Traveling Abroad with H1B Status

Posted on 9月 05, 2006 by Warren Wen | Category: Immigration

Can People with H-1B Status Travel Abroad Freely?

H-1B visa is a non-immigration visa which allows aliens to enter the United States to work in a specialized occupation.  In order to qualify for the H-1B visa, the alien must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, in addition to finding an employer to hire him or her in an area related to his educational background.  Many people who currently have the H-1B status have not entered the U.S. with an H-1B visa, but rather with a B-1/B-2 or an F-1 visa.  They, then, changed their status to H-1B within the U.S. later.  Many of these people want to know if they could travel in and out of the U.S. freely.

Mr. Lin asked:

I entered the United States to study Computer Science with an F-1 visa. After I got a master’s degree, I found a job in the U.S.  My employer had applied for my H-1B status.  I’ve heard that if an alien entered the U.S. under other non-immigrant visa and then changed his or her status to H-1B while in the U.S., he may face a difficulty in getting the H-1B visa from the U.S. embassy at overseas once he left and tried to re-enter into the U.S.  The U.S. embassy or the consulate office may refuse to issue an H-1B visa to him, claiming that he had the intent of immigration.  I want to know: (1) do I really need to apply for the H-1B visa to re-enter into the U.S. if I left the U.S. in the future or would there be some other ways?; and (2) how likely is it that the U.S. embassy or consulate overseas will deny my visa application for the intent of immigration?

Answer:

First, we need to understand the difference between the H-1B visa and the H-1B status. If one is outside the U.S. and attempted to enter into the U.S., he or she would need to reapply for the visa. Once he or she is in the U.S., he or she is in H-1B status.  He or she would not need to get an H-1B visa as long as he or she did not leave the U.S.  Therefore, if one is not in the U.S. and he or she is qualified for the H-1B category, he or she could apply for an H-1B visa and work for an employer after he or she entered the U.S.  If one is already in the U.S. under another status, he or she could apply to change his or her status to H-1B with the sponsorship of an employer.  Once the H-1B application is approved, he or she could legally work for the sponsoring employer.

Whether or not people with the H-1B status can travel abroad freely depends on the specific situation of the alien. For an H-1B visa holder, if his or her visa allowed multiple entries and as long as his visa was valid, he or she could travel in and out of the U.S. freely without reapplying for the visa.  If the visa allowed only a single entry, the alien would need to reapply for the visa once he left the U.S.  Those who changed their status to H-1B from another status while they were staying in the United States would have to apply for an H-1B visa once they left the U.S. as well.

Many people who have entered the U.S. with a B-1/B-2 or an F-1 visa and later have changed their status to the H-1B status worry that their application for the H-1B visa would be denied for the intent of immigration by the U.S. embassy or the consulate office.  Mr. Lin is in this situation.  Because he had his status changed from F-1 to H-1B, he would need to apply for an H-1B visa for re-entry into the U.S., if he traveled to outside the U.S.  In general, it is true that the U.S. government does not like aliens to come to the U.S. in one visa category and later change their status to another category.  There is a possibility that the U.S. embassy may deny Mr. Lin’s application for the H-1B visa.  Nevertheless, because the present immigration law allows people with the H-1B status to have a dual intent (both non-immigration intent and immigration intent), the U.S. embassy or the consulate may not deny Mr. Lin’s H-1B visa application for the intent of immigration alone.

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