How Long Can I Stay Outside of the US on An H1B Visa, and Will That Affect the Expiration Date?

This is a natural question if you are a foreign worker in the US who wants to either travel abroad during vacations or make a visit your home country.  The first thing to understand is that an H1B visa does not ‘lock you in’ to remaining in the US uninterrupted, and you do have the freedom to travel and re-enter the US border as long as your H1B visa is valid.  

Some H1B visa holders might be nervous to leave the US and worry that increased scrutiny of all H1Bs would prevent re-entry.  But as long as you don’t have any conflicting documentation with you or other issues, then you do have a valid right to re-enter and continue with your employment.  After all, your sponsor invested the time and money to get the H1B approved, so they expect immigration to allow reasonable travel for their employee.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind if Your Travel

However, there are a few caveats and things to keep in mind if you plan to leave the US for any period of time:

  • The H1B visa is not a ‘use it or lose it’ document, and once stamped into a valid passport can be used until expiration for one or more employers/sponsors.

  • The initial period of validity printed on your H1B visa is the expiration date regardless of how many times that you enter or exit the US, or how much time you spent traveling.

  • The initial maximum period of validity is three years (sometimes less), and that is not changed or extended by any time spent outside the US.  The clock keeps ticking on the three-year period even while you are abroad.

  • Normal vacation periods of two to four weeks should not pose any problems at the border as far as re-entry, but immigration does have the right to see all of your H1B visa documentation.

  • If you renew your H1B visa for an additional three years (for six years maximum) then time spent outside the US is not counted toward the six-year limit.  For example, if you left for three months, the H1B is valid for six years, three months total.

  • That six-year period of validity (plus time spent abroad) will apply even if you change jobs or sponsors, so you can’t stretch out the H1B period by changing jobs.  However, you won’t have to go through the lottery again for an H1B transfer.

  • If you stay outside the US for an unusual period of time, immigration and border control might question if you are actually still employed by your sponsor, so it is best to have some type of documentation as to the reasons.

  • In other words, the H1B visa ‘work permission’ is linked to the specific sponsor and position and is not a general entry visa.  So, if you left the US and for some reason were laid off or wanted to change jobs, you cannot re-enter the US unless you have a new position/sponsor lined up.

  • The only potential issue that an H1B visa holder might have is if other immigration policies somehow restrict entry.  For example, when the Trump administration banned entry to the US for citizens of some countries, there were H1B visa holders that got trapped outside the country for a while.

The bottom line is go ahead and travel, but pay attention to the time left on your visa until expiration.

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  • October 1st, 2018
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10 thoughts on “How Long Can I Stay Outside of the US on An H1B Visa, and Will That Affect the Expiration Date?”

  1. Hi,
    I had applied a few years ago for H1B and I got picked in the lottery and my employer processed the visa. I have not stamped my passport yet, but I’m guessing the systems should show the process completion anyway. But I left the USA for another job opportunity. What happened to my status ? Can I apply for a new job and transfer my old approved H1 to new employer ? How long do I have before doing that ?

  2. Hi – I have a couple of questions.

    I am a H1B visa holder, but I have left my job in the US to work in my home country for a different employer. What is the situation if I wanted to go back to the US to work for a different employer than on my current visa stamp?

    Secondly, the first 3 years on my H1B visa expires in 2019, would I have to be employed and working on this visa to be able to extend it for the full 6 years?

    Thanks for any insight you can give.

  3. My daughter and her would be are working at US under H1b visa. They have come to India in Feb 2020 and returned to US in the first week of March 2020.
    Whether they can come to India again in November 2020 and return to US in first week of December 2020.

  4. Hi
    I have a question about working from India on US payroll. I am in India since mid Dec 2019 as my mother wasn’t well. I have been working from here since then and want to know the legal implications. Here are few points for your ref.:
    • Working from India on US Payroll from mid Dec, 2019
    • My H1B was re-stamped on Dec 26th 2019 and the new expiry date is May 28th 2022
    • Paid Leave’s:– Mid Jan to Feb end 2020 because of my mother’s health (FMLA)
    • From March 2nd to present, working from India and now stuck here due to Coronavirus pandemic.
    • I was on US payroll the entire time
    I thought to extend my stay for some more time but I am now stuck here as no flights are operational for more than a month now. I would be glad if you could help me out here.

  5. Hey I have 2.5 years left on my 6 year H1B period and have been outside the US for 5 years now. Can I come back to the US, pursue another masters degree and use the remaining 2.5 years after a change in field?

  6. Trying form chrome now:
    Hey I have 2.5 years left on my 6 year H1B period and have been outside the US for 5 years now. Can I come back to the US, pursue another masters degree and use the remaining 2.5 years after a change in field?

  7. Hi,
    My H1 B Visa is valid untl end of 2022, but the entry Visa is expired since It was issued for only three months Multiple entry when I First entered the US for my work.

    I am currently outside the US for my company’s work and will be returning soon. DO I still need to apply for entry Visa ?


  8. Can someone with stamped H1B Visa expiring in the next 3 months, travel from his home country to the Approved LCA location in the USA? And work for the new client, then file an HNSC Extension + Amendment and relocate to the new client location once got the receipt?

  9. Hello! Thanks for the information. I was looking for the latest updates in visa bulletin 2023, found a great blog from Thanks for the blog. Please keep us updating like you always do.

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