H-1B workers who travel abroad should carry a passport, valid for at least six months beyond the intended length of stay in the U.S. and the original H-1B approval notice (Form I-797) from their current employer. Although the Form I-797 states that the employer should retain the top portion of the form, there are reports that consular and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials often ask to see the original. Also, carry a current letter from the faculty sponsor verifying employment to facilitate re-entry to the U.S.
An H-1B worker who is not visa exempt must have a valid H-1B visa to re-enter the United States after a trip abroad unless he/she falls under one of these exceptions:
- Travel to Canada or Mexico for 30 days or less: An H-1B worker may re-enter the U.S. after a trip solely to Canada or Mexico that lasted no more than 30 days without the need to obtain a new H-1B visa.
- If the H-1B worker has changed employers since first entering the U.S. and has a valid visa annotated for the previous employer, he/she may re-enter the U.S. using that visa, provided that he/she presents a valid H-1B approval notice for the new employer upon re-entering the U.S. (See “Portability”)
Travel While Extension of H-1B Approval is Pending
A worker who already holds H-1B status is not prohibited from traveling abroad while an extension of stay is pending with the DHS provided that he/she returns to the U.S. prior to the expiration of the current H-1B approval.
Travel during the 240-day automatic extension of work authorization after the current H-1B period has expired is not allowed. If the individual cannot avoid traveling abroad during this period, he/she will be forced to stay abroad while awaiting the H-1B extension approval in order to apply for a new visa or be readmitted to the U.S. in H-1B status.
Travel While Change of Status to H-1B is Pending
A non-immigrant who travels abroad while an application for change of status to H-1B is pending has historically been considered to have abandoned the change of status portion of the petition.
- If the H-1B petition is later approved by the DHS and the individual is still abroad, he/she can apply for H-1B status at a U.S. consulate and then enter the U.S. in H-1B status.
- If an individual who departed the U.S. while an application for change to H-1B status was pending re-enters the U.S. in another non-immigrant category, he/she is not considered to be in H-1B status even if the DHS subsequently approves the change of status request that was pending at the time of the person’s departure.
In this case, the international would have to exit the U.S. with the approval notice, obtain an H-1B visa at a U.S. consulate office, and then re-enter the U.S., or have the employer file a new Form I-129 requesting a change of status once more. This may be difficult as the DHS may infer preconceived immigration intent on the part of the international.
Travel under the H-1B “Portability” Provisions
An H-1B applicant for admission to the U.S. who is no longer working for the original employer is admissible to the U.S. at a port of entry as long as these conditions are met:
• The period of admission is limited “to the validity of the previous H-1B petition…”
• The applicant must be in possession of Form I-797 from the previous employer.
• If the original H-1B has expired, the applicant is not admissible in H-1B status unless the applicant presents evidence that a new petition has been filed.
Effect of H-1B Travel on H-4 Dependent Status
If an H-1B worker is traveling abroad only temporarily, his/her dependents may remain in the U.S. in H-4 status. However, if the H-1B worker will spend a lengthy time abroad, the H-4 dependents should also leave the U.S.
Travel for H-1B Holder with Pending I-485 Petition
Travel abroad is permitted in two ways for H-1B workers who have a pending I-485 application for adjustment of status to permanent residence: either under a grant of “advance parole” or by continuing to travel as an H-1B non-immigrant.
Prior to 1999, all applicants for adjustment of status had to apply for Advance Parole from the DHS prior to travel, or their adjustment application (I-485) would be considered abandoned. On June 1, 1999, the DHS published an interim rule that allows persons who maintain H-1B status, and their dependents, to travel abroad and re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status while an application for adjustment of status is pending, without the need to first obtain “advance parole.”
A DHS memorandum dated May 16, 2000 states that an alien in H-1B status with a pending I-485 petition may re-enter in H status even after obtaining an EAD (Employment Authorization Document), provided that this EAD was not used to leave the petitioning employer listed on the approved H-1B petition and engage in employment for a separate employer.
Effective November 1, 2007, DHS removed the requirement that H visa holders who have filed for an adjustment of status (AOS) to permanent residence must present an original I-797 receipt upon returning to the U.S. Previously, an original I-797 receipt notice was required to avoid having the AOS application deemed abandoned. The DHS removed this requirement because of receipting delays at USCIS.
If the H-1B worker has both an approved advance parole document (I-512) and a valid H-1B visa, and has not violated the terms of the H-1B status, the worker may choose to either be “paroled” into the U.S., or be admitted in H-1B status.
Even if the worker has previously been “paroled” into the U.S., he/she may be readmitted in H-1B status provided he/she remains eligible for H-1B classification, has a valid H-1B visa, and proof of an approved H-1B petition.
For information on the advance parole, visit