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How to change jobs on an H-1B visa

Prodigy Finance - October 30, 2019

How to change jobs on an H-1B visa as international master's grad in US

Landing a job and an H-1B visa can be a long, stressful process. Once you finally have both, all you’ll want to do is celebrate.

But, what happens if you want to, or must, change jobs?

You’ll need to secure a new H-1B, following the same steps as you did with your initial application:

  1. Find a new employer.
  2. Your future employer submits the Labor Conditions Approval (LCA) outlining the conditions of the position.
  3. Wait for approval of the LCA.
  4. Your employer submits the I-129 form with supporting documents and pays the application fees.
  5. Wait for approval. However, unlike your initial petition, you’ll be able to begin working at your position while you wait.

So, the good news is that you have the legal right to change jobs on an H-1B visa. However, you must be careful to file the correct paperwork at the correct time or you could find yourself out of status. 

Can you transfer your H-1B visa to a new employer?

H-1B visas are issued to foreign workers, but the conditions of that visa tie the employee to a specific sponsoring employer. And, you can’t transfer your H-1B visa to a new employer; you’ll need a whole new visa. 

Although you can’t transfer your sponsor-specific visa to a new employer, many people informally refer to the process of changing jobs while on an H-1B visa as an H-1B transfer.

When you get a new job, you’ll need to file a new H-1B visa petition. (Actually, it’s your new employer, acting as your sponsor, that files your application).

Is it just as difficult to transfer your H-1B visa as getting it in the first place?

Thankfully, since you already have a visa and are in the United States, the new petition process is a little easier:

Applying vs transferring your H-1B as an international graduate in the US

In addition, you don’t need to inform your current employer that you’ve filed a new H-1B petition.

Who files your new H-1B visa petition?

As with your initial application, your employer submits the petition on your behalf. Of course, there will be several questions you’ll need to answer and supporting documents you may need to supply (such as your CV, proof of your degree and related information).

TIP: Get your own legal expert

Usually, the lawyer handling your H-1B visa paperwork was hired by the company you work for. He (or she) isn’t your lawyer; he’s your company’s lawyer. If you’re having trouble with your employer, you can’t go to him or her for legal advice.

If you need or want a new job, and you’re working on an H-1B visa, you should seek help from an independent immigration attorney - one that hasn’t been hired by your company.

When can you file a new H-1B petition?

Unlike your initial application, you can apply for an H-1B visa to work at a new employer at any time of the year and you may begin working at your new job as soon as you have confirmation that your application has been received.

However, you may want to consult your immigration lawyer before making the move, as you may find yourself out of status if your petition isn't approved and you're already at your new company.

Porting is when you start at a new employer while your new H-1B petition is still pending - and it’s perfectly legal. 

H-1B visa porting - what to watch out for:

  • If you’re travelling outside of the US while your new H-1B petition is still being processed, be sure to take copies of your new petition as you’ll need them when re-entering the country.
  • If you change your mind after filing a new petition and you decide to continue working for your current employer, you can remain with your current employer as if the new petition were never filed.
  • If you’re new petition is denied after you’ve ported to your new employer, consult an immigration lawyer immediately to investigate your options and ensure you remain inside the terms of your visa terms. 

Do you get more time with a new H-1B visa?

No, not automatically.

A new H-1B visa petition doesn’t reset the total time for your H-1B visa back to zero; the time you spend working for any employer on an H-1B visa counts against the total time you have to work on this visa class.

But, it is possible to apply for more time than you currently have when filing a new H-1B petition.

If you’re near the end of your authorised stay, filing a new H-1B petition will not give you extra time unless it’s specifically approved and you may also want to file for an extension to your existing H-1B while your new petition is in processing. 

H-1B visas: what if you get a second offer?

When multiple H-1B visa petitions are filed on your behalf at the same time, this is known as bridging. Up until the point that your I-94 expires, you can submit as many new petitions as you wish. As soon as the return date on your 1-94 card expires, outstanding petitions are nullified.

Bridging allows you to accept a job with a new employer even if another employer has already submitted an H-1B “transfer” to their company beforehand. Essentially, it gives you the freedom to keep looking for your perfect position, even after you’ve accepted an existing offer. 

H-1B phrases you need to know when changing jobs as international graduate in US

What happens if you’re laid off while on your H-1B visa?

If you’re fired while on an H-1B visa, you don’t have to panic and pack up your house. You have up to 60 days to find new employment, or apply for a change of status, before you violate your visa terms.

  • If the expiration date on your I-94 is sooner than 60 days, you need to leave by the date of your I-94, or you need to get an extension.
  • If you’ve been laid off, you can still try and bridge or port your H-1B visa, as you would if you were still working. 

Your quick tips for changing jobs on an H-1B visa:

  • You’re not legally obligated to tell your current sponsor that you’ve found new employment.
  • Although it’s sometimes called an H-1B visa transfer, there’s no such thing. Your new employer must submit a new H-1B application on your behalf.
  • Keep an eye on timing. If your existing H-1B visa expires before a new one is issued, you’ll need to leave the country. 

Busy planning the international study that'll lead to an H-1B?

If you're planning to study your international master's degree in the United States and need financing for your education, we're ready to help.

The purpose of this guide is to provide prospective students with an overview of the application process for a US student visa and should not be regarded as legal or immigration advice or as a substitute for the official information published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from time to time or any instructions and/or advice provided by US embassies and consuls. Whilst we have carefully compiled the guide in accordance with the information published by USCIS, Prodigy Finance Limited does not accept liability for any inaccuracies, mistakes, omissions or outdated information in the guide and we encourage prospective students and other readers to consult the USCIS’s website at https://www.uscis.gov. Prodigy Finance Limited is not authorized by the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to provide immigration services and will not provide any additional information or assistance to any person to apply for a US student or other category visa.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 30, 2019. Originally published on July 24, 2019.

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