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H-1B Worker Laid Off? Understanding the Change of Status in Relation to Yearly Cap

Individuals holding H-1B visa status who are laid off have the option to change status to another non-immigrant category such as a F-1 visa.  However, whether one would be subject to the cap when if he or she  elects to return to H-1B status later needs to understood by the H-1B non-immigrant worker. Also, whether one’s time in another status counts against the 6 year maximum allowable time in H-1B status needs to be considered.

H1B Cap. First, if a foreign national worker changes to another status, such as F-1, will he or she later be subject to the cap when they want to return to H-1B status? In most cases, the answer is no.  Generally, the only way to “trigger” the cap is if a worker is going out of the country for more than one year.  So if Employee A  is terminated from Employer A and then switches to F-1 status for 2 years; Employee A is not subject to the cap if he does not leave the country for more than 1 year when he applies for a new H-1B visa for Employer B.

Six Year Time Limit. Next, will one’s time in another status count against the 6 year limit on H-1B visas?  Again, the answer is no in most circumstances.  Admission is for a maximum of 6 years in H-1B status. Although, there are ways to extend the status in 1 to 3 year increments based on an employer filing a petition, we have not discussed that issue here.  Continuing with our example, a foreign national in F-1 status for two years has not used two years of their 6 year limit in H-1B status.

Change of status can be a successful way to bridge one’s immigration status.  Consulting with experienced and skilled legal counsel is essential.

Glendia Scott-Mondesir, Attorney-at-law

Washington D.C. (202)296.0122

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