H-1B extension after 6 years – What are the Options?

The United States of America is one of the best places in the world to live and work in. You have already spent several fruitful years in this land of opportunity and you would like to spend many more years living and working here.

As an H-1B visa holder, the first and most important thing to note about your H-1B visa renewal is that current immigration law mandates an upper limit of 6 years to its validity. Once this period expires, you have to leave the U.S or look for other options.

Lets take a look at all the options available to you when faced with the 6-year cap.

Option 1: Leave the U.S, return after a year

This is the default option. Once your 6-year cap is hit, you will have to leave the country, and wait for a year for the H-1B clock to reset, and then return by filing for a fresh H-1B visa. Note that the law stipulates explicitly, that you need to stay outside of the U.S for a year before you can return on a new H-1B. Thus, transferring your H-1B visa to another type, say a tourist visa or a H4 visa dependent on your spouse’s H-1B for a year, will not count towards this 1 year hiatus mandated before a new H-1B visa can be applied for.

Option 2: Recapture time spent on holidays outside the U.S

If you stayed outside of the U.S for some time during your 6-year H-1B tenure, say on maternity or paternity visits or an extended holiday, you can claim this time spent outside of the U.S towards your 6-year cap.

Option 3: File a PERM petition or I-140 petition

This option is available to you only if you are applying a year, that is, at least 365 days before the expiry of your H-1B visa. Program Electronic Review Management process (PERM) is the procedure to obtain a labor certification for foreign nationals. This has to be filed by your employer as your sponsor. It must then be followed by an I-140 petition also to be filed by your employer for your permanent employment in the U.S.

If the PERM and I-140 petitions have not been denied, and are being processed by the USCIS, you can extend your H-1B visa for a year after 6-year cap expires. There is no limit to how many times this can be done, so long as your PERM or I-140 application is being processed.

Option 4: If you have an approved I-140, extend by 3 years

If the I-140 application that your employer filed on your behalf, as described above is approved, you can renew your visa by a period of 3 years, even if your immigrant visa number is not yet available.

Do you know of any other option? Please share with our readers.

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  • kumar

    Quick question – What if my PERM is applied in 6th year and haven`t got the approval before my 6th year expiry date? If its approved when i`m out of country (after 6th year) what are my options to return to US? Can you please share more options in this scenario ?

    • Helpi

      What I have heard is to move out of US before the full 6th year completes, and comeback after I-140 approved and recapture this 6 year time, and then file for extension. Hope that helps, but check with your employer/attorney, as all cases are different.

    • Danik

      Hi, I have a friend who was in similar situation like yours. After 6 years he converted his visa type to F1 and his PERM is in process. I think this is the better solution for the uncertainity. There are some Universities which allow CPT from first semester, so there is no problem if you want to continue your work.

  • Surbhi Gupta

    How about cap counting after six years.. lottery again ??

    Wht is the advantage for candidate who had a previous h1-b for the New h1-b application After 6 yrs and an year break? Does he come in the same category as all new applicants and has to go through lottery n stuff?

  • Ranjana Tiwari

    I got 7th year of H1-B extension based of Labor filed 365 days prior to 6 year completion. I have approved petition till Nov 2015, However, I recently switched my employer and they got me a new Petetion till Dec 2014. Can it be further extended based on my previous approved petition which was with previous employer.
    My VISA is stamped till Nov 2015 too & Labor filed by my previous employer is denied.
    Please suggest.

  • Urstruly Tom

    I changed my employer after completion of 4 years of H1B. That time USCIS gave H1 for 3 years. I totally got 7 years of H1 instead of 6 years. My employer applied for PERM in 6th year. It is still in processing as of today. In this case can I continue to Work and live in US after completion of 6 years of H1.