Bombshell news rocked the H-1B community in the waning hours of 2017, as rumors swirled that the Trump administration is looking for ways to end “7th year extensions” for H-1B visa holders. Under the law, H-1B status is limited to six years in the U.S. After that, the person must leave the U.S. for at least one year, and is then subject to the H-1B cap once again. However, if you have an approved I-140 immigrant worker petition – or you have a labor certification or standalone I-140 that has been pending for at least one year – you are no longer subject to the six year limit. It is estimated that at least 500,000 persons are currently working under these so-called “7th year extensions.” By definition, such persons are experienced and highly skilled workers in fields such as information technology, medicine, academics, and engineering.
The vast majority of persons with “7th year extensions” are from India, with a lesser number from China. This is because of the per-nation quotas on green cards. Waiting times for green cards for Indian workers are on the order of 10 to 20 years.
Seventh year extensions are part of the statute known as the “American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act” or AC21. This is not a mere policy or regulation. Only Congress can change the statute itself. However, one provision of this Act says that DHS “may” grant 7th year extensions. According to press reports, the Trump Administration is considering interpreting this provision as discretionary rather than mandatory. This interpretation would be very unpopular and would certainly lead to extensive court battles.
Seventh year extensions are still part of the law and are not likely to change anytime soon. However, along with the proposal to abolish H-4 EADs, this is another clear sign of the Trump administration’s hostility to all foreign workers in the United States.
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