H1B Visa Transfer - The Complete Guide
The H1B visa transfer process offers an opportunity for current H1B visa holders to change employers. Processes apply only to current visa holders, and are not subject to the annual 65,000 cap (which normally limits the number of visas approved in the United States).10 min read
When applying for an H1B transfer (also known as the H1B COE), it’s important to understand your chance of success. In 2021, the rate of denial for H1B Transfer applications was only 17%.
Can You Transfer an H1B Visa to a New Employer?
Yes, it is possible to transfer an H1B visa to a new employer, and without permission from the former employer.
The new employer must file a Labor Certification Application with the Department of Labour. Then they can file for a new H1B petition on behalf of the employee to complete the transfer. The new employer must file the new petition and submit a USCIS petition letter prior to the expiry of the current H1B visa.
The new employer should present certain supporting documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as:
- An employment offer letter including the employment start date
- A copy of the applicant’s degree and other applicable educational supports
- An updated resume
This guide will help H1B changing employers and will help you determine the best course of action going forward so you can maximize your chances of being successful. Consider hiring an experienced work visa attorney to teach you the ins and outs of the H1B transfer process.
Process of H1B Visa Transfer (step by step)
The process of H1B visa transfer includes the following steps.
- Filing a Labour Condition Application
- Submitting the necessary documents
- Sending a USCIS petition letter
Here’s what the H1B transfer process encompasses step by step.
Step 1: Submit Form G-28
For a successful submission, the employer's immigration attorney needs to submit Form G-28 with an official signature from the new employer and detailed information in all sections of said form.
This will allow representation of a client by the concerned H1B lawyer with regard to various cases at the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Step 2: Get an employment offer
You’ll then need to get a job offer letter from the new employer that you’re transferring your H1B visa to. The USCIS will deny the transfer without an official job offer that proves eventual employment status.
Step 3: File a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor
Employers must apply to receive the Labor Condition Application (LCA) by filling out Form ETA9035E. This is one of many H1B transfer requirements to hire foreign workers and guarantees fair treatment of individuals traveling from abroad for work and fair compensation during their tenure.
The LCA is also an official agreement outlining that the new employer is, in fact, allowed to hire foreign workers. Once the Department of Labor approves the application, employers and applicants may continue the H1B visa transfer process.
Step 4: File Form I-129
Filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) is an important step in the process, because it permits the new employer to hire foreign workers. The USCIS will either approve or deny the form (see their page here).
During processing, the new employer and prospective employee receive confirmation numbers. Once the USCIS approves Form I-129, they will send Form I-797 for completion, which shows that the employee can legally work in the United States, as well as Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).
Step 5: Employer-paid fees
The new employer must pay the following applicable fees.
|H1B transfer fee||Amount|
|Basic filing fee for Form I-129||$460|
|The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) Fee||
$750 for employers with less than 25 full time employees
$1,500 for employers with more than 25 full time employees
|Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee||$500 per foreign worker|
|The Public Law Fee||
Note: Applicable for employers that have more than 50 employees and 50 percent of them are on H1B visas.
|Premium Processing Fees||
Note: This premium processing fee is the only fee paid by the applicant and not the employer.
Step 6: Submit required documents
The new employer must submit several necessary documents for the visa to be successful, which we’ll go over in the next section.
Documents for an H1B Visa Transfer
Submit copies of the following documents for H1B transfer to the USCIS processing center:
- Employment offer letter
- Current H1B visa
- Social Security Card
- Form I-797
- Form I-94
- Degree or educational certificates
- Recent pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Applicable federal or state professional licenses
During the process of H1B transfer, you or your new employer are not required to file the DS-160 form, as you’ve already been through the H1B visa process before. Just ensure that the current H1B visa is valid, as this is a requirement for the transfer. If your current H1B visa expires, you’ll need to restart the entire process from the beginning.
H1B Visa Holder Documents for Transfer
Here are some tips regarding each required document that the H1B principal visa holder has to submit for transfer.
|Employment offer letter||In order to complete the transfer, employers must submit an official letter of employment to verify that there’s a position available for the worker.|
|Passport||Submit a copy of the applicant’s valid passport.|
|Current H1B visa||Submit a copy of the current H1B visa. If it’s expired, the employer will need to begin the visa process from the beginning.|
|Social security card||Submit a copy of the applicant’s social security card.|
|Form I-797||The USCIS issues Form I-797 (Notice of Action) to communicate a receipt or approval of an application or petition.|
|Form I-94||Form I-94 functions as proof of an arrival and departure, proving that the foreign worker arrived in the country legally.|
|Degree or educational certificates||Submit any and all completed advanced education degrees, certificates, training records, and other educational supports demonstrating an applicant’s qualifications for the role.|
|Pay stubs||Submit pay stubs from the previous or current United States employer to prove that the transfer applicant’s employment in the United States.|
|Tax returns||Like pay stubs, submit tax returns to show that the applicant works in the United States.|
|Resume||Submit a current resume depicting the applicant's relevant experience for the position that the employee is transferring to.|
|Applicable federal or state professional licenses||Submit professional licenses which substantiate that the employee is legally allowed to work in the respective field.|
US Employer Documents for Transfer
US Employers must submit the following supporting documents as part of the transfer process to substantiate the legitimacy of both the business and the role. It also helps show that the company is in good legal standing with the United States government.
- Company financial statements
- Annual reports
- A business plan
- Job details, including the length of the position and salary, as well as the responsibilities and description
Required Documentation for Spouse and Minor (H-4 Visa)
The H-4 visa is for spouses and unmarried children under 21 entering the United States at the same time as the worker and visa holder.
Spouses and children will submit the following documentation:
- A receipt of application fee
- An interview appointment letter
- A passport and two passport-sized photographs
- A marriage certificate or birth certificate
- A copy of the worker’s H1B visa application
- A copy of the worker’s Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
- A copy of the worker’s passport
- A copy of the worker’s letter of employment
Using the H-4 visa has many benefits, including:
- The ability to study in the United States
- Entry into the country without having to go through lengthier processes
- Free travel in and outside of the United States
- Obtaining an employment authorization document to work in the United States
H1B Transfer Premium Processing
An H1B visa holder can use premium processing to speed up the transfer process and request that the USCIS provide a decision within 15 calendar days.
Premium processing is only available to those with an approved H1B visa since the cap no longer applies. The cap limits successful H1B visa applicants to 65,000 annually.
It’s important to recognize that premium processing does not guarantee approval of the visa. It simply expedites the process.
H1B Transfer Timeline
The H1B processing time is approximately 1 to 4 months. However, a processing time can vary based on the processing center and method. You can pay a premium processing fee to speed up the processing time and receive a decision from the USCIS within 15 calendar days.
Note that incomplete applications or ones with errors can delay decision making. It’s best to ensure your H1B visa application is complete at the time of submission. Consider hiring an H1B visa immigration attorney to ensure the highest chances of success in your application.
Learn more about checking your H1B visa status.
H1B Transfer Cost
The total H1B visa transfer cost is between $1,710 to $6,460. This cost can vary depending on the type of employer applying.
Additional costs will apply if your employer hires a lawyer. On average, H1B attorney visa costs can be $2,500. However, depending on the law firm, this number will increase or decrease.
H1B Visa Transfer Fee (USCIS)
Below is breakdown of H1B transfer fees paid to the USCIS.
|H1B transfer fee (USCIS)||Amount||Reason for Fee|
|American Competitive and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee||$750 or $1,500||
Employers with less than 25 full-time employees must pay a fee of $750 and employers with more than 25 full-time employees must pay a fee of $1,500.
Employers must pay these fees (rather than the foreign workers), as the USCIS considers it offset against the wages.
|Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee||$500||
Employers hiring a foreign worker under the H1B nonimmigrant visa status, or employers looking for current US foreign workers to transfer to their place of work, must pay this fee.
Employers should pay this fee by check or money order.
|Public Law Fee 114-113||$4000||
Employers with over 50 employees, of which 50% or more hold the H1B visa, must pay this fee.
Employers should pay this fee by check or money order.
|Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee||$150||This fee is only applicable to employers filing under the H2B visa.|
H1B Visa Attorney Fee
The cost of an H1B visa attorney is approximately $2,500. You’ll likely find it beneficial to hire an H1B work attorney to ensure proper application completion. Attorney fees are also generally covered by the employer, not the foreign employee.
How will an H1B lawyer help you?
- They ensure accuracy and compliance for H1B visa applications or transfer applications.
- They’ll help you manage your expectations since the lawyer is well-versed in the process.
- They help with other aspects of the H1B process, including conducting the initial H1B registration, following up on H1B visa lottery results, obtaining an accurate and in depth description of jobs and salaries, completing the petition, managing required supporting documents, and responding to any USCIS requests.
Working with an attorney is an investment for your future and can streamline the process.
H1B Transfer Cost to Employer
The total H1B visa costs for employers is between $1,710 to $6,460. Employers must pay all H1B visa transfer fees, except the premium processing fee, an optional fee. Foreign workers will need to pay the premium processing fee if they’d like to receive a quicker decision from the USCIS.
H1B Visa Extension
The H1B visa is valid for a total of 6 years with an H1B visa extension.
The initial period of stay is 3 years. You can request an extension of an additional 3 years afterwards. An H1B extension processing time takes 15 days.
After a worker completes 6 years in the United States, which includes the 3-year extension, they may be eligible to renew their H1B visa status. The best part? Renewals are not cap-subject.
The H1B renewal processing time can take up to 8 months to complete. Applicants do have the option to pay for premium processing, which will speed up a decision to 15 calendar days.
Visa holders should also be aware of H1B visa stamping (also referred to as dropbox), available to those looking to renew their visas. This process involves getting a visa stamp on your passport, so you don’t have to attend an in-person interview. In this regard, a visa stamp is important.
Check out more information on H1B dropbox eligibility.
Reasons for H1B Transfer Denial
Here are some possible reasons the USCIS denied your H1B transfer.
- Your employer could not meet the requirements of the visa. Employers must meet certain standards and submit completing supplementary documentation. If they don’t follow the guidelines outlined by the USCIS, it can impact a foreign worker’s chance to obtain an H1B visa.
- The USCIS did not receive proof of the relationship between the employer and the employee. This generally means that the employer failed to submit an official job offer as part of the application, or did not provide sufficient proof of an employer and employee relationship.
- The employer could not pay a fair salary. One of the application’s requirements is to provide a fair and equitable salary, comparable to the similar positions according to labor standards regulations. Not meeting salary requirements can cause the application to be automatically denied.
- The employee could not prove that the job offered is a specialty occupation. One crucial requirement for approval is being able to show evidence that a foreign worker can provide knowledge for a specialized field of work. This proof generally includes a job description, resume, and experience letter from previous employers.
- The employer did not pay the correct fees. All employers must pay respective fees for approval (not including the premium processing fee, paid by the applicant).
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FAQs about H1B Visa Transfer
When will I get my H1B receipt number?
You’ll receive a USCIS receipt number around 1 to 3 weeks by email.
Can I transfer an Academic H1B to Industry H1B?
H1B transfer guidelines do not allow individuals to switch directly from academia to industry positions. Instead, you’ll have to re-enter through the lottery.
Can I do a H1B transfer after my I-94 expires?
You can file for an H1B visa transfer, even after I-94 expires.
Do I need permission from my previous employer?
No, you don’t need permission from your previous employer to seek an H1B transfer.
Can I work for two employers on an H1B?
Yes, an H1B visa holder may work for more than one employer. However, foreign workers must submit a concurrent H1B application.
Can I change employers after the H1B lottery?
Foreign workers can change employers after the H1B visa lottery by going through the transfer process.
When can I start working after the H1B transfer?
You can start working immediately after obtaining a successful H1B transfer decision.
How many times can you do a H1B Transfer?
There’s no limit on the number of times you can transfer your H1B visa.
How do you know if a H1B transfer is approved?
Both the employer and the employee will receive a USCIS receipt number during the transfer process. Both parties can use this number to check if the USCIS approves or denies the H1B transfer.
Can I have my H1B transfer without a visa stamp?
Yes, it’s possible to have your H1B transfer without an H1B visa stamp, but only if the USCIS approved the transfer alongside the I-94 number.
If you need help with H1B Visa Transfer, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb