This article details the process involved in extending your H1B visa beyond the standard sixth year (7th-year extension) with Frequently Asked Questions.
To extend your H1B beyond 6 years, you must have a pending Employment Based Green Card process. I suggest that your Green Card process is initiated at least in the 4th year of H1B as the GC process is complicated and lengthy. The first step of PERM usually takes anywhere between 8-12 Months from the day an employer initiates the process if there is no Audit. If there is an Audit the process may take up to 2 Years. If for some reason the PERM gets denied you will lose several years and the process will have to be initiated from scratch. I know several candidates under full-time H1B Employment, mostly from MNCs wait for 5 Years and run after consulting companies to file a Green Card. Please ensure you allow enough time for the process to occur as this could be beyond the control of your H1B Employer and/or the Attorney. There is no way to extend beyond 6 years if your Green Card process has not been initiated. You will have to leave the United States and wait for 1 year before applying for a new H1B under Annual Quota to reset the time. With the H1B lottery process, there is no guarantee that your H1B will be picked in coming years!
What is an H1B Visa Extension beyond the 6 Years?
There is a provision in the Immigration under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act (AC21) to extend your H1B Visa beyond six years in either 1 year or 3-year increments.
How do I calculate 6 Years on H1B?
You will complete 6 years on an H1B when you calculate the time you lived in the USA on an H1B, you do not have to calculate the days spent outside the United States.
Example: You have been on an H1B for 7 Years, but spent 14 Months outside the United States under several trips. The time spent in the USA of 4 Years 8 Months is counted towards 6 Years!
Use this Tool to calculate the time you spent in the USA or outside the USA, please grab information from Passport Entry/Exit Stamps, don't do any guess work! http://www.timeanddate.com/date/dateadd.htm
What is the eligibility criteria?
H1B Extension in the Increments of 1 year. Based on Pending or Approved PERM Labor Certification, your H1B visa can be extended for 1 Year and in the multiples of 1 year thereafter provided your Green Card PERM Labor Certification should be pending for 365 days or more, to qualify for H1B Extension.
H1B Extension in the Increments of 3 years. Based on approved I-140 (Second Step in GC Process), you may qualify for H1B Extensions in multiples of 3 Years provided there are no Green Card Visa Numbers are NOT available for the country of your birth.
My PERM got recently approved after 365 Days, but my employer has not filed the I-140, can I use the approved PERM to file an H1B Extension for 1 year?
Yes, you can use an approved PERM to file the H1B Extension, please note that the PERM filing date must over 365 days ago.
My PERM labor is under Audit, and it is more than 365 Days since filing the PERM, can I use the PERM under audit to file an H1B Extension for 1 year?
Yes. The PERM under Audit can be used if 365 Days have passed. If the PERM is under Audit, please ensure the employer responds to the Audit. If it gets denied during the H1B Extension process, you may land in trouble.
My PERM labor is with Employer A (Pending or in Audit for over 365 Days) and I am planning to file an H1B Extension with Employer B, please let me know if that is possible?
Yes, you may use the pending PERM Labor with Employer B to file an H1B extension, please note that if you move to Employer B and Employer A may withdraw your PERM.
My I-140 is approved with Employer A and I am planning to file H1B Extension with Employer B, please let me know if that is possible?
Yes, possible. You may use the Approved I-140 file an H1B Extension with another Employer. There are no regulations stating that it needs to be the same employer.
I am overseas, can I use my PERM or I-140 to file an Extension?
Yes, you can take advantage of this regulation to extend the H1B beyond 6 years!
What is the H1B/I-129 process involved in filing an H1B Extension beyond 6 Years and relevant documentation?
The H1B Extension will be filed as usual as your H1B Extension was filed in the past including an H1B Transfer. However, on page 21 of I-129 petitions "H-1B and H-1B1 Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement", your H1B Employer/Attorney will have to Check 3. Numerical Limitation Information "Box g"
The beneficiary of this petition has been counted against the cap and: (1) was previously granted status as an H-1B nonimmigrant in the past 6 years, (2) is applying from abroad to reclaim the remaining portion of the 6 years, or (3) is seeking an extension beyond the 6-year limitation based upon sections 104(c) or 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21).
What documents are required to support the H1B Petition?
Using Pending PERM for over 365 Days
A Screenshot from USDOL System https://www.plc.doleta.gov/ along with a copy of the pending PERM application or a letter that was received from USDOL if there was an audit.
Using Approved I-140
A copy of the I-140 Approval Notice. A screenshot from USCIS case status system without your name may not be acceptable.
Tip: Please ensure that you get into the GC Process as soon as possible, if you plan last minute say in the 5th or 6th year, you may be a risking your H1B and may have to leave the country!
I hope this article is clear, if you need any clarifications or need more information, please add under comments. Also, please post comments with your Experience(s) to help other readers.