Imagine that you are going through the H-1B visa approval process through company A, but company B provides you with an offer that is either more secure or more lucrative. Before you apply for an H-1B visa transfer (or more accurately, an H-1B petition with a new employer) before stamping, consider discussing your situation with a qualified immigration attorney. It will help ensure that you are making the best decision while changing jobs during your H-1B lottery process.
The above example, while not uncommon, is just one possible reason that you may want to change the company you are using to enter the U.S. on an initial H1B approval. When deciding whether to get an H-1B visa transfer before stamping or after stamping, it helps to understand the H-1B process and how you can maneuver within it.
When dealing with USCIS visas and immigration, it can be easy to disrupt or sabotage your own efforts by making a poor decision during filing or processing phase. Because an interruption can mean months of delay, it is important to do things carefully and with legal guidance.
One of the great benefits of the H-1B visa is the fact that you can transfer your status from one employer to the next with relative ease. In fact, the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) has made the transfer process even easier. In order to transfer, you will need to file a new petition. However, under the AC21, you will be able to start working for your new employer as soon as the petition is filed provided that you meet the following requirements:
- You were lawfully admitted to the U.S.
- The petition is considered non-frivolous, which means that it is based on law or fact
- You have never been employed in the U.S. in an unauthorized way
- Your H-1B status has already been approved with your current employer
*H1B portability rules do not apply if the individual has not yet activated their H-1B petition.
Why Should You Transfer?
If you are in the process of obtaining an H-1B visa, you already know that it is a non-immigrant visa option for foreign workers with specific knowledge, education, or expertise that will allow you to be employed by a U.S.-based organization.
Because of this, you are not able to petition on your own behalf. Instead, your employer will file the required application with the USCIS. If the employer who initially sent the application is either unwilling or unable to complete the process or you find a better opportunity with a different U.S. employer before you enter the U.S., an H-1B visa transfer before stamping may be necessary.
Making it through the lottery and getting an H-1B visa petition approved is no small task, so it is understandable to be cautious when making changes. That’s why deciding whether you should transfer your employment before entering the U.S. or waiting until you have arrived to change is an issue to discuss with an immigration attorney.
Here are the facts surrounding both scenarios:
H-1B Visa Transfer Before Stamping
If you are still outside the U.S. and have received a notification that your H-1B petition has been approved, but you have not got it stamped in your passport yet, there are some things to consider associated with getting an H-1B visa transfer before entering the U.S.
The first is that filing for a transfer is essentially filing a new H-1B petition, before or after stamping. This petition, however, does not require re-entry into the H-1B lottery. Even though your new employer is filing a new petition, you have already been counted in that year’s visa cap. This means that you do not have to compete again with thousands of other applicants to secure your approval.
The primary concern is if the employer who initially submitted the approved petition were to learn of a petition of transfer being filed on your behalf, he or she would be able to withdraw their approved petition. This would require you to be re-entered again by another employer. There is no automatic re-entry.
Fortunately, the amount of information that your initial employer receives is up to you. The USCIS does not inform anyone of the petitions it gets and so will protect your privacy. If you are worried about the possibility of petition withdrawal, consider asking your immigration attorney about premium processing.
H-1B Visa Transfer After Stamping
Waiting until you have entered the U.S. is safer than getting an H-1B transfer before stamping since your employer’s petition cannot be withdrawn after the visa has been stamped. This would make your job change during H-1B lottery period much easier. You can simply have the new employer file a second lottery-free petition on your behalf.
Because a gap in employment could mean weeks or even months of lost wages, you may have to work with your initial employer while the transfer petition is being processed. (A gap in employment means status has not been maintained unless the 60-day grace period applies.)
Once your new employer has received an I-797 Notice of Action Receipt form, you are free to transfer your employment.
Using Premium Processing
Fortunately, you can use premium processing for your transfer petition regardless of whether you are transferring your H-1B before or after stamping. Premium processing is an optional service provided by the USCIS that shortens your I-129 petition’s processing time to just 15 calendar days.
However, because you are filing a new petition, you are still opening yourself up to being denied by the USCIS. You should be aware of common reasons for H-1B transfer denial to avoid other costly mistakes too. Premium processing will not help you increase your chances of approval. If your petition is not adjudicated in the 15-day period after premium processing has been requested, the USCIS will refund your premium processing fee (not your petition’s filing fee) and process your petition normally, which takes about six months depending on the caseload of the service center. During the 15-day window, the case may be approved or you may receive an H-1B visa transfer RFE.
Transferring from Cap-Exempt to Cap-Subject Jobs
One aspect of the H-1B transfer that people often try to exploit is the cap-exempt to cap-subject transfer. The thought is that one could enter the U.S. through a cap-exempt employer to avoid the lottery, then simply transfer to the cap-subject employer of their choosing.
Concurrent employment permits work for a cap-exempt and cap-subject employer at the same time. However, if the individual wants to only work for the cap-exempt employer, s/he must go through the H-1B lottery when changing jobs.
The cap window is 90 days. April 1- June 30. Must be received by June 30. You will also be prohibited from working for your cap-subject employer until the first business day in October. So, in order to permanently avoid the cap, you need to transfer exclusively to cap-exempt employers. As soon as you file to transfer to a cap-subject employer, you’ll be entered into the lottery.
How a VisaNation Law Group Attorney Can Help
VisaNation Law Group attorneys have a long history of success helping people through the maze of immigration law. They will analyze your unique situation to help you determine whether you should file for an H-1B visa transfer before stamping or afterward.
If you need legal counseling on this issue, contact one of our VisaNation Law Group immigration lawyers to join the countless success stories we provide. Fill out the contact form to see if you qualify for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions About H-1B Visa Transfer Before Stamping
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the topic.
How does H-1B transfer before October 1 work?
If you are planning on transferring your H-1B visa to a new employer before October 1st (if that is the first working day of October), then your new employer will have to submit a new application. The benefit of the transfer, however, is that if your original employer was not cap-exempt, then your new H-1B application with the new employer will not be subject to the annual quota. This means that you will not have to wait for your new priority date since your spot has already been accounted for in the lottery.
However, if your original employer who sponsored your H-1B visa revokes or cancels it before October 1st, then you will lose your spot in while changing jobs during your H-1B lottery. In that case, you will have to undergo through an entirely new lottery process.
Can we change employers immediately after H-1B petition is approved but not stamped?
Yes, you can change employers right after your H-1B petition is approved but not stamped yet. You will have to submit a new H-1B visa application regardless of whether you are transferring to a new employer before or after stamping. It is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of transferring before or after stamping. For example, if you transfer before stamping, then your original employer may cancel your H-1B visa, and you will have to restart the lottery process. On the other hand, you will not have to worry about visa withdrawal if your passport has already been stamped.
Can I switch jobs after H-1B lottery?
Is stamping required after H-1B Transfer?