H-1B extension applications are taking longer than normal for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process.

Companies with H-1B employees who plan to extend their status should anticipate the longer processing times. According to BAL’s internal case tracking, applications for H-1B extensions of status are taking approximately seven months to process.

A USCIS spokesperson said the agency “is aware of the increase in H-1B processing times and is working closely with the service centers to achieve processing goals for the H-1B classification.”

Given the delays, employers and H-1B employees are encouraged to file extension of status petitions as soon as allowable – 180 days before a worker’s authorized stay expires. Early filing will increase the chances of receiving an extension of status before the H-1B worker’s authorized stay expires. The period of authorized stay appears on the I-94 that is issued when the individual last entered the U.S., which is available for download on CBP’s website, or on the I-94 attached to the last I-797 Approval Notice if there has been no international travel.

H-1B workers should be aware that while regulations allow them to continue working while awaiting an extension, they may face other restrictions if their current I-94 authorized stay expires. Under immigration regulations, an H-1B worker who has filed a timely application to extend status may continue to work for the same employer for up to 240 days past the expiration of their I-94. However, they should avoid international travel if their I-94 expires because they will not be able to return until their extension petition is approved. Another complication is that many states link the expiration of a driver’s license to the expiration date on the I-94, and some DMV offices do not observe the 240-day rule. Therefore, some H-1B workers whose I-94 expires while awaiting their extension of status are unable to renew their driver’s licenses.

BAL Analysis: Employers and H-1B employees should factor in additional processing time and prepare to file extension of status petitions six months before the expiration of the worker’s authorized stay. Premium processing is an option, but USCIS charges an additional $1,225 filing fee for this expedited service. BAL is tracking processing times and will update clients on further developments.

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