One of the questions that many H1B visa holders have is how to transfer the visa from one job to another, in case a better work opportunity arises. While this is a common way to ‘sidestep’ the annual visa cap, it is not automatic and there is a process to follow as with all non-immigrant visas.
Transfers Not Subject to Quota
The good news for any current H1B visa holders that want to transfer to a new job is that the petition is not subject to the annual H1B quota. As with other exceptions to the H1B visa cap, the application can be filed at any time of year. Remember that the petition for transfer does give you a new H1B visa, since there is a different sponsoring company. What that means is that you are actually transferring your right to apply for a new H1B, due to a prior petition approval that was under the visa quota for that year.
Job Change and Filing of Petition
The core requirement for an H1B transfer is to have the new company sponsor submit a petition on your behalf. This is similar to the steps for the original H1B visa, except you now have a new sponsor. Changing jobs is now possible while the new visa petition is still being reviewed if you are in lawful status. As long as your new employer has filed the petition and has the H1B transfer case, you can begin work at any time.
Status of Work and the Original H1B Visa With Your Current Employer
Many people don’t realize that they do not have tell their current employer about your new job, or the petition to transfer the H1B visa. You can simply give notice and stop working. Even if the transfer petition is approved, you can still go back to work at your former employer under the original H1B if you change your mind about the new job. In other words, the original H1B does not ‘expire’ when you leave the position for a period of time.
Time Frame for Approval and Premium Processing
The time frame for approval of H1B visa transfer petitions is the same as for original quota H1Bs ranging from 4 to 8 weeks. This can be expedited by applying for premium processing, which speeds up the approval time to 15 days or less but costs an additional fee. This might be a good idea if you are transferring jobs soon, but an unnecessary cost if your start date is sometime in the future. You can also use premium processing if your standard petition is delayed and you want to finalize the visa quickly.
How to Handle Gaps in Employment
It is also permitted to take a break between jobs if your new employer agrees to a later start date. There is no time limit on when you have to begin work with the new employer, either before or after the petition is approved. So, if you want to take an extended (but unpaid) vacation, you can manage this through the end and start dates of the two jobs.
Documents That May Be Required as Part of the Transfer Petition
It is helpful to be aware of some of the documents that you might have to provide as part of your H1B visa transfer Petition. Those can include the following:
Up to 3 months latest pay stubs
Copy of your existing H1B approval
Copies of I-94 records
Copy of Social Security Card
Copy of existing valid visa
Copy of all your Diploma/Degrees
If you have questions about the H1B transfer process, rules and documentation, please contact us for more information.
- November 24th, 2016