in a new I-94 card being issued, it is possible that you may be given a shorter expiration date on the I-94 card than the date noted on the H-1B approval. Because the expiration on the I-94 card is controlling, you should request that your I-94 expiration reflect the same date as that on the H-1B approval.

What if I want to work for another employer?



A: An H-1B approval notice is employer specific, geographically specific, and job specific. Therefore, before you can change employers, your prospective employer will need to first file an H-1B petition on your behalf. The H-1B petition by the new employer does not have to be approved before you begin employment provided that the new employer filed a non-frivolous H-1B petition for you before the end of your period of authorized stay, you were lawfully admitted to the U.S., and you have not been employed without authorization since your lawful admission to the U.S. This provision refers to H-1B portability under section 105 of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21).

How long can I remain on H-1B status?



A: Once can remain in the U.S. in H-1B status for an aggregate period of six years. You can also remain in the U.S. beyond six years if you filed for adjustment of status with CIS, if your employer filed an application for labor certification or I-140 petition prior to the start of your final year on H-1B (and it has not been denied), or if your I-140 petition has been approved but you are awaiting your priority date to be current to file your application for adjustment of status. If none of the above apply, you will be required to depart the U.S. You would be eligible for a new six year period of H-1B status after you have been outside the U.S. for at least one full year.

What if I violate status?



A: Status violations can be very serious and result in deportation, up to a 10-year bar from re-entering the U.S., or the inability to adjust status from inside the U.S. Common types of status violations include (1) unauthorized employment (including self-employment); (2) terminating employment with a current H-1B employer without first filing an H-1B petition for a new employer or a change of status application; and (3) working or remaining in the U.S. beyond the expiration date of an I-94 card.

Do I need a valid, current passport?



A: With the exception of Canadian citizens, all H-1B employees and their family members are required to maintain valid passports. It is recommended that the passport be valid for six months beyond the expiration of the H-1B approval notice.

Can my family members work or go to school?



A: The spouse and children of an H-1B employee are entitled to apply for H-4 status. H-4 status is a non-working status. Although all H-4 family members can attend school, an H-4 family member cannot accept employment unless he/she first changes to an employment authorized status.

I am on H-1B and just married recently. How do I get my new spouse to the U.S.?



A: Your spouse is eligible for H-4 status. If your spouse requires the H-4 visa to enter the U.S., he/she should follow the guidelines enumerated in question 4 in the next section. In addition to the listed items, your spouse should also provide a copy of your marriage certificate.

What if my employment terminates?



A: Please contact Immigration Law Group LLP immediately should your employment terminate. Such termination may result in status violations as discussed above.

Can I get a social security number?



A: You may apply for a social security number at your local social security office by presenting your original I-94 card, H-1B approval notice, and identification documents. The social security card will be noted “Valid for employment only with USCIS authorization.” Your family members can be refused a social security number.

What if I move?



A: Any change of address should be reported to the USCIS on form AR-11. Go to the USCIS web page at https://egov.uscis.gov/crisgwi/go?action=coa to change your address online.

How can I get my driver’s license extended?



A: The Department of Motor Vehicles requires a copy of your H-1B approval notice which grants an extension of your status. Merely providing the H-1B extension receipt notice is not enough to get your driver’s license extended. Your driver’s license will be extended to the date of your H-1B expiration. Since filing the H-1B petition and obtaining an approval could possibly take several months, please be sure to plan accordingly.

Can I buy a house?



A: Yes, but typically it is hard for a nonimmigrant to secure a home loan.

Can my parents come to the U.S.?



A: If your parents qualify for a B-2 visitor visa, they can enter as visitors for pleasure for a limited time.

Who needs a visa stamp?



A: H-1B employees and H-4 family members who are currently outside the U.S. or who travel outside the U.S. require a VALID visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. There are, however, two exceptions: (1) an employee or family member who is a Canadian citizen does not need a visa, and (2) a person in H-1B or H-4 status who travels to Canada or Mexico from the U.S. does not require a visa to return as long as the trip is for less than 30 days; no other country was entered during the trip; and the person is in possession of the original I-94 card. If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico, you are not required to surrender your I-94 card.

Can I travel on an H-1B visa stamp that was issued for a previous employer?



A: Yes, you can use the H-1B visa issued for a prior employer as long as the visa stamp is still valid and you present the USCIS Inspector with the following items upon re-entry: (1) passport valid for six months beyond the validity dates of the H-1B approval from your current employer, (2) the original H-1B approval notice, and (3) a letter verifying current employment or a recent pay stub verifying current employment. 

WARNING: As noted above, individuals who work or remain in the U.S. beyond the I-94 expiration date are deemed to have violated their status. Your I-94 expiration date should be consistent with the current H-1B approval notice expiration date. If upon entry your I-94 card is annotated with an earlier expiration date, please ask for the full admission period as reflected by the H-1B approval notice. If needed, request to speak with a supervisor. If you did not discover the earlier I-94 expiration until after you have entered the U.S., please contact our office immediately. Please note that there is a charge to correct an I-94 card expiration date. Many clients traveling on a previous employer H-1B visa have reported the issuance of a shorter I-94 card expiration date. As a reminder, working or remaining in the U.S. beyond an I-94 card expiration date may result in a 10-year bar from re-entering the U.S. 


What if my family members or I travel abroad?



A: Barring the two exceptions noted above, everyone requires a valid visa stamp to enter the U.S. You and your family members are also required to have (1) a passport that is valid for six months beyond the H-1B expiration date, (2) the original H-1B approval notice, and (3) a letter from your employer verifying current employment. 

Note also that nonimmigrants who leave the U.S. for less than thirty days to Canada and/or Mexico may re-enter the U.S. without a valid visa, provided they possess an unexpired I-94 card and valid passport. Such individuals are allowed readmission in the same classification as their previous visa classification or in a new classification authorized by CIS prior to their departure. However, if any foreign national goes to a U.S. consulate in Mexico or Canada to apply for a visa, and the visa is not issued for any reason, the applicant will not be allowed re-entry to the U.S. This applicant would then have to obtain the visa at a U.S. consulate in his/her home country before readmission to the U.S.

How do I apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate abroad?



A: You will need to complete form DS-160. This form can be obtained from the State Department online or from the U.S. Consulate. In addition, you will need to provide the Visa Officer the following items: (1) original H-1B approval notice, (2) copy of the H-1B petition (attached), (3) two passport-style photographs, (4) current passport valid for six months beyond the H-1B expiration date, and (5) a letter verifying employment (not needed if entering within the first 90 days after the H-1B petition was approved). Please be advised that each consulate might have its unique requirements so we advise you to check with the particular consulate where you will be applying for your visa for the complete list of documents, along with any other procedures that consulate might require. For example, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi requires a separate questionnaire to be completed by those engaging in technology-related business or study, which takes an extra 2-3 weeks for administrative processing. The consulates’ websites can be found at http://www.usembassy.gov/

Some consulates have not converted to the online form DS-160. These consulates and are instead using the older forms DS-156, DS-157, DS-158, and DS-3032, which the DS-160 was intended to replace. It is important to check the embassy or consulate where you will apply for your nonimmigrant visa for information on the application process in place. You can check the list of U.S. embassies using the new DS-160 on the State Department’s website: http://travel.state.gov

Before going to the Consulate, you should read and memorize the contents of your H-1B petition, the Employer Support Letter, and the supporting documents. The Consulate may deny your visa if you do not know the nature of your employer’s business and your job duties. 

If you are married and have children, your spouse and each child must provide all of the previously mentioned items as well as marriage certificate and birth certificates. You should also provide your spouse and children with copies of your H-1B visa, I-94 card and most recent pay stub if you are already in the U.S. prior to their arrival. 

SPECIAL NOTE IF APPLYING AT A U.S. CONSULATE OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOME COUNTRY: As of September 30, 1996, Consular officers cannot give visas to third country nationals (TCNs) who are in the U.S. beyond the expiration of their I-94 card. All TCN applicants should be prepared to establish to the Consular officer continuous, valid status for all time periods in the U.S., which would include providing all I-20 forms, H/L approval notices, other forms of work authorization, and any additional, legal status documents. It is recommended that TCN applicants prepare outlines of their non-immigrant statuses, which list dates, status classification while in the U.S., and a list of legal status documentation. 

As above, you will need to complete form DS-160. 

A denial of a visa by the Consulate increases the chances of a delay or a denial of a visa by the Consulate in a home country. For this reason, if you have any doubts about a status violation, you should only apply for a visa stamp in your home country. Should you be denied a visa stamp, please have the consular officer state in writing the specific grounds of denial.

Can I apply for the visa stamp in Canada or Mexico?



A: Yes, provided you have not overstayed the terms of your I-94. You can schedule an appointment at the embassy in Canada or Mexico at http://usvisa-info.com

When citizens of other countries apply for visas in Canada or Mexico, this is called Third Country National (TCN) processing. You should use caution when considering applying for non-immigrant visas at U.S. consular posts in Canada. With increasing regularity, U.S. consular posts in Canada are refusing visas to TCNs with foreign degrees who have not been previously issued H-1B visas from their home posts. These individuals are being referred back to their home countries for visa processing. Applicants are warned on the Mission Canada website: “Evidence of qualifications must be original or certified copy. Consular officers in Canada may refuse to issue a visa to H-1B applicants if their education and/or work experience is solely or predominantly from a country other than the U.S. or Canada.” Another situation in which referral to your home country for processing becomes more likely is if you last entered the U.S. in visitor status (B1/B2).

What do I need to show upon entry to the United States?



A: Upon issuance of the visa, you are ready to enter the U.S. Expect delays at pre-flight inspection procedures and secondary inspections at ports of entry even if you have an approved visa. You should have available for presentation your passport with valid visa and the H-1B approval notice.