Travel while H1B Pending (Extension, Transfer, Amendment, COS)

You can travel while H1B is pending with USCIS. H1B Change of Status is abandoned. Transfer, Amendment travel allowed. For re-entry, you need valid H1B.

Anil Gupta
  By Anil Gupta    Updated  18 Jul, 20


H1B Travel when Application Pending with USCIS: Travelling while your H1B application is pending approval is risky.

We do not recommend traveling unless you have a real emergency to go out of the USA especially when the Amendment is pending.

We recommend upgrading your H1B application to premium and get approval within 15 days before traveling to be on the absolute safe side.

H1BTravel AllowedUS Entry Risk
AmendmentYesMay be denied if started working with H1B Amendment.
ExtensionYesNo entry without Valid H1B stamp.
Change of StatusYesNo entry without valid H1B or non-H1B Visa.
TransferYesNo entry without Valid H1B stamp.

You can learn quickly by watching this short story about traveling while H1b is pending.

H1B Change of Status is Pending Risks

You can travel outside the US while H1B change of status is pending. 

The risk of travel is that USCIS will automatically abandon your Change of status request.

H1B Change of Status application status at the time of re-entry to USA:

#1 H1B COS APPROVED

You will have to get the hard copy of your approved H1B’s i797 and apply for an H1B visa at the US embassy before you can enter the USA with an H1B visa.

This is because your Change of Status was automatically abandoned by USCIS when you stepped out of the USA.

#2 Change of Status DENIED

If the H1B COS is denied while you are traveling, you can enter the USA only with any other visa you have.

#3 COS to H1B PENDING

You cannot enter using H1B status as the application is still pending. You need some other valid visa to enter the USA.

The underlying H1B application will be approved (if approved) with consular processing meaning that you will have to go to the US embassy to get H1B stamped in your passport and then re-enter the USA.

H1B Extension is Pending USCIS Decision

You can travel outside the USA during pending H1B extension. Make sure you have an existing H1B visa that is valid on the date of your re-entry to avoid trouble.

If your current H1B visa has already expired and you travel, you will NOT be able to enter the USA until your pending H1B extension is approved.

Example:

You can travel to India while H1B extension is in progress and visa is still valid for re-entry.

H1B extension status when you re-enter USA:

#1 H1B Extension APPROVED

You will have to get the hard copy of your approved H1B’s i797 and apply for an H1B visa at the US embassy before you can enter the USA with NEWLY approved H1B extended petition.

You can still enter using your OLD valid H1B (if any) but, your i94 will be restricted to old H1B’s expiry date.

This will be a problem as you will have to either file another H1B extension to get a new i94 or travel outside the USA again and get extended H1B stamped in your passport.

#2 Extension is DENIED

If the H1B extension is denied while you are traveling, you can only re-enter the USA if your existing H1B visa is still valid at the time of re-entry.

#3 PENDING Extension

You can still enter using your OLD valid H1B (if any) but, your i94 will be restricted to old H1B’s expiry date once it is approved.

You may not get a new i94 with approval.

H1B Amendment is Pending Result

You can travel internationally while your H1B amendment is still under process at USCIS but we recommend to NOT travel as re-entry risk is very high.

If your amendment status is approved, denied, or pending while you are outside the USA:

#1 APPROVED Amendment

You will need to get the new physical i797 approval shipped to you to re-enter the USA.

#2 H1B Amendment DENIED

You can re-enter the USA using existing H1B approval and stamp but will have to only work using the non-amended H1B.

#3 Amendment is PENDING

You can re-enter the USA using existing H1B approval and stamp but immigration officer will ask tough questions.

  • You may be denied entry if you have already started working based on the H1B amendment receipt. This is a very high-risk situation.
  • USCIS may not issue a new i94 once the amendment is approved as you exited the US.

If you want to enter the US to work with old approved H1B and old work location (not new location), then you are fine.

You should be able to enter the US without any issues.

H1B Transfer is Pending Approval

Can I travel while my H1B transfer is pending: Yes, you can.

But, our suggestion is to avoid travel while H1B transfer is pending if you have already joined (started working) for a new employer-based on H1B receipt.

If you are still working with the current H1B employer and waiting for the H1B transfer result, you can travel.

Make sure your H1B stays valid at the time of your return to USA.

H1B transfer status when you re-enter USA:

#1 H1B Transfer is APPROVED

If you had already joined the new employer before leaving the USA, you are lucky. Get the H1B i797 hard copy mailed to you outside the USA and then get an H1B stamp using DS-160 in US Embassy.

  • If you do not want to get an H1B stamp, you can still enter the USA using your old employer’s H1B stamp is still valid. 
  • Show the approved H1B transfer i797 at the immigration counter at the port of entry to get i94 with the H1B transfer expiry date. 
  • If the immigration officer entertains your request, you are good. 
  • If not, your i94 will be restricted to old H1B’s expiry date.

This will be a problem as you will have to either file another H1B transfer to get a new i94 or travel outside the USA again and get transferred H1B stamped in your passport.

#2 Change of Employer Transfer DENIED

If the H1B application is denied while you are traveling, you can only re-enter the USA if your existing H1B visa is still valid at the time of re-entry.

If you have moved on to a new employer, based on receipt, your old employer would have already withdrawn your H1B approval.

You will NOT be able to enter the USA if its already revoked.

#3 H1B Transfer PENDING

High risk if you have already started working with a new employer on receipt.

The immigration officer may deny your entry as you do not have the approved H1B for your current new employer.


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Author

Anil Gupta
  By Anil Gupta           

Recent discussion on forum

  1. arti
    arti

    Hi Anil,

    I am in India right now. I have filed change of employer from India in premium process and received RFE today. Now it may take another 5-6 weeks for my new employer to reply to RFE, get H1B approval and visa stamping altogether. I have question that can I stamp H4 visa and travel to USA on H4 while my H1B (change of employer) is under process and gets approved?

    Please note that I do not have any valid visa stamped on my passport right now.
    Kindly help!

    Thanks,
    Arti


  2. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    Hi @arti,

    You can legally apply for H4 visa stamp and travel to US. But, remember that your H1B has most probably been filed as ‘Consular processing’ which means that you will have to go out of US to get H1B visa stamp to start working anyway.

    Also, it is possible that your H4 is denied (low chance though) as you have a pending H1B application which shows your ‘work intent’ which is not allowed on H4 visa.


  3. arti
    arti

    Thanks for the update Anil!


  4. Youchin_Kim
    Youchin_Kim

    Hey! Your article seems very useful. But just wanted to ask if a pending J1 visa qualifies? My sponsor had not sent my DS 2019 form and I would like to just travel to The US for a week or two then return. Is it possible to do so? Thanks!


  5. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    Hi @Youchin_Kim
    Your question is not clear to me.
    If you want to enter US, you need to have some US vida to travel.


  6. Youchin_Kim
    Youchin_Kim

    Hey!

    Yes, I have an ESTA visa and I have been to the US around 3 times. For the last half year.


  7. Divya_A
    Divya_A

    Hi. This post is very informative. Thank you for the detailed information.
    I have a question. My current H1B expires on July 7th. My H1B extension was filed in premium in May and I received an RFE.

    I had to travel outside US for a week after receiving the RFE. I’m back in US now (entered US using existing visa stamp).

    RFE response is not yet filed by my attorney as they are still collecting document from my company.

    Now when my H1B extension gets approved would I receive an I-797A (with I-94) or would it be I-797B (without I-94)? Thank you.


  8. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    Hi @Divya_A
    The chances are high that you will not get a new i94 with your H1B approval if USCIS gets your travel information.

    Sometimes, they do and sometimes they don’t by the time they take decision.

    I strongly suggest to tell this to your employer and attorney so that they can submit your new i94 along with your RFE documents.

    That will probably give you a chance that USCIS may approve your extension with new i94.


  9. Divya_A
    Divya_A

    Thank you for the quick response.


  10. popat
    popat

    Hello Anil,

    I hope you could help me with my situation.

    I have my H1B extension approved for Employer A till Feb 2022. I just received H1B transfer approved for Employer B effective October 2019.

    I have to travel to India in august and I will need to go for stamping in august and I will come back to USA late august and will start with Employer B in October.

    1. Which employer and I797 should I use for stamping?
    2. Can I use employer A I797 and do not mention anything about employer B during stamping?


  11. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    Hi @saminusa4u

    Are you all planning to travel or only you (the H1B)?


  12. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    Hi @saminusa4u

    H4 can appear for H4 visa stamping based on H1B i797.

    The pending H4 extension in USA may be abandoned or may receive RFE if they travel. H4 EAD may also receive an RFE.


  13. popat
    popat

    Hi Anil,

    I have my H1B extension approved for Employer A till Feb 2022. I received H1B transfer approved for Employer B effective October 2019 prior to my travel.

    I traveled to India in august and I got visa stamp using employer A I-797. I also entered US by presenting I-797 from employer A. I am supposed to start with employer B by 1 October 2019.

    1. Do I have to leave country and reenter towards September end using I797 from employer B? or is it permissible to start work with employer B starting Oct 1 without reentering US?


  14. Anil.Gupta
    Anil.Gupta

    As i clearly mentioned, i am not aware of any process to send the updated i94. I meant your employer only as H1B is filed by employer and not you.

    For your other question about what happens, i already answered:
    Your H1B extension may be converted to consular processing automatically by USCIS if you travel.

    This means that the extension approval may not come with a new i94. Consular processing means go out of US and get a new visa stamp.


  15. abhi8
    abhi8

    thanks a lot for all the guidance so far Anil! really appreciated!


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