Recapturing Unused Time

Generally, the maximum period of time an alien can remain in the United States under H1B status is six years. Following the expiration of their H1B status, aliens aren’t eligible for readmission into the U.S. by way of a new H1B visa unless they’ve lived outside of the country for at least one year.

However, what if one spends time outside the U.S. for trips and vacations while under valid H1B status and does not get the full benefit of 6 years of maximum stay?

The law provides that during one’s H1B status, only time spent physically inside the United States counts towards the maximum H1B period of stay. Thus, when an alien requests an extension of H1B status, he or she can also “request that full days spent outside the U.S. during the period of petition validity be recaptured and added back to his or her total maximum period of stay.” A full day in this case is defined as 24 hours, and the reason for the alien’s travel is not relevant to an extension petition. Any trip of at least one 24-hour day outside of the country, for any purpose, whether it is business or pleasure, is eligible to be recaptured.

You should keep in mind that your days spent abroad are not automatically recaptured when you submit your H1B extension petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The burden of proving your time abroad is on you, and you must submit independent documentary evidence that you were in fact physically outside of the United States for the time you are seeking to recapture.

If your petition to recapture time spent abroad is approved, your H1B dependents are also eligible to recapture any time that you did.