Travel while H1B is pending with USCIS – Extension, Transfer, COS, Amendment

Anil Gupta  11 Jan, 19      48  USA

H1B Travel when Application Pending with USCIS

H1B / TravelAllowed?We Recommend?US Re-entry Denial Risk
Amendment  Yes  No  May be denied Entry if already started working.
Extension Yes  No  Cannot enter without Valid H1B stamp
Change of Status Yes  No  Cannot enter without valid H1B or non-H1B Visa
Transfer Yes  No  Cannot enter without Valid H1B stamp

Travelling while H1B Change of status is pending

You can but should NOT travel outside USA while your H1B COS application is pending.

If your travel outside USA, USCIS will automatically abandon your Change of status request. I would suggest to avoid travel at all costs.

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

  1. APPROVED: You will have to get the hard copy of your approved H1B’s i797 and apply for H1B visa at US embassy before you can enter USA with H1B visa.
    This is because your Change of Status was automatically abandoned by USCIS when you stepped out of USA
  2. DENIED: If the H1B COS is denied while you are travelling, you can enter USA only with any other visa you have.
  3. PENDING: You cannot enter using H1B status as the application is still pending. You need some other valid visa to enter USA. The underlying H1B application will be approved (if approved) with consular processing meaning that you will have to go to US embassy to get H1B stamped in your passport and then re-enter USA.

Travel while H1B Extension is pending

You can travel outside 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 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. APPROVED: You will have to get the hard copy of your approved H1B’s i797 and apply for H1B visa at US embassy before you can enter 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 new i94 or travel outside USA AGAIN and get extended H1B stamped in your passport.
  2. DENIED: If the H1B extension is denied while you are travelling, you can only re-enter USA if your existing H1B visa is still valid at the time of re-entry.
  3. PENDING: You can still enter using your OLD valid H1B (if any) but, your i94 will be restricted to old H1B’s expiry date.

Travel outside USA while H1B Amendment is pending

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 USA:

  1. APPROVED: You will need to get the new physical i797 approval shipped to you to re-enter USA.
  2. DENIED: You can re-enter USA using existing H1B approval and stamp but will have to only work using the non-amended H1B.
  3. PENDING: You can re-enter 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 H1B amendment receipt. This is VERY HIGH risk situation.
Travel while H1B is pending
Travel while H1B is pending

Travelling while H1B Transfer is pending

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 new employer based on H1B receipt.

If you are still working with current H1B employer and waiting for 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. APPROVED: If you had already joined the new employer before leaving USA, you are lucky. Get the H1B i797 hard copy mailed to you outside USA and then get H1B stamp using DS-160 in US Embassy.If you do not want to get H1B stamp, you can still enter USA using your old employer’s H1B stamp is its still valid. Show the approved H1B transfer i797 at the immigration counter at port of entry to get i94 with H1B transfer expiry date.

    If the immigration officer entertains your request 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 new i94 or travel outside USA AGAIN and get transferred H1B stamped in your passport.

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

    If you have moved on to new employer based on receipt, your old employer would have already withdrawn your H1B approval. You will NOT be able to enter USA if its already revoked.

  3. PENDING: High risk if you have already started working with new employer on receipt. Immigration officer may deny you entry as you do not have the approved H1B for your current new employer.