Is it possible to extend the period of stay beyond 6 years on H1B visa?

The maximum allowable period on the H1B visa is six years. However in some specific circumstances an H1 can be extended beyond 6 years.
American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000 (AC21) and the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Act of 2001 (DOJ Act) allow an H1B employer to file incremental one-year H1B extensions annually after the completion of six years on H1B status.
Under act AC21, H1B can be extended beyond 6 yrs if:

  • Applicant's labor application for Employment based green card purpose is pending for more than 365 days
  • Applicant's petition for I-140 is approved under employment based green card and AOS/485 is pending

What happens to the status of my dependents in H4 visa status?

All dependent family members are also eligible for H-4 Extension beyond Six Years along with primary applicant's extension. All the applications should be filed together for the family.
It is important to note that maintenance of H-4 status continues to be tied to the principal applicant's H1-B status. This means that your spouse or children (in the H4 status) may only maintain such status as long as you hold the H-1B status.

When to apply?

Under the change in policy announced in July 2004, it is permissible for an employer to file H1B extensions after 6 years on H1B status, even before the LC or I-140 petition has been pending for at least 365 days. The start date requested on an H1B visa extension must be after the time when the Labor or I-140 petition has been pending for over 365 days.
This extension can only be applied by the employer and not by the individual H1b holder.

Why is there a delay?

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. This applies to aliens who were being sponsored by employers for the Green Card and are facing processing delays.

Do I have to stay in the U.S. after I receive the 'extension of stay'?

No. You do not have to stay in the U.S. to receive an extension. However, it is most likely that you will be working in the U.S. when your employer files for such an extension.

What paperwork do I present while applying for 'extension of stay' on H1 B visa?

You have to prove your eligibility to say for an extended period beyond the stipulated limit of six years. Prepare a file with the following documents:

  • copies of your passport
  • your current job profile
  • evidence of ongoing job requirements
  • your credentials (resume/work experience/education certificates)
  • labor condition application approval
  • pending labor certification or immigrant petition or approved petition and unavailability of immigrant visa number
  • other documents proving admissibility or maintenance of nonimmigrant status.