How to Change Jobs on an H1B Visa

Updated on November 7, 2023
At a Glance: Yes, H1B visa holders can change jobs by having their new employer submit a new H1B petition. The process is similar to applying for a new H1B visa. The new employer needs to provide an employment letter, file a Labor Condition Application (LCA), and submit the visa petition along with relevant documents and fees. Once the USCIS receives the petition, the visa holder can start working immediately. It’s important to note that the H1B visa expiration is not automatically extended, and the new employer must request an extension. Changing jobs on an H1B visa offers advantages such as exemption from visa caps and the ability to start working immediately.

When you enter the U.S. on an H1B visa, you need an employer to sponsor your visa. This can make changing jobs on the H1B visa a bit complicated since it requires finding a new sponsor. However, you can switch employers on an H1B visa, you just need to complete an H1B visa transfer. This article gives you a detailed breakdown of how to switch jobs on an H1B visa.

Check out our video “Changing Jobs on an H1B Visa” or read on to learn more about switching employers while on an H1B Visa!

Can an H1B Visa Holder Change Jobs?

Yes, H1B visa holders can change jobs and retain their H1B status. However, to do so you must apply for a visa transfer to the new employer.

Check out Stilt’s new H1B database to find a company that sponsors H1B visas!

H1B Visa “Portability”

H1B visas can be transferred from one employer to another. The process requires that your new employer files for an H-1B transfer with USCIS. Your new employer will need to follow the steps of a transfer and not file for a new H-1B. The biggest advantage of a transfer is that there are no visa caps. If you already have an approved and non-expired H-1B, it can be transferred to an employer in a similar category.

Note: If you have an approved H-1B with a non-profit, you cannot transfer that H-1B to a for-profit employer and vice versa. Because there are no-visa caps and start times for non-profit H-1B, they can’t be transferred to a for-profit employer.

Process for Changing Jobs on an H1B

The process of changing jobs on an H1B is essentially the same as applying for a new H1B.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the H-1B transfer process:

  1. Job Offer and Acceptance: The first step is to receive and accept a job offer from a U.S. employer who is willing and able to sponsor your H-1B transfer.
  2. Labor Condition Application (LCA):
    • Before filing the H-1B petition, the new employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor (DOL).
    • The LCA contains details about the job, including salary, job location, and other relevant information. The salary offered should meet or exceed the prevailing wage for the job in the specific geographic area.
  3. File I-129 Petition:
    • Once the LCA is approved, your new employer will file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
    • The employer should also include supporting documentation, such as job offer letter, evidence of the beneficiary’s qualifications, and the previous H-1B approval notice.
  4. Pay Required Fees: The new employer will need to pay the required USCIS filing fees. These can include the base processing fee, an ACWIA (American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act) training fee, and a fraud prevention and detection fee. Some employers might also opt for the premium processing service by paying an additional fee.
  5. USCIS Processing:
    • After the I-129 petition is filed, USCIS will send a receipt notice.
    • USCIS will then review the application and either approve or deny the petition. If there’s a need for additional information, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE).
  6. Begin Work with New Employer: The H-1B visa holder can start working for the new employer once the I-129 petition is approved. However, under the portability provisions of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21), an H-1B holder can start working for the new employer as soon as the new employer files the I-129 petition, without waiting for USCIS approval. It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney before making any employment changes based on this provision.
  7. H-1B Cap Exempt: The great thing about H-1B transfers is that they are not subject to the annual H-1B cap. This means an individual who has already been counted against the cap in previous years will not be counted again for a transfer.
  8. No “Grace” Period: There’s no official “grace” period after quitting or being dismissed from a job. So, it’s crucial to get the transfer process started before leaving the current H-1B sponsoring employer to avoid falling out of status.
  9. Duration: The H-1B transfer does not extend the 6-year maximum period of stay. It just allows the beneficiary to change employers.
  10. Simultaneous Multiple H-1B Transfers: An H-1B holder can have multiple I-129 petitions filed on their behalf by different employers. Once approved, the visa holder can choose which employer they want to work for.

You, the petitioner, will have to submit the following to the USCIS as well:

  • Paycheck stubs
  • A current resume
  • Copies of your most recent visa, social security card, passport, and I-94 records

H1B Visa Expiration

You can start your new job before your H1B application is approved, but your H1B is not automatically extended. Instead, your new employer must request an extension when they file your H1B petition. If an extension is not filed, then you will only be able to work for 240 days after the date that your H1B expires. If your petition is denied at any stage of the process, you lose work authorization as well.

Advantages of Changing Jobs on H1B

While you still have to follow the H1B application process when you switch jobs on an H1B, there are certain advantages that make the application process simpler. A big advantage is that, since you have already been selected in the H1B visa lottery, you will no longer be subject to the H1B visa caps.

Changing Jobs on H1B and Visa Caps

Another advantage, as described above, is that you can start working for the new employer immediately upon petitioning for a new H1B, rather than waiting until the petition is approved. This can make you more attractive to prospective employers with urgent needs who cannot wait out the full H1B visa process.

What is an H1B Visa?

The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that lets foreign workers stay in the country for the purposes of employment. To be eligible for an H1B visa, you must receive a job offer in a position that requires specialized knowledge or skill. Typically, any field of employment that requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher is considered specialized.

However, the USCIS places a cap on the number of petitions granted each year, so to get an H1B visa you must be selected in the H1B lottery. There are only 65,000 general petitions granted visa status and an additional 20,000 for applicants with Master’s degrees.

H1B Transfer FAQs

We’ve outlined the general H1B visa transfer process in the sections above. Read on for some detailed questions about how H1B transfers work.

I am considering an offer from another company. Do I need a new H1B visa? When can I start working for a new company?

To work for your new company, you and your employer must submit a new H1B visa petition. However, you do not have to get selected in the H1B lottery.

You can start working for your new company immediately upon filing the petition; you don’t have to wait for the petition to be approved.

Upon approval of the H1B transfer, is there any time limit to join the new company?

No, you can start working for your new company before the petition is approved, but once approved, there is no time limit for when you must start. However, keep in mind the expiration date of your H1B visa, and request an extension if necessary.

Does the regular H1B Quota (Cap) affect the H1B transfer process?

No, the H1B petition for your new employer is not counted towards the H1B quota. This is because, if you currently have an H1B, you have already been counted towards the quota.

I just got my approval notice for my H1B transfer. It doesn’t have a new I-94. What should I do?

I-94’s are issued upon entering the U.S., and the I-94 you receive upon entry will have an expiration date. Your I-94 form your initial entry may still be valid, so you will not be issued a new I-94.

Do you need to inform your present employer about your Visa Transfer?

No, you are not required to tell your present employer that you are transferring your visa.

Is there any limit for the number of times I transfer my H1B visa?

No, there is no limit on the number of times you can transfer your H1B visa. The only limit that you must keep in mind is the expiration of your initial H1B visa, which can be extended.

Can I apply for an H1B transfer through more than one company at the same time?

Yes, you can apply for multiple H1B transfers at one time. The process for applying for each H1B transfer will be the same, and, if both are approved, you can choose which company to work for.

Can an H1B visa holder change his mind about a visa transfer once approved?

Yes, if you apply for an H1B transfer and then decide that you would rather stay with your original H1B sponsor, you can do so.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.