Generally, the H-1B can only be extended to 6 years. Once the maximum of 6 years is reached, the H-1B alien has to leave the U.S. for at least 1 year to obtain a new H-1B status. However, under AC21 Act, some H-1Bs are eligible to extend H-1B beyond six years.
Who is eligible to extend H-1B beyond six years?
There are two situations that you may extend your H-1B beyond six years:
Situation one: If you have a labor certification (such as PERM) case or I-140 case is filed 365 days prior you reach the six-year H-1b limitation, AND, the immigration case is still pending (either PERM, I-140 or I-485), you will be eligible to extend your H-1B on an annual basis beyond six year. You may extend so for many years until your case come to an end (denial or final approval of green card).
Situation two: If you have an I-140 (either EB-1, NIW or after PERM I-140) case approved prior the six-year limitation (regardless the filing date for I-140 or PERM), if you can not file I-485 because of the immigration visa is not available to you (like the current visa bulletin), you will be eligible to extend your H-1b until your case comes to an end (final approval of green card or denial). You can request for three years extension each time (rather than one year in situation one).
On both above situations, your H-1B employer is not necessary to be your I-140 sponsor if you are in PERM path to green card and your PERM employer is willing to continue to sponsor your immigration petition. However, you need to come back to work for your PERM employer either during I-485 or after your green card is approved.
For more information on H-1B, please refer to the following links:
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H-1B Dependent Employer
Recent Development for H-1B CAP
H-1B Status in I-485 Pending Period
H-1B Seventh Year Extension
New Guidance on H-1B for Nurses
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Frequently Asked Questions about H-1B
Advanced Issues on H-1B (1)
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