The government makes available annually 65,000 H-1B nonimmigrant visas in its fiscal year. The Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) set aside 6,800 H-1B nonimmigrant visas (1,400 to Chilean citizens and 5,400 to Singaporean citizens) which count against the overall 65,000 cap annually. The H-1B Reform Act of 2004 created an additional 20,000 H-1B nonimmigrant visas for foreign nationals who have earned a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.
The maximum period of authorized stay in the United States in H-1B nonimmigrant status is six (6) years, issued in maximum increments of three (3) years at a time. A foreign national who has been present in the United States for six (6) years as an H-1B nonimmigrant is prohibited from obtaining or extending his H-1B nonimmigrant status until he has resided outside of the United States for one (1) year. There are two (2) notable exceptions to this six (6) year limitation period. First, if a Labor Certification Application has been pending with the USDOL for more than one (1) year, the H-1B nonimmigrant visa / status can be extended after the sixth (6th) year in one (1) year increments until the Labor Certification is approved or withdrawn. Second, H-1B nonimmigrant status can also be extended beyond the six (6) year maximum in three (3) year increments for a foreign national whose I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, has been approved by USCIS but who is unable to obtain permanent residence because of immigrant visa (i.e., Green Card) number unavailability.