The H-1B is for a period of 3 years which is able to be renewed once giving a maximum period of 6 years.
However following legislation enacted in 2000, extension of H-1B status past the six-year limit where a labor certification has been pending for 365 days or longer, regardless of whether or not a Form I-140 which is the permanent residency or green card application has been filed.
Usually this is not necessary as this should not take that long but does by the H-1B holder some extra time in this case. We recommend you ask your employer to have filed your Green Card Application by this stage.
The difference between H-1B status and getting your visa stamped are often confused. Getting H-1B approval implies that you are authorized to work in the U.S. and getting visa stamped implies that your passport has been authorized to enter the U.S so in essence the ability to travel.
As mention the general H-1B authorized period is three years and the date stamped on your passport would be close to this period.
CHANGE OF EMPLOYER OR EXTENSION:
H-1B extension is the extension of authorization to work in the U.S but is NOT the actual visa. To have the ability to travel across the U.S you need to get your visa stamped against the new extension, this is known as H-1B revalidation.
So if your visa has been extended beyond the 3 year period within the US, this is where you would need to get your visa stamped at an overseas consulate or embassy, if you travel abroad.
If changing employers or extending stay through USCIS, your employer has to prepare a new Form ETA 9035 Labor Condition Application (LCA) and Form I-129. There are filing fees for the I-129 form. ($320 currently)
The full list of H-1B Application costs are here.
If changing employers it also has to proved that you have recent pay stubs (at least 60 days old) and last year W2 forms (if applicable). If you do not have recent pay slips, it may need to be explained to USCIS as to the reasons why this is the case. They do consider leave of absence and long term approved sick leave.
It should be noted that this petition has to be filed BEFORE your last day of employment (and thus your termination date) recorded with USCIS. If this is after, you will be considered out of status and unable to change employers on your current H-1B.
If you are laid-off and USCIS is notified you will considered immediately out of status so as mentioned in other posts, it will be good if this is your circumstance to have your employer to delay notification to USCIS so you can have further time to find a role.
A merger and/or a sale of the company sponsoring your H-1B visa is not necessarily a change to your visa conditions and you may not need to do anything. If however you are performing different duties to what was on your approved Labor Condition Application, then this can be a violation.
USCIS sends Form I-797 Approval Notice to the employer or attorney of record as notification of the decision on the extension request.
Portability allows H-1B visa holders (or H-1B status) to actually begin work for a new H-1B employer as soon as the new employer files this change of employer application. This is an excellent benefit as does not result in many weeks and sometimes months of no work (OR SALARY) while USCIS takes is time to process this. This ability has been since 2001.
In terms of travel, a H-1B holder may re-enter the U.S. with an H-1B visa showing a different employer to join a new employer, but only if the new employer has filed an H-1B application in accordance with the above conditions and timings for you.
I hope this best answers this weird part of the H-1B visa terms of operation and I wish you well in either your;
– renewal of your H-1B Visa
– extension of your H-1B Visa
– change of employer of your H-1B Visa
SPECIAL EDIT: FIND OUT THE COMPANIES THAT YOU PROBABLY SHOULD NOT APPLY TO THIS YEAR BECAUSE IT WILL BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO HIRE FOREIGNERS ON H-1B VISAS