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AC21: Extending Your H1B beyond the Six-Year Limit

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa designed to allow a foreign national to work in the United States for a temporary period of time, and it was not intended to grant permanent work authorization. Once the H-1B visa is approved, it is valid for a period of three years. Upon application, it can be extended for another three-year period, for a total of six years. Originally, once the six year limit was reached, the foreign national was generally not allowed to get another extension unless the foreign national left the United States for at least one year first. Then, the foreign national would have to start the new visa petition process all over again from abroad, and to petition would again be subject to the H-1B cap.

Can I extend my H1 visa beyond six years?

New ways to extend your H-1B visa beyond the six-year limit became available after Congress passed the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21). Under AC21 Section 106(a), extensions beyond the six-year limit can be obtained in one-year increments if you're application for labor certification was filed 365 or more days ago. And under Section 104(c), extensions beyond the six-year limit are allowed in three-year increments if your labor certification is approved, your I-140 petition is approved, but you do not have a current priority date in order to move toward your final step to permanent residency, the I-485 application. You can also take advantage of AC21 extensions even if an underlying application was denied if you filed an appeal.

What if I traveled abroad or spent time in different type of visa?

In addition to the extra time available under Sections 106(a) and 104(c) for extensions beyond the six-year limit, it is important to note that if you left the United States while you were in H-1B status, the days that you were abroad can be recaptured, thus extending the six-year limit by that number of days. Any time that you spent in L-2 or H-4 visa status is not counted against the six-year H-1B limit, but your time spent in H-3 status is counted.

How much time is available to me for an H1 extension?

To determine whether you can extend your H-1B beyond six years, and by how much time, it is necessary to conduct a careful review of all your prior approval notices, prior visas, all dates of departure and entry, dates of any status changes, while also taking into account all previously filed labor certification applications and I-140 petitions. In order to make a correct determination of exactly how much time you may have available to you for an extension of your H-1B visa beyond the six-year limit, it may be critical to retain a prudent immigration attorney who can make a proper analysis of your case.

If you have questions about H-1B visa extensions beyond six years, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney.

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