Before talking about the H1B visa extension process itself it's important to understand what the H1B visa is and is not. The H1B visa - contrary to popular belief - is a non-immigration visa. Rather, the H1B visa is an employment-based visa designed to accommodate the needs of American employers for temporary workers in the United States.
Your future employer needs to make you a job offer then petition the (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) USCIS in order for you to receive your H1B visa. Once approved by the USCIS you'll be given a work permit once you are in the United States, and if you outside of the United States you will be provided an H1B visa stamp at your local United States consulate.
The H1B visa is designed for highly skilled foreign workers wanting to hold a job in the United States. The H1B visa attainment process entails your demonstrating specialized knowledge and holding a bachelor’s degree or its international equivalent. The total H1B visa fee and attorney fee is paid by employers. Employers are highly incentivized to fill positions in the United States.
Extensions Beyond 6 Years and Renewal Process
Finding an employer willing to make you a job offer might be a challenge. After that the USCIS has a lottery in which they select approximately 70,000 candidates for a three-year H1B visa. The process can be time intensive and complicated so H1B visa holders usually want to do everything in their power to hang onto their visas.
There are two ways of holding onto your H1B visa - either through an extension or renewal. Usually an H1B visa lasts for three years and then the employer of the foreign national granted the visa must either renew, extend the visa, or give it up.
An employer of a foreign national working in the United States who's prepared a labor certification application or a preference immigration petition could help the foreign national hold onto an H1B visa for more than the six year limit normally accorded H1B visa holders. If your labor certification application is still pending then you may ask to extend your H1B visa in increments of one year until a final decision is made.
- Timeline for Normal and Premium Processing Visa Extension
Premium visa extension processing will require you to apply for an extension no earlier than 3 months before your H1B visa expires. This gives U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ample time to sort through your application and come to a final decision.
So, is it really worth paying the extra $1,225 for premium processing? Premium Processing guarantees an answer to the petition within 15 days of receipt of the petition. Many visa holders who've already gone through the extension process claim that unless you're switching employers or occupations - which requires more paperwork for employers - then the expense might not be worth it. To revalidate or extend your visa, though, you'll be required to have a few documents in order.
- Documents That You'll Need for Extension:
To renew or extend your H1B visa you'll need the following: valid passport, the most recent I-94 form, valid form I-797, letter from your employer describing your position and job duties, LCA, and form I-129 and your requisite non-refundable fee.