Home > Uncategorized > USCIS issues guidance relevant to H-1B visas – 12/5/06 memo from Michael Aytes

USCIS issues guidance relevant to H-1B visas – 12/5/06 memo from Michael Aytes

December 20th, 2006

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued a new memorandum relevant to H-1B visa applicants. Read the entire memo(.pdf, 105.5K), or here is a summary of the issues:

(1) Time spent in H-4 status will not count against the 6 year limit;
(2) Extensions of status are available even if outside the U.S. and not in H-1B status; and
(3) H-1B visa holders who leave the US before expiration of the 6 year limit and stay outside the US more than one year have the option of reentering for the remainder of the time left on the 6 year limit (and avoiding the "Cap") or applying for a new six years and being subject to the Cap.

Expanded Summary:

(1) Time spent in H-4 status will not count against the 6 year limit
From the memo:

USCIS reviewed the current INA provisions governing the H classifications as well as its governing regulations and policy guidance. Neither the statute nor regulations addresses whether time spent in H-4 status counts against the six-year maximum period of admission available to an alien seeking H-1B status. Further, USCIS has not issued any recent policy guidance that clarifies the issue.

USCIS, therefore, is now clarifying that any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B aliens. Thus, an alien who was previously an H-4 dependent and subsequently becomes an H-1B principal will be entitled to the maximum period of stay applicable to the classification.

(2) Extensions of status are available even if outside the U.S. and not in H-1B status
From the memo:

In sections 106 and 104(c) of AC21, Congress provided exemptions to the six-year maximum period of stay rules for certain H-1B aliens who were being sponsored by employers for permanent residence and were subject to lengthy processing delays. Though both provisions of AC21 use the term “extension of stay,” eligibility for the exemptions is not restricted solely to requests for extensions of stay while in the United States. Aliens who are eligible for the 7th year extension may be granted an extension of stay regardless of whether they are currently in the United States or abroad and regardless of whether they currently hold H-1B status. Further, in examining eligibility for the 7th year extension, USCIS will focus on whether the alien is eligible for an additional period of admission in H-1B status, rather than whether the alien is currently in H-1B status that is about to expire and seeking an extension of that status in the United States pursuant to 8 CFR 214.1(c).

(3) H-1B visa holders who leave the US before expiration of the 6 year
limit and stay outside the US more than one year have the option of
reentering for the remainder of the time left on the 6 year limit (and
avoiding the "Cap") or applying for a new six years and being subject
to the Cap.

From the memo:

There have been instances where an alien who was previously admitted to the United States in H-1B status, but did not exhaust his or her entire period of admission, seeks readmission to the United States in H-1B status for the “remainder” of his or her initial six-year period of maximum admission, rather than seeking a new six-year period of admission. Pending the AC21 regulations, USCIS for now will allow an alien in the situation described above to elect either (1) to be re-admitted for the “remainder” of the initial six-year admission period without being subject to the H-1B cap if previously counted or (2) seek to be admitted as a “new” H-1B alien subject to the H-1B cap.

Specifically, the “remainder” period of the initial six-year admission period refers to the full six-year period of admission minus the period of time that the alien previously spent in the United States in valid H-1B status. For example, an alien who spent five years in the United States in H-1B status (from January 1, 1999 – December 31, 2004), and then remained outside the United
States for all of 2005, could seek to be admitted in January 2006 for the “remainder” of the initial six-year period, i.e. a total of one year. If the alien was previously counted toward the H-1B numerical limitations in relation to the time that has accrued against the six-year maximum period of admission, the alien would not be subject to the H-1B cap. If the alien was not previously counted against the H-1B numerical limitations (i.e. because cap-exempt), the alien will be counted against the H-1B cap unless he or she is eligible for another exemption.

In the alternative, admission as a “new” H-1B alien refers to a petition filed on behalf of an H-1B alien who seeks to qualify for a new six-year admission period (without regard to the alien’s eligibility for any “remaining” admission period) after having been outside the United States for more than one year. For example, the alien who spent five years in the United States in H-1B status (from January 1, 1999 – December 31, 2004), and then remained outside the United States for all of 2005, is eligible to apply for a “new” period of H-1B status based on his or her absence of at least one year from the United States. Most petitioners electing this option will seek a three-year H-1B petition approval, allowing for the possibility of later seeking a three-year H-1B extension. “New” H-1B aliens are subject to the H-1B numerical limitations unless they qualify for an exemption. See INA §§ 214(g)(1) and (g)(5).

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
Comments are closed.