For nonimmigrant workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas, circumstances can always change. Since your immigration status is tied to a certain employer, it can be difficult to maintain H-1B status if you lose your job or want to change positions. Additionally, the H-1B system can be complex to navigate, and there is no guarantee you’ll be able to extend your visa or obtain a new H-1B in the future. If you’re having trouble with your H-1B status, or you’re just looking for something different on your immigration journey, you may consider changing your status to a B-1/B-2 travel visa. Some reasons why someone may consider changing their status from an H-1B visa to a travel visa include:
- Job Loss: If you lose your job, your H-1B visa status may become invalid and it can often be difficult to find a new employer right away. In such cases, you may want to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa to remain in the U.S. for a limited period while you look for a new job.
- Travel Purposes: H-1B visa holders are authorized to work in the U.S., while B-1/B-2 visa holders are not. If you want to remain in the U.S. temporarily for leisure or tourism purposes, the travel visa may be a better fit for you.
- Expiring H-1B Visa: If your H-1B visa is expiring and you have not been approved for an extension, you may apply for a travel visa to remain in the country temporarily while you explore other options.
- Change in Circumstances: If your circumstances have changed, you may want to apply for a change of status from H-1B to B-1/B-2 visa. For example, if you want to take a break from work and travel around the U.S., you can change your status to a B-1/B-2 visa.
If any of the above scenarios apply to you, we’ve put together some helpful information on how to change your status from an H-1B visa to a travel visa. In this guide, we’ll cover:
Applying for a B-1/B-2 visa is never a guarantee, but Boundless can help you file the strongest application possible. Our software assesses your risk of travel visa denial based on your specific situation and our experienced team helps you avoid common mistakes. Get started today!
Unsure about which immigration path is best for you? Answer a few simple questions to get started.
H-1B to Travel Visa Process
There are generally two options for how to change your status from an H-1B visa to a B visa:
OPTION 1: Apply for a Change of Status from Within the U.S. (Form I-539)
The most common way to change your status from an H-1B visa to a B1/B2 travel visa is to file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). Form I-539 is filed from within the U.S. and allows the applicant to remain in the country while their change of status is pending. If your application is approved, USCIS will issue a new Form I-94 indicating your new status as a B-1/B-2 visa holder.
Boundless has a separate guide on how to file Form I-539, including which documents to include, frequently asked questions about the process, and more.
OPTION 2: Apply for a B-1/B-2 Travel Visa From Outside the U.S.
A less common way to change your status from an H-1B to a travel visa is to leave the U.S. and file a travel visa application at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your home country. This may be a good option for individuals who have an expired or expiring H-1B visa or anyone who wishes to spend time in their home country before obtaining their travel visa in the U.S.
If you choose to go this route, you can learn more about the travel visa application, timeline, and requirements in Boundless’ guide.
H-1B to Travel Visa Timeline
The processing time to change status from an H-1B visa to a B1/B2 visa depends on the service center reviewing your Form I-539 application. For the most up to date estimate for your change of status visit USCIS’ processing times site.
H-1B to Travel Visa Cost
If you’re applying for a change of status from an H-1B to a B-1/B-2 visa with Form I-539, the current filing fee is $370. You may be required to attend a biometrics appointment during the process as well, which has a fee of $85.
If you choose to leave the U.S. and apply for a travel visa at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your home country, the government filing fee is $160.
H-1B to Travel Visa FAQs
Can I continue to work in the U.S. while my change of status is pending?
Yes. As long as you still have a valid H-1B visa, it is possible to continue working in the U.S. while your change of status to a travel visa is pending. However, once your Form I-539 is approved and you are officially on a B visa, you must stop all employment activities and abide by the requirements of your new nonimmigrant status.
What if my H-1B visa expires or I lose my job before my change of status is approved?
If you filed for a change of status before the expiration date of your H-1B visa, you’re generally allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 240 days while your I-539 application is pending.
If you lose your job while waiting for your B status to be approved, you are also generally granted a grace period to remain in the U.S. You’ll maintain lawful status while your application is processing. If your change of status request is denied, you will have 30 days to leave the country, after which you will be considered to be in the U.S. “unlawfully.” You can learn more about how to navigate job loss while on a work visa in Boundless’ detailed guide.
Can I search for a new job once I’m on a B-1/B-2 visa?
Yes! Once your change of status is approved and you are a B-1/B-2 visa holder, it is possible to search for a new job or new employer willing to sponsor you for another work visa in the U.S. USCIS recently published guidance confirming that searching for employment and interviewing for new positions in the U.S. are permissible activities for B visa holders.