Brief Visits to U.S. Do Not Interrupt Year Abroad Needed for Additional H1B Time

The USCIS Service Center Operations (SCOPS) recently addressed a question regarding the ability to obtain eligibility for an additional six years of H1B time after spending one year abroad. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) requested clarification regarding brief trips to the U.S. during the one year abroad. The USCIS confirmed to AILA on March 17, 2010, allowing short trips to the United States during the required one-year timeframe, without restarting the one-year clock requirement.

Background: H1B Six-Year Limit

As many MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers know, H1B workers have a general limit of six years of time in H1B status. This may be extended, based upon the filing of a qualifying employment-based permanent residence (green card) case. Alternatively, individuals who reside outside the United States for one year become eligible for a full six-years of H1B time. The latter cases are subject to the H1B annual limit or “cap.”

Brief Trips to U.S. Do Not Reset the H1B Clock

The USCIS was asked to clarify the application of the one-year-abroad requirement in situations in which the foreign national travels briefly to the United States for business or pleasure. The USCIS confirmed that such trips do not interrupt the requirement to reside and be physically outside of the U.S. for one year. The time spent in the U.S. on these brief trips does not count toward the one year; however, the clock does not reset as the result of such a trip.

What this means is that, if an individual leaves the United States for six months and returns for a two-week visit in B-1/B-2 status, s/he would not restart the H1B clock for purposes of spending one year abroad. However, the individual could not count the two weeks spent in the U.S. toward the one year. Thus, the time when s/he would become eligible for another six years of H1B time would be pushed back by two weeks, in this example.

Longer Stays Will Pose Problems

The USCIS stated that stays in the U.S. that are not within the brief trip for business or pleasure category may cause the clock to reset. This would mean that the individual would have to start counting the year abroad from the point of his/her most recent departure from the United States. The USCIS did not give any indication of the permitted length of such trips.


It is helpful to have this confirmation of the one-year-abroad requirement for a foreign national to become eligible for another six years of H1B status, as well as the USCIS’s interpretation of brief visits. This is not a change in the rules, it is simply a confirmation that the USCIS is adhering to existing policy regarding visits to the United States while resetting the H1B clock.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.