What exactly is an H-1B transfer?
It’s a type of H-1B petition, submitted by a company to sponsor a new employee who is working for another company on an H-1B. The petition itself is not shorter, easier, or in any way less work than any other H-1B lottery or extension petition. The only difference is that the employee may begin work when USCIS receives the petition, rather than being forced to wait until the approval.
How long should I expect an H-1B transfer to take?
For companies with established processes, 6 weeks (10 weeks if there is an RFE), broken down as follows (we are assuming you are waiting for the approval to jump ship, as discussed here)
You accept the offer: This should trigger the company to file the LCA within a day. Why? Law firms really need only three pieces of information to do so: 1) Job title, 2) Worksite address(es), 3) Salary. They likely already had this to evaluate your case. A certified LCA takes 7-10 days to process, but only about 20 minutes to submit. Since a certified LCA must be included in the H-1B transfer, it makes sense to start with this on Day 1 and work on the rest while it is pending. The best programs have this system down.
While LCA is pending: The law firm should be collecting all of your information and information about your role, and drafting the paperwork. The information should be very detailed to combat the extra scrutiny all H-1B’s are getting. As such, it may take some more time to collect it all. I’d budget 3 weeks to collect and draft and file the application paperwork.
USCIS premium processing: They usually take up to 2 weeks to make a decision. Sometimes, they will issue a Request for Evidence. If that happens:
Request for Evidence: Add about 4 weeks – 2 weeks to process the response and 2 weeks for the government to make a decision.
The official approval notice: It’s best to wait for this to start working. It takes less than 1 week to receive this after approval
H-1B transfers and I-140’s – what is the lowdown here?
Ok, this is very important. Remember these two rules:
- When your employer’s I-140 is approved, you get a priority date (a spot in the long green card line) that you can take with you to your future employers even if the employer withdrew the I-140 (assuming they withdrew it more than 180 days after it was approved)
Do all companies withdraw I-140’s? Absolutely not. But many do, and some even take the position based on advice from their (uber-conservative) counsel that they are required to do so once you leave the company! This is wrong – there is no such requirement. Find out if your employer has a policy to withdraw I-140’s. If so, don’t leave them for at least 180 days after the I-140 is approved!
- When your employer’s I-140 is approved, you can extend your H-1B in three-year increments under a rule called AC-21 until you come to the front of the green card line, but unlike above, you can only do this with the employer that sponsored the I-140.
This is why many companies have an explicit policy not to hire H-1B transfers that have less than two years on an H-1B and no approved I-140. There is not enough time to get them a new I-140 approval and extend their H-1B for years 7-10.
Got a specific question or want more tips? Ask Sameer, who is available for video chat consultations via Google Hangouts or WhatsApp. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sameer Khedekar has been named one of the Top 20 Immigration Attorneys in the Nation by HR Executive Magazine. He has managed corporate client relationships since 2003 and is now focusing his efforts on serving the nation’s high-skilled immigrant population as the Founder and CEO of Banyan. Learn more at www.banyan.law.