How long may I work as an H-1B temporary worker in the U.S.?
UPDATED: February 6, 2012
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The typical duration of status for an H-1B visa worker is 3 years. Extensions may be granted for up to an additional 3 years for a total period of 6 years. Six years is the general cut off time for an H-1B temporary worker. However, depending on your situation, you may be able to receive an extension beyond the 6-year time frame if your employer submits an extension request more than 365 days before your H-1B visa is set to expire. If you are employed with certain government defense projects, you may qualify to remain in the United States for a total of 10 years.
The H-1B Visa and Your Employer
An H-1B is generally employer specific. If things do not work out with your employer and you are discharged, the purpose of your H-1B work visa is concluded, and thus you are required to leave the country. However, you can transfer your H-1B work visa to another employer. Even though you begin employment with a new employer, your total authorized period of employment will not change. The clock does not restart just because you change employers.
If you want to stay in the United States for a period longer than the ones discussed above, you should begin exploring other types of visas, like a permanent residency status, before your work visa expires. You will not be able to adjust your status with a different type of visa if your application is not completed before your work visa expires.
When Your Visa Ends
If you cannot obtain an extension or an adjustment of your status, you must leave the country for at least of period of one year. After one year, you can re-apply for a new H-1B work visa. After you have completed a new work visa application, the clock does restart and you will be authorized to enter the United States as a temporary worker for up to 6 years, depending on any approved extensions.