A foreign national worker is limited to a maximum duration of six years in H1B status. The law, however, provides a few exemptions to this general rule. An individual may qualify to extend status in one- or three-year increments beyond the statutory six-year limits under certain circumstances. Understanding these exceptions is critical to ensuring that the foreign national worker is able to maximize his stay in the US in H-1B status while the green card application is pending.
The general rule that allows for extensions beyond the six-year maximum in one-year increments requires the initial filing of an employment-based green card application (also known as the labor certification) at least 365 days prior to the expiration of the six year H-1B period. In those cases that do not require a labor certification, the I-140 immigrant petition must be filed at least 365 days prior to the expiration of the six-year H-1B term.
The H-1B can also be extended in three-year increments beyond the statutory six-year limit if the H1B petitioner can establish that the beneficiary has an approved I-140 petition, and that an immigrant visa number is not immediately available as indicated on the final action chart (i.e., Chart A) of the U.S. Department of State visa bulletin.