Understanding the H-1B Visa

The H-1B is a Specialty Occupation work authorization visa with a cumulative maximum duration of 6 years.

The initial period of stay for those in H-1B status is three (3) years, with extensions available for up to three (3) years thereafter. Previous time spent in H (except H-4) or L (except L2) classifications count toward the available six-year H-1B period of stay.

If, however, the beneficiary has been physically absent from the U.S. for more than one (1) year, he/she/they are eligible for another six (6) years in H (or L) status. In other words, the six-year clock "restarts" if the beneficiary has remained outside of the U.S. for twelve (12) consecutive months.

SCSU is "cap-exempt."

Every year, USCIS issues no more than 65,000 general-category visas, and only 20,000 under the advanced-degree exception. Institutions of higher education (like SCSU), related nonprofit entities, and nonprofit government research organizations are exempt from this cap.

The sponsoring academic department for its faculty member's H-1B visa must confirm the duration of the position and that the department contains sufficient funds for the duration of the position.

The length of each petition is based on the length specified by the offer letter of employment or upon funds available for the position as confirmed by the hiring department. The dates given on the offer letter and reappointment letter(s), not the H-1B validity period, will determine the faculty member's length of employment at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). For more information on SCSU's H-1B process, please see Information for Hiring Departments.

The I-94 "admit until" date controls the beneficiary's period of stay in H-1B status.

Unlike F or J visas, which are granted admission D/S (Duration of Status), the H-1B has a set termination date for your period of stay in the U.S. The U.S. Immigration Service operates under the "Last Action Rule." Your "admit until" date will be controlled by the last-issued document:

  • Your I-797A Approval Notice, containing your new I-94; or
  • Your I-94 record from your most recent admission to the U.S. in H-1B status after travel abroad

The 240 Day Rule

If you are currently in H-1B status and need to change employers from a previous institution to SCSU, then your H-1B petition must be filed before you can begin work at SCSU as an H-1B due to the "240 Day Rule."

As long as your employer has filed an H-1B Extension petition before your currently H-1B expires, the beneficiary of the H-1B remains in a period of authorized stay and may continue to work for SCSU for 240 days after the current expiration date while USCIS adjudicates the extension.

H-4 dependents will likewise continue in valid status for 240 days if their I-539 extension is filed before the expiration of the current H-4 with restrictions on the dependent's ability to travel and re-enter the U.S.

Study while on H-1B status

You may enroll in classes during your time in H-1B status but it cannot interfere with your ability to perform the work-related duties listed on the H-1B petition.

H-4 dependent study may also take place during this time. Your spouse and children in H-4 dependent status may take classes as either full- or part-time students. Spouses may also be permitted to work under special circumstances.

H-4 Dependent Work Authorization

Effective May 26th, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants can file Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, if the H-1B non-immigrant:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).​

Basic Rules for Extensions and Amendments to the H-1B

  • Your amendment petition must be filed with USCIS before any changes occur. These changes must not take effect before the amendment petition is accepted by USCIS
  • Your extension petition must be filed with USCIS before the current petition end date
  • Your extension petition may be filed with USCIS up to six (6) months prior to the extended H-1B start date
  • The Office of International Education (OIE) needs a minimum of two (2) months before your current end-date to process any H-1B extension requests. We prefer 4-6 months in advance.


For more information on SCSU’s H-1B processes, please contact the OIE at oie@southernct.edu. Please note that the information on this webpage should not be construed as legal opinion or legal advice.