October 1 marked the beginning of the federal fiscal year and the date on which those waiting to start employment in the U.S. based on new H-1B petitions can begin work. Since many H-1B visa holders may be returning from a trip abroad and entering the U.S. in new visa status, now is a good time to review the rules regarding entry for the full validity period.  

Foreign nationals entering the U.S. with new or renewed work-related visas are issued upon entry a stamp in their passport that normally matches the petition validity dates listed on the USCIS I-797 notice approving the petition filed on that individual’s behalf. While typically the individual is admitted until the expiration date of the approval notice, also known as the Petition Expiration Date (PED), sometimes the foreign national receives shorter periods of admission. In some instances, this is a result of CBP error:  the CBP officer mistakenly admits the individual until the expiration date of the visa rather than the PED. In other instances, CBP admits the person only for as long as the passport is valid – as the regulations require – even though the PED is much later. The worst case scenario is when the foreign national’s passport is not valid for at least six months from the admission date.  In these instances, CBP will refuse entry.  Other issues confront those seeking entry in TN, E-3 or Chilean/Singaporean H-1B1 status. These workers often do not possess an I-797 approval notice and therefore no PED.  Such employees should travel with a job offer letter that clearly states the period of employment dates.  

What can an individual do to correct an entry admission error? Mistakes made by a CBP officer can be corrected at a port of entry or at a CBP office at an international airport. Fixing other problems often requires traveling and re-entering the country.  Clients who travel abroad should take care to ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months and double check the entry period noted in the passport upon admission. Clients are reminded that it is the admission stamp in the passport not the PED that controls the individual’s authorized period of admission.