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Thread: H1B Renewal Extreme Confusion please help

  1. #1
    Can anyone help me clarify some of this confusion? I think I may have unwittingly damaged my chances of renewal... I received my H1B visa in October 2003, and used the Premium Processing route. The Visa laminated in my (British) passport was printed as valid November 2003 - October 2004. I travelled to the US mid-November 2003 and began work for my H1B sponsor. I was always aware of the expiration of my visa, and began researching the renewal procedure as I estimated that I would want to continue working for more than the year of validity stated in my Visa. Upon researching this, I found two things initally. One that I couldn't renew my Visa in the US as I had initially thought, due to the collection of biometric data etc. and two, that although my Visa may state that it expires, I was still legally allowed to continue working for my sponsor, and would only need to renew my Visa if I was planning to travel out of the country.

    As I had no plans to travel out of the country I continued to work. I have just returned to the UK (July 28, 2005, the first time in 20 months) for a family wedding, and booked an interview at the US Embassy in London to renew my Visa before I was set to return to work in the US, August 14. At the interview, I was told that my I797 had expired so I couldn't renew my Visa. I didn't realise I had to renew this document seperately from my Visa, and hadn't found any reference to doing so in any of the research I had done prior to leaving the US. Additionally, when speaking with the Embassy before my interview, I was assured that renewing my visa was "very simple" as I had already been approved once. The Embassy suggested that I contact INS in Texas and speak to them. They are now suggesting that because the I797 has expired, that I, and my employer have been "red flagged", and that I was working illegally. If I had had any idea that this would have been the case I would have immediately done something to rectify it, I had absolutely no intention of working or staying in the US illegally as I am fully aware of the consequences. I am now being told that I can re-apply for my Visa by filing the I129 again, paying the Premium Processing again, but even if it is issued, and my Visa is subsequently issued, I may not make it through immigration. This is devastating news, as I love my job, and by not being allowed re-entry am haveing a negative effect on the day to day operation of my sponsor in the US. If I had known this would have happened I would have stayed in the US and worked it out before leaving, or not left at all. I am only planning to stay another year in the US before returning to the UK permanently.

    Can anyone shed any light on my situation? As I understood, my Visa is issued for a year, withing that year I am free to travel in and out of the US legally. After that year, I can continue to work in the US without renewing my visa, but if I wish to leave, I will have to renew my Visa. I asked this question to the Embasssy official, and he confirmed this was correct. I am therefore confused as to what I have done wrong.

    Please help, this was never meant to happen, and now I fear I have permanently affected my relations with the US.

    Thank you in anticipation.

  2. #2
    Can anyone help me clarify some of this confusion? I think I may have unwittingly damaged my chances of renewal... I received my H1B visa in October 2003, and used the Premium Processing route. The Visa laminated in my (British) passport was printed as valid November 2003 - October 2004. I travelled to the US mid-November 2003 and began work for my H1B sponsor. I was always aware of the expiration of my visa, and began researching the renewal procedure as I estimated that I would want to continue working for more than the year of validity stated in my Visa. Upon researching this, I found two things initally. One that I couldn't renew my Visa in the US as I had initially thought, due to the collection of biometric data etc. and two, that although my Visa may state that it expires, I was still legally allowed to continue working for my sponsor, and would only need to renew my Visa if I was planning to travel out of the country.

    As I had no plans to travel out of the country I continued to work. I have just returned to the UK (July 28, 2005, the first time in 20 months) for a family wedding, and booked an interview at the US Embassy in London to renew my Visa before I was set to return to work in the US, August 14. At the interview, I was told that my I797 had expired so I couldn't renew my Visa. I didn't realise I had to renew this document seperately from my Visa, and hadn't found any reference to doing so in any of the research I had done prior to leaving the US. Additionally, when speaking with the Embassy before my interview, I was assured that renewing my visa was "very simple" as I had already been approved once. The Embassy suggested that I contact INS in Texas and speak to them. They are now suggesting that because the I797 has expired, that I, and my employer have been "red flagged", and that I was working illegally. If I had had any idea that this would have been the case I would have immediately done something to rectify it, I had absolutely no intention of working or staying in the US illegally as I am fully aware of the consequences. I am now being told that I can re-apply for my Visa by filing the I129 again, paying the Premium Processing again, but even if it is issued, and my Visa is subsequently issued, I may not make it through immigration. This is devastating news, as I love my job, and by not being allowed re-entry am haveing a negative effect on the day to day operation of my sponsor in the US. If I had known this would have happened I would have stayed in the US and worked it out before leaving, or not left at all. I am only planning to stay another year in the US before returning to the UK permanently.

    Can anyone shed any light on my situation? As I understood, my Visa is issued for a year, withing that year I am free to travel in and out of the US legally. After that year, I can continue to work in the US without renewing my visa, but if I wish to leave, I will have to renew my Visa. I asked this question to the Embasssy official, and he confirmed this was correct. I am therefore confused as to what I have done wrong.

    Please help, this was never meant to happen, and now I fear I have permanently affected my relations with the US.

    Thank you in anticipation.

  3. #3
    I strongly suggest you contact an immigration attorney immediately. You will have to file and petition. Do not delay. The Embassy staff have the power of a judge, so be afraid. This can be remedied, but you need professiional help. I can recommend Henry Chang in Toronto. He helped my parents with a similar issue.

  4. #4
    I don't doubt that this is a good idea, but I don't know if I have the time or the money to do this. The company I have been working for in the US is a nonprofit organisation, and even the standard application costs are not easy for them to pay. Adding a lawyer will obviously make this much more expensive. Between myself and this forum, I worked out my initial application, which was approved successfully, which is why I return to ILW.com to help me further. I appreciate you taking the time to reply "properob", and I'm sure your suggestion is an informed one, but can anybody suggest anything I can do, or reassure me that my situation is perhaps not has severe as it could possibly be.

    I spoke to the US Embassy in London since my first post about the "red flagging", and they assured me that I had done nothing wrong, and would just need to re-apply to obtain a new I797. They did remind me that ultimately my entry into the US was governed by INS at the port of entry, but again that I had done nothing wrong in staying 20 months before leaving the country to renew. So, right now, I am in the process of re-applying, and filling out the I-129 as the US Embassy advised. Is it best to still treat this as a renewal, as I will be returning to the same company upon approval, or should I treat it as a new petition?

    There is one other question that has come to my attention since researching all of this, which is, should I have renewed my I94 whilst in the US? Again, I didn't think it was possible to do this.

    Thanks again in anticipation...

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