Maintaining H-1B Status

H-1B Documents

Passport

All nonimmigrants must have a valid passport to enter and remain in the U.S. In most cases, the passport needs to be good for at least the next six months any time the individual seeks admission into the country. Do not let your (or your dependents’) passport(s) expire while staying in the U.S. or you (or they) could lose eligibility for certain benefits.

Form I-797

This form is also known as your “Notice of Action” or “Approval Notice.” It is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and indicates that you have been granted H-1B work authorization for the length of time specified on the form. You will need to show the I-797 to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials each time you enter the U.S. in H-1B status. This form is also required to apply for or renew a Missouri driver’s license.

H-1B Visa

Unless you are Canadian, you must have a valid H-1B visa in your passport in order to be allowed to enter the U.S. to work in H-1B status. This page cannot be issued by the U.S. State Department until you receive H-1B work authorization, proven by your original Form I-797. A visa page is an entry permit valid for a specific time frame; it allows the holder to seek admission into the U.S. at a port of entry, but it neither guarantees admission into the country nor determines how long you can legitimately stay in the U.S. Because a visa page is only used when entering the country, it can expire during your stay in the U.S. The expiration of the visa does not affect permission to stay or permission to work in the U.S.

Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94)

Beginning April 30, 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will no longer require international nonimmigrant visitors to fill out a paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record upon arrival to the U.S. (by air or sea). Instead, your immigration details such as your admission status, date of entry and status end date will be stamped directly in your passport. Your arrival/departure information will also be recorded electronically by CBP. You can access your CBP arrival/departure record information online through the CBP website. Please note: CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land-border ports of entry (i.e., Canada and Mexico). OISS encourages you to ask for an I-94 if you are entering the U.S. from Canada or Mexico if you don’t automatically receive one.

Normally, the end date on your I-94 record (paper or electronic) should match that on your I-797 approval notice, with the possible addition in some cases of an extra 10 days to enable you to get your affairs in order before leaving the country. If the end date on your I-94 or that of your dependents is incorrect (either earlier or later than what it should be), notify your OISS scholar advisor. A stay beyond the I-94 expiration date can have serious consequences for you and/or your dependents.

Reporting a Change of Address

To report a change of address to DHS, you will need to submit Form AR-11. Persons who are subject to special registration must complete Form AR-11SR. For information on special registration, please see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website on special registration.

Both Forms AR-11 and AR-11SR can be downloaded and printed from the USCIS website under “Forms.” The AR-11 form can also be submitted electronically to the DHS. Note that if you choose this option to report your first address, you will have to enter “N/A” in any fields that do not apply to you, such as “Last Address” and “A Number.”

To report any change of address, you will need to use the HRMS Self Service function. Click on the yellow “SIGN IN” button and enter your WUSTL Key. Once you update HRMS, the OISS will be notified and will update your file in our office.

Extending H-1B Status

Your department must request all extensions of H-1B status through the OISS.

If your current employment will continue, without change, past the end date of your approved H-1B status, you may be able to receive an extension of your status. Cumulative duration of H-1B status (not including time spent as an H-4) is limited to six years, regardless of any changes in position and/or employer. Previous, nonconsecutive periods of H-1B status count toward this total, unless you spent more than 12 months in your home country between these periods of H-1B status.

In addition, you may be able to extend your H-1B beyond six years based on travel outside of the U.S. To request recapture of time spent outside the U.S., it is recommended you maintain a travel folder.

If you are eligible for an extension and foresee that you will need one, please discuss this with your hiring department at least six months before your current status ends. This will enable us to process your extension application in a timely manner. If the application is submitted before your current status ends, your H-1B work authorization will be extended automatically for 240 days past your original end date to cover until your extension application is approved.

Employment Regulations

Your H-1B status expires on the date listed on your current I-94 or the last day worked, whichever comes first.

Your H-1B visa is for a specific employer and position. The approval of your H-1B petition at Washington University means that you are only eligible to work in that position. If any of the following change, the OISS may need to file an amended H-1B petition:

  • The department that you work for
  • The location (work address)
  • Your specific job title or your duties/responsibilities
  • Status (i.e., part-time vs. full-time)
  • Salary (an annual increase greater than 10 percent or any decrease)

If you anticipate such a change, consult with your department immediately. You cannot begin working under the new conditions until an amended H-1B petition has been submitted and the OISS has received a receipt notice from USCIS.

Changing Employers

Your H-1B status is employer-specific. If you wish to accept a job offer from another employer instead of, or concurrent to, the position in which you are currently engaged, that employer will need to file another H-1B petition on your behalf.

Portability allows for nonimmigrants currently in H-1B status with one employer to begin employment with a new employer as soon as the new employer files a nonfrivolous I-129 petition for new H-1B employment. The new employer and beneficiary do not have to wait for the new petition to be approved for the new employment to begin. If you are moving to a new employer, you may want to discuss with them the portability provision.

Termination of H-1B Employment

OISS strongly recommends that an H-1B employee whose employment is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, seek out advising from the OISS concerning his/her situation prior to the last day of employment.

Effects of termination on H-1B status

  • The H-1B status is linked to employment. Once employment ceases, there is no grace period for the employee or for any dependents. Unless the employee has filed an application for change of status or extension prior to the last date of employment, the legal status of the employee and any dependents ends on the last day of employment. If the H-1B employee will be leaving the U.S., travel should take place on or before the last day of employment.
  • The OISS has the obligation to cancel the current H-1B petition filed with the USCIS and to withdraw any extension applications in process. The OISS notifies USCIS of the termination immediately following the last day of employment.
  • A pending application for permanent residence may be negatively impacted by the employee’s termination. The OISS can discuss the ramifications of a termination with an employee whose PR application was based on Washington University sponsorship. For an employee who has filed for PR on another basis (other than Washington University sponsorship), the OISS advises the employee to consult with the immigration attorney who assisted in filing the PR application.

Study in H-1B Status

As an H-1B employee, you are authorized to take classes at any level and in any field, as long as taking these classes does not interfere with your employment and as long as this employment remains your primary purpose for being in the U.S. Because you are subject to these requirements, some academic programs limit the number of credit hours that you can take each semester.

The courses offered by Washington University’s English Language Programs (ELP) may be of particular interest to international employees. The program’s curriculum, geared to the advanced language learner, was designed to be practical and challenging, focusing on real-world expectations. Courses are offered both on the Danforth Campus and the Medical Campus.