Renewing Your H1B Visa
Your H1B visa is generally good for up to three years, at which point you may be eligible for one three-year extension. H1B is an unusual nonimmigrant visa in that you can have duel intention of also applying for permanent residence. If you are awaiting a response on your employment based green card, you may file for a one-year H1B extension past the six-year period generally allowed under this visa.
As your H1B expiration date approaches, you should be prepared to renew your visa and your admissions stamp. First, your employer must file a new I-129 petition, along with applicable fees and supporting documents. Once the petition is approved, you may schedule an H1B visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Most visa holders return to their home country to obtain the H1B stamp (it cannot be done in the U.S.), but you can also elect to be processed in Mexico or Canada.
If you are transferring your H1B status to a new employer, but still have time left on the stamp in your passport, you do not need a new stamp. You can travel on an old stamped visa until its expiration date and carry your new H1B approval notice with you.
What to Consider Before Getting Your H1B Stamp in Canada or Mexico
Having your visa stamped in Mexico or Canada might save you the expense and time you would have spent to travel home. Processing in our neighboring countries may take as little as 48 hours in many cases. However, before making this decision, consider several important factors.
First, although Americans do not need a visa to go to Mexico or Canada, you might, depending upon your country of citizenship. Check whether your country is visa exempt before making travel arrangements. Otherwise, allow enough time to process your visa.
Second, the stamping process does not happen on the spot. The consulate will hold your passport until your application is processed. You should generally allocate three business days, but the process could take longer, so consider buying a flexible return plane ticket just in case.
Most H1B holders process in Mexico or Canada without problem, but you run the risk should your application be delayed or denied. Remember, the consulate holds your passport during processing. In the meantime, you will be stuck in a foreign country with no way to leave without your passport.
What You Need to Renew Your H1B Stamp
Regardless of where you plan to get your visa stamped, begin planning early. Make sure your passport does not expire for at least six months past your date of intended reentry. Your last I-94 Arrival/ Departure also must not have expired. This date should line up with H1B, but is worth double-checking the expiration dates of both. Begin collecting necessary support documentation, including evidence of your current employment, a new employer letter, an updated CV and proof of your H1B status, so you are not scrambling to obtain documents that are not always easy to get.
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.