Religious Worker Portability

I have an approved religious worker visa and my green card is waiting for approvel. I was wondering if I can switch to another church before I get the green card?

The answer is no if you still want to obtain the green card. The law, specifically AC21, allows porting between employers where there is an approved I-140 and a pending I-485 but religious workers are not included in this legislation. You will have to remain with you sponsoring employer until your I-485 is approved.

H1B Visa Extensions Beyond the Six Year Limitation

The maximum duration for status as an H1B visa holder is six years.  Any time spent in L status or other H status such as H2B or H4 visa status is included.  Normally, a foreign national who wishes to hold H1B visa status beyond the six year maximum is prohibited unless he or she spends at least one year outside of the US before re-entering in H1B visa status.  This six year limited does not apply in the following cases:

  • The H1B visa holder is working on a certain US Department of Defense project; or
  • Where the work is seasonal or intermittent or is in the US for less than six months out of the year.

There are three strategies which can be used to overcome the six year limitation.

  • AC21 Extensions in One Year or Three Year Increments AC 21 104(a)

An H1B visa holder can extend their H1B visa status in one year or three year increments if a labor certification (PERM) or Form I-140 was filed at least 365 days prior to the submission of the extension request or at least one year prior to the completion of the 6th year.  Additional extensions may be granted until a decision has been made on the I-485.

  • AC21 Extension in Three Year Increments AC 21 106(c)

An H1B visa holder who has an approved Form I-140 but in unable to file a Form I-485 due to per country limitations (priority date is not current according to the Visa Bulletin), H1B visa extensions may be granted in three year increments.

  • Recapturing Time Spent Outside the US

While this really won’t get you around the six year limit, it does allow an H1B holder to apply for an H1B extension and “recapture” days spent outside of the US.  If the H1B visa holder was outside the US for 61 days in the 6 years they held H1B status, they can recapture those days in an H1B extension application.