How to Transfer from an H1B Visa to a B2 Visa

Updated on August 12, 2023
At a Glance: If you have an H1B visa and are terminated, you can switch to a B2 visa by applying for a change of status. During the grace period of 60 days or until your I-94 expires, you can stay in the United States. To qualify for a B2 visa, you need to prove residency in another country, demonstrate intent to leave the U.S., and show financial ability to support yourself. If your I-94 has expired, you can consider applying for a nunc pro tunc to request B2 status. Switching back to an H1B visa may require travel outside the U.S., and it is advisable to consult with an attorney for guidance throughout the process.

COVID-19 is a problem every person in the world has to face now in a way or another. It’s affecting a lot of areas, from healthcare systems to the economy. But it’s also affecting H1B workers. What can you do as an H1B worker in case you lost your job since you cannot be flyneeing back home now? Seems like it may be time to apply for a change of status and switch to a B2 visa.

Can an H1B Visa Holder Switch to a B2 Visa?

When you have an H1B visa and you’re terminated, you will not be thrown out of the United States. Actually, you can still stay in the country for a while. In general, you can stay in valid status for 60 days, or until the day your I-94 expires. This is usually available for H-4 dependents as well. It all depends on the date that occurs first.

Well, while you’re in this grace period, you shouldn’t wait around for your visa to expire. What you can do is apply for a change of status and get a B2 visa, as it’s very much possible to do so. Once you apply, you can stay in the United States in an authorized stay period, while the application is pending. But you need to make sure you also file it early enough for that to be possible – so, don’t waste any time.

Requirements to Move to a B2 Visa

Even though we’re facing the COVID-19 pandemic as we speak, the requirements to qualify for a B2 visa are still the same. They are not affected by the crisis. Basically, you must be able to prove that you reside in another country, but also prove that you are planning on leaving the U.S. once the temporary stay period is over. In addition, you will have to show evidence that you are able to cover the financial costs of your stay in the United States.

However, you have been an H1B worker before this – thus living in the U.S. So, demonstrating your residence in another country may be a little difficult. Conversely, there are a lot of H1B workers who may have an approved or pending immigrant petition (Form I-140) through a U.S. employer. In this case, it’s a little self-contradictory to say that you intend to leave the States at the end of the B2 visa term when you’ve been ready to get a new job beforehand.

As we’re dealing with this ongoing pandemic, though, there are still arguments to be made when it comes to why the B2 visa can be given under any circumstances. But before you file the Change of Status application, there are some problems that you should discuss with your attorney.

What to Do If Your I-94 Is Expired?

Some H1B workers may not be so lucky, and their I-94 may have already expired by the time they found out they can apply for a Change of Status. Well, in a situation like this, things can get a little stressful for the immigrant. The grace period only applies if you still have a valid I-94, after all.

Luckily, you’re not exactly out of every option. If your I-94 has somehow expired and you’re stuck in the United States due to the pandemic, you can try applying for a nunc pro tunc (NPT). Through this one, you can request a B2 status from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a backdated I-94.

It is important to note, though, that the USCIS reviews this request on a case-by-case basis.

Switching Back to an H1B May Require Travel Outside the U.S.

As of now, it’s hard to travel and immigrants have to stay in the United States. You have to file a B2 visa to stay legally in the United States if you lost your job and your I-94 is going to expire in a while. Once you apply for a B2 status, you will have an authorized stay period while your application is pending. It can even take a few months for USCIS to adjudicate I-539 applications. Now, due to the pandemic, there may even be increases when it comes to the processing times of the applications.

When the COVID-19 crisis is coming to an end, the chances are that a lot of applicants will want to get their H1B status back since they were planning to live and work in the U.S. Well, this isn’t that big of an issue. If you already had a B2 approved, you could still file a petition to change your status back to the H1B one, at least while your B2 I-94 is still valid.

Things are different if you have a pending application for your B2 status, though. The B2 status has to be adjudicated, and it is only in this situation that the H1B change of status request could be approved. It takes a lot of time to do this, though, which is why it may not be pleasant for a lot of people.

It would be much simpler if the H1B petition was filed for consular notification. In case of approval, then there will not be any new I-94 card issued. The immigrant would have to go outside the country and then come back with a valid “stamp” of an H1B visa.

COS Applications and Overseas Travel

You applied for a Change of Status, but can you travel abroad while you still have a pending petition? Well, if you do it, then your application will be deemed abandoned. However, that doesn’t mean that it will have a bad influence from an immigration point of view. If you were already in valid status when the I-539 petition was filed, then you can stay in the United States. It is possible to stay beyond the expiration date of the I-94, as it will still be considered an authorized stay.

Next Steps

If you’ve decided that it’s necessary to change your visa status, especially if you are unable to find a new job within this period, then you have to talk to an attorney. He/she will be able to tell you what move to make next to do the right thing and remain in the U.S. on legal terms.

In case you need this sort of assistance, then you must contact a law firm and schedule a consultation with an experienced and trustworthy attorney. It’s the best thing to do if you don’t want to make mistakes throughout this process.

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It can be quite challenging to lose your job as an immigrant, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when finding a new job is one of the hardest things. Luckily, you still have options – you can apply for a change of status and get a B2 visa. You only need to make sure you do it within the right time, which is before your H1B status or I-94 expires. After doing so, you can stay in the country in a period of authorized stay, and once the pandemic is over, you may be able to change your status back to that of an H1B worker.

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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.