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Joel Stewart on PERM Labor Certification

How to Extend an H-1B Past the 6th Year with PERM

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

This weekend I met with a client who is in her sixth year of H-1B status. This should be her last year, since there is a six-year limit for H-1B workers. Her fiancee is a permanent resident alien (green card holder) who wishes to apply for citizenship. If he becomes a US citizen, the lady can immediately apply for permanent residency and will no longer need an H-1B visa to live and work in the U.S.


Unfortunately, at some time in the past, the fiancee had some criminal problems which may prevent him from obtaining citizenship. If the lady marries the fiancee while he is still a permanent resident alien,she must wait on the visa quota until a green card is available. The current backlog for this category (spouse of green card holder) is about 4.5 years. During this time, the client will be without status, since her H-1B will expire and cannot be extended. Or can it....?


One  well-known situation which permits extension of an H-1B beyond the sixth years occurs when a PERM case is filed before the beginning of the sixth year. With this condition satisfied, an H-1B visa holder can extend H-1B status indefinitely, while the application for PERM is pending.


But what if the H-1B holder is already working in the sixth and last year in H-1B status and a PERM case has not yet been filed? This is the situation described by my client. Is there anything that can be done to remain in the U.S. legally for the next 4-5 years?


Under a little known interpretation of the law, an H-1B visa holder who is already in the sixth year can change status (leave H-1B status), remain in the US in some other status, and then return to H-1B status after a PERM case has been filed and pending for a year. After returning to  H-1B status, the status will be available indefinitely. The difference between the two interpretations is that for the first, the client must have filed a PERM case before the beginning of the sixth year, and for the second interpretation, the client must have filed a PERM case by momving out of H-1B status, and then back to H-1B status, after the PERM case has been pending for one year.


Obviously, the H-1B holder has to be generally eligible for to change status, which means that he or she has to have been legal in the United States without previous violations of status, and there has to be a visa status available. Remember that visa status categories are listed like the letters of an alphabet soup starting with the letter "A". It follows that the client must see which visa may be a viable option.


Commonly used visa status categoris may be any of the following:  B-1 or B-2 (temporary visitors),  E-1 and E-2 (owners or workers with trade or investor visas), F-1 (students), H-3 (trainees), J-1 (international exchange visitors),  L visas and more. Of course, not all of these categories will be available to all aliens, and even when available, they may not necessarily authorize employment.


Getting back to the client who spoke with me, a PERM case would help her to extend her status in the US, if she follows the proper procedure. 


First, she needs to get married to her fiancee, so he can file an I-130 immigrant visa petition. This will enable the client to get in line to receive a family-based visa (second preference) in the future.


Second, the lady needs to get a PERM application filed. Her current H-1B Employer could do that, or, if not the current employer, a different employer. Since the PERM application will not provide immediate work authorization, the client would not be eligible to work for the new employer immediately.


Third,  she would exit from H-1B status (which in her case is already beyond the beginning of the sixth year) and she has to remain in any another status for which she is eligible to obtain, until the PERM case has been filed and pending for one year.


Fourth, after the PERM case has been filed for one full year, she can return to H-1B status and remain there indefinitely, provided that she has still had some time remaining from the sixth year.


Note that prior to filing a PERM application, there is a recruitment period that takes at least 61 days.


This plan has provided a solution, permitting the lady to remain in the US and live in harmony with her new husband, until her application for residency based on marriage to him can be approved.


And what if the marriage goes sour? Well, there will be a PERM case pending to work for a U.S. Employer. Either way, she can't lose!

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Comments

  1. Roger's Avatar
    Would not dual intent eliminate most categories?
  2. Joel Stewart's Avatar
    Dear Roger,

    Thank you for your question / comment about dual intent. I decided not to complicate the PERM issue by elaborating on dual intent. You are, of course, aabsolutely right. Some visa status categories would have a dual intent issue, while others would not.

    The plan I outlined is simply a series of consequential occurrences that could occur. At each stage, the intention to continue would be made depending on the circumstances.

    For example, it is not a violation of intent to enter on a B-2 visa and get married. The decision to get married, however, would have to be made at least 60-90 days after entry, and not before entry.

    Sincerely,

    JS

  3. Weiwen Ng's Avatar
    The author is obviously very smart. However, this case illustrates how needlessly and meaninglessly complicated immigration law is.
  4. Anton Mertens's Avatar
    Joel,

    You talk about changing status from H-1B to some other nonimmigrant status and staying in the U.S. to wait until the 365 days after the PERM filing have run. Can the H-1B visa holder leave the U.S. and wait outside until the 365 days have run and then file for a one year "extension" with consular notification at the appropriate time as long as he has not been out for one full year?
  5. Anton Mertens's Avatar
    Joel,

    You indicate that an H-1B visa holder could change to some other nonimmigrant status and wait until the 365-day period from the PERM filing has run and change back to H-1B. Rather than changing status, could the H-1B visa holder leave the U.S. and wait abroad until the 365 days have run and then file an H-1B "extension" with consular notification as long as he has not been out for 365 days?
  6. Anton Mertens's Avatar
    Joel,

    You indicate that an H-1B visa holder could change to some other nonimmigrant status and wait until the 365-day period from the PERM filing has run and change back to H-1B. Rather than changing status, could the H-1B visa holder leave the U.S. and wait abroad until the 365 days have run and then file an H-1B "extension" with consular notification as long as he has not been out for 365 days?
  7. Green Card Visa's Avatar
    Why is it so very difficult to attain the green card? I just don't see why there can't be more streamlined and feasible programs and processes surrounding becoming a US resident/citizen. When did it become such a cryptic process?
  8. Green Card Visa's Avatar
    Also, how can we, as a country, justify making these processes so difficult that the individuals seeking residency have nearly no choice but to attain legal counsel. It seems to me that the process should be so SIMPLE that absolutely anyone can complete it. Sadly, the complete opposite is actually much closer to the truth!
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