Instructions for Submitting the H-1B Extension Application

Background Information

The H-1B extension application and instructions should be used only by those who are currently in H-1B status AND currently employed by Columbia University.

Those in H-1B status are allowed to stay a total of six years* in H status but will be approved for a maximum of only three years at a time. The earliest a petition to extend H-1 status can be filed is six months in advance of the expiration of the current approved petition. Departments are advised to apply for the extension early as processing time by USCIS cannot be predicted or guaranteed. There is no easy short-cut for an extension—the petition for H-1 extension is basically the same as the original, except that documentation relating to other previously held non-immigrant status(es) does not need to be included, and all prior H-1 approval notices (form I-797) should be included.

Dependents in H-4 status must have their status extended as well. An additional form I-539 and fee must be included with the extension petition.

If a timely extension is filed (i.e. before the expiration of the current status), regulations allow individuals in H-1 status to continue to work for the same employer for up to 240 days while the extension petition is pending at USCIS. A new I-9 form must also be completed in the department in order for the H-1 holder to continue.

Applications for H-1B status must be made 3 to 6 months in advance of the intended start date to ensure timely processing of the request. Those in H-1B status may travel abroad after the extension has been filed with DHS but must return before the current H1B expires or wait abroad for the extension to be approved. The approval notice can be sent to the applicant to obtain a new visa with which to return to the U.S.

*An exception to the 6-year limitation applies to individuals who have part of an employment-based application for permanent residency (labor certification, I-140, or I-485) pending at least 365 days by the end of the sixth year.

For the H-1 applicant:

You must be in the United States when the application is submitted to the USCIS. If you plan to travel outside the U.S., you must notify the ISSO so that an advisor can determine when the application should be submitted without jeopardizing your immigration status. If you are currently employed in H-1B1 status at Columbia University, you must submit the following documents to your department as part of the H-1B extension application. The department will forward the complete application to the ISSO.

  1. Complete the Data Sheet for H-1B Applicant.

  2. Provide three copies of your C.V., including a list of publications.

  3. Provide three copies of certified diplomas and certified transcripts in the original language. Provide three copies of certified translations of diplomas and transcripts if the original language is not English. Copies can be certified by signing the Certification of Documents statement. Translations must be certified by an official translator. If the degree does not appear to be equivalent to a comparable U.S. degree, it must be evaluated by an outside agency to determine U.S. equivalency. Two reputable firms to contact are Trustforte Corp or Morningside Evaluations. These firms can also translate your documents.

  4. Three copies of passport ID page with identity and dates of validity. The passport must be valid for at least six months after the requested extension start date.

  5. Please attach:
    1. three copies of all previous I-797 H-1 approval notices and
    2. three copies of all United States visas in the passport.
    Copies can be certified by the applicant signing the Certification of Documents statement. One statement is good for all copied documents.

  6. Attach three copies of both sides of your I-94 card (white card stapled in passport). Please copy both sides of the I-94 card onto one side of paper. If your last entry was after May 1, 2013, you must go to the electronic I-94 web site at to print out your most recent I-94 Admission Record and make three copies of this print out.

  7. Attach 3 copies of your most recent W-2 form and 3 copies of each pay statement for the last 3 months of employment.

  8. Any dependent (spouse and/or children) who is applying for a change of status or extension must complete and sign USCIS form I-539, which may be downloaded from the I-539 section of the USCIS web site. Please note that the name of the applicant in Part 1 is that of the dependent. If there is more than one dependent, list them on the Supplement -1 of the form (page 10). The form I-539 requires a fee of $290 payable to Department of Homeland Security. Include 2 copies of each dependent's I-94 card (if the last entry was after May 1, 2013, go to the electronic I-94 web site at to print out the most recent I-94 Admission Record and make two copies of this print out), visa stamp and passport ID pages, showing identity and expiration date. If the dependents are in F-2 or J-2 status, please include 2 copies of all I-20's or DS-2019's issued to them. Also include 2 copies of either a marriage certificate (spouse) or birth certificate (child) to prove the familial relationship. If a dependent has been issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards), please include 2 copies of each card issued.

  9. If there are any substantive changes in your Columbia University employment, such as a new location, different duties, or changes in the source or amount of funding, contact the ISSO. It may be necessary to file an amended H-1B petition.

  10. Extensions beyond the sixth year may be requested for a year at a time, if eligible. Include all of the above, plus documentary evidence of a labor certification, an I-140, or an I-485 that has been pending at least 365 days by the end of the sixth year.

For the department:

When submitting the application to the ISSO, please be sure to include the information provided by the applicant. Please submit a complete application only. The ISSO cannot be responsible for collecting any missing documents needed to submit the H-1B application.

  1. Attach original offer letter. If there have been substantial changes, a new offer letter should be given to the employee and also submitted with the H-1B extension.

  2. Submit updated letter plus 2 copies from the sponsor to reflect continued employment. This letter must be quite detailed and include certain items. You may use the teaching sample letter or research sample letter as a guide. Please be sure to include the degree and area of specialization required for the position, especially if the employment is not a teaching position.

  3. Print on department letterhead the Certification Regarding the Release of Controlled Technology or Technical Data to Foreign Persons in the U.S.

  4. Complete the Prevailing Wage Request Form. Include a copy of the job description as posted in RAPS.

  5. Complete Actual Wage Calculation & Agreement of Notification of Change in Employment Sheet. Make sure that affirmative action approval has been granted when required before submitting this application.

  6. All necessary H-1B fees must be paid by the hiring department. Attach all check(s) payable to US Department of Homeland Security. When preparing a Check Request to submit to Accounts Payable, use the AP/CAR vendor "US Dept of Homeland Security, USCIS Service Center, 75 Lower Weldon Street, St. Albans, VT 05479". Do not use enclosure text—use only "hold for pick up" when requesting these checks. The processing fees are:

Submit the completed application to the International Students and Scholars Office at 524 Riverside Drive. If you mail the application, please use mailing address of 2960 Broadway, Mail Code 5724, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. If a courier service is used, please use our Riverside Drive address, not our mailing address.

Note: The employing department must notify the ISSO of any substantive changes in employment, such as a new location, different duties, or changes in the source or amount of funding. The University may be required to file an amended petition.

Last reviewed: 19 April 2015 Last modified: 19 April 2015
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office