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Recapturing Unused H-1B and/or L-1 Days Spent Outside of the United States

February 22, 2012

The maximum period of stay for an H-1B visa holder is six years.  Of course, there are some exceptions such as if the H-1B visa holder has a green card process in place that allows him/her to extend the stay beyond six years.  And the maximum period of stay authorized for L-1A and L-1B visa holders is seven years and five years, respectively.  There are no exceptions for L-1 visa holders to continue such stay in the U.S. beyond the maximum allowed time period.  The above rules do not generally apply to those that are intermittent or seasonal workers, those that engage in employment for an aggregate period of six months or less per year, or part-time H-1B or L-1 employees. 

The USCIS regulations provide for recapturing any unused days spent outside of the U.S. since the date of first entry into the U.S.  For example, if a person first entered the U.S. in L-1B status on January 1, 2010, that person is allowed a maximum of five years, ending December 31, 2014.  However, if the person traveled out of U.S. in those five years and the total number of days spent outside of the U.S. add up to, for example 90 days, such person will be eligible to obtain L-1 extension through March 31, 2015, i.e. adding 90 days to the last day of the maximum allowed time period.  Same rule applies for H-1B visa holders as well. 

How do you prove that you were outside the U.S. for a certain number of days.? The best possible evidence is providing a complete copy of your passport to the legal professional handling your extension.  If you have an old/expired passport and a new one, provide complete copy of both the passports, including any blank pages.  This is because passports generally have the entry and exit stamps.  Secondly, keep track of, preferably in a tabular format, dates of entries and exits.  Other possible evidence includes, but is not limited to, boarding passes from airline, air tickets, statements from airline showing frequent flyer miles, any other evidence that shows your temporary stay abroad.  It is also important to note that any time spent in the H-1B and/or L-1 is combined.  In effect, if a person spent three 3 years in L-1B and changed the visa status to that of H-1B, that person will only have a remaining period of three years, not six years.  Recapturing the time spent outside of the U.S. comes as a great help to those that are nearing the maximum period of authorized stay.  

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