One of the most common questions asked after an H-1B Cap case is: Can I travel after my H-1B Cap case been filed?
If your case was filed as consular processing, which allows you travel while your H-1B petition is pending, you don’t have much to worry about. For example, if you currently in TN status, you can opt to have your H-1B filed as consular processing. This will allow you to continue working in the US in TN status and you’ll be able to travel outside the US as well and reenter in TN status. However, you’ll have to activate your H-1B at the US Consulate/Embassy by applying for your US visa stamp before entering the US in H-1B status.
If your case was filed as change of status means that you are currently in the US in a valid US visa such as an F-1 or L-1 and if your H-1B is selected in the lottery and approved, your status will change to H-1B status on or after October 1st. Once your H-1B is approved, you’ll be able to travel so long as you have a valid US visa stamp and you are re-entering the US before your H-1B employment begins.
Special Note For H-1B Cap Cases Filed in FY2018
On April 3, 2017, USCIS will suspend Premium Processing (PP) on all H-1B petitions, including H-1B CAP cases. The PP suspension may last up to 6 months. USCIS has stated that suspending PP on H-1B petitions will help USCIS to reduce overall H-1B processing times. This will allow them to focus on backlogged cases that have been pending with USCIS for months.
Although the PP suspension will NOT affect the likelihood of H-1B CAP petitions getting selected in the lottery, this will affect those currently in the US who have a pending case with USCIS and have upcoming international travel plans as you cannot travel while your H-1B is pending. If your H-1B is being filed as a change of status, transfer, extension, or amendment, it's not recommended that you travel while your case is pending with USCIS.
If you have travel plans that cannot be avoided, you can have your H-1B be filed as consular processing which will allow you to travel while your H-1B petition is pending.
Once USCIS starts accepting H-1B cases filed PP again, you may apply for a Premium Processing upgrade.
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Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.