How long does it take to get H-1B status?

The H-1B application process can take 7 months or longer. Please plan accordingly.

Will the process go faster if premium processing is requested?

A request for premium processing affects only the processing time after the H-1B petition is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). ISO may still need several months to prepare the H-1B petition for filing.

How soon should I apply to extend my H-1B status?

If you are now in the U.S. and hold H-1B status, the application for extension of stay should be filed with USCIS as early as possible, up to 6 months prior to your I-797 Approval Notice expiration date. Note that it may take 2-3 months to assemble the application documents. If USCIS receives the extension application prior to the I-797 expiration date, you may continue working for 240 days after your current H-1B expires while the petition is pending.

Is the UW subject to the H-1B cap?

There is an annual limit of 65,000 new H-1Bs that may be issued. This number is referred to as the H-1B “cap.” However, institutions of higher education including the University of Washington are exempt from that cap.

How long can I hold H-1B status?

You may hold H-1B status for a total of 6 years; an H-1B employer can request H-1B status for you in increments of up to 3 years at a time. Only time spent in the U.S. counts toward the 6-year limit. If you reach a certain stage in the green card process (either self-sponsored or UW-sponsored), you may be eligible for “AC-21” extensions beyond 6 years.

Can I start at UW earlier based on H-1B portability?

A “portability” provision in the H-1B regulations allows UW employees who are moving from a prior H-1B employer to begin working at UW as soon as the new H-1B petition is filed with USCIS. If you are moving to UW and wish to take advantage of H-1B portability, do not leave your current paid job until we notify you that the UW’s petition has been received by USCIS. For more information about portability, contact ISO.

Do I have to use up my OPT before getting an H-1B?

The University of Washington requires graduates of U.S. schools to exhaust their eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT), including STEM OPT, before changing to H-1B status. This is because H-1B sponsorship is costly, time-consuming, and has much higher risk for both the university and the employee than F-1 OPT. Be sure the H-1B application process begins early enough that the H-1B is approved before the OPT expires.

There is one exception to this rule, for OPT holders who are hired into a professorial faculty appointment; because a professorial appointment is inconsistent with the “training” purpose of OPT, OPT holders must be moved to an H-1B as soon as possible.

Does my J-1 visa affect eligibility for H-1B status?

If you are a current or former J-1 Exchange Visitor and are subject to the 212(e) two-year home country physical presence requirement, that requirement will prevent you from receiving an H-1B visa or changing status to H-1B inside the U.S. unless you spend 2 years in your home country or are able to have the requirement waived. The State Department has more information on the 212(e) waiver process.

Does my H-1B visa qualify me for a green card?

No. The H-1B is a nonimmigrant status, but you may apply for a green card if you meet certain eligibility requirements. The USCIS website has helpful information.

Can I take classes?

Yes, provided that taking classes does not become your primary purpose for being in the U.S. At all times you must fulfill the terms and conditions of your H-1B status, including full-time employment. There are no study restrictions for H-4 dependents.

I’ve applied for permanent residence and have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Do I still need to maintain H-1B status?

An H-1B employee with a pending permanent residence application may be eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The holder of a valid EAD can work legally without H-1B status. However, there may be advantages for both the employing UW department and the foreign national if H-1B status is maintained until the green card is issued. Contact ISO to discuss.