Time Spent on H-4 or L-2 Does not Count Against H-1B or L-1 Period of Stay

This article offers guidance on determining the period of authorized stay for aliens previously in H-4 or L-2 status who have changed their status to H-1B or L-1.

Period of Authorized Stay (H-1B or L-1)

A foreign national may be admitted to the United States in H-1B status for a maximum of six years, with exceptions, and in L-1 status for a maximum of five (specialized knowledge workers) or seven years (managers and executives). At the end of the period of authorized stay, the foreign national must either depart from the U.S. or change to another status (but not from H to L or vice versa).

However, the six years maximum period of stay can be reset upon the H-1B or L-1 visa holder’s absence from the U.S. for at least one year. Hence, once the H-1B or L-1 visa holder reaches their authorized period of stay, then departs the U.S. for one full year, the foreign national is entitled to receive another six-year term on H-1B visa or five or seven-year term on L-1.

H-4 or L-2 Time Does NOT Count Against H-1B or L-1 Time

According to current USCIS guidance, any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B foreign nationals. Thus, an alien who was previously an H-4 dependent and subsequently becomes an H-1B principal will be entitled to the maximum period of stay. The same goes for time spent in L-2 dependent status – it will not count against the time available to the alien in L-1A or L-1B status.

The practical implications of this simple rule are resounding. The result is that a husband and a wife who come to the United States as a principal H-1B and dependent H-4 spouse may maintain nonimmigrant status for 12 years! Here’s how – the husband and wife may maintain their respective H-1B and H-4 status for six years and then change status to H-4 and H-1B respectively. This would essentially reset the clock for another six years since H-4 status does not count against time on H-1B. Note that upon the switch, the new principal alien would be subject to the H-1B cap if not independently exempt.


If you have questions about an H-1B visa matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, 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. Our law firm handles all matters concerning employment-based immigration. Please contact us and experience how our law firm can assist you in your immigration matters. The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has competent, responsive and innovative lawyers who can make your immigration experience pleasant and seamless.