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I am a 16-year-old student in Pennsylvania with Canadian citizenship, and I'm staying under my father's H1b. I have the opportunity to travel to Europe for two weeks on a school trip in June-July, but my H-4 visa expires in September 2024. My parents have stated that we can't travel within 6 months of its expiry, as we won't be allowed back in the country. Is there any way we can renew my visa early or provide documentation that will allow me to go on the trip? Thank you!

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    There's nothing that says you can't travel within 6 months of your visa expiry. Does your passport expire at the same time by any chance?
    – Doc
    Commented Jan 16 at 3:03
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    Are you sure you're using the term "visa" correctly? A US "visa" is a sticker that takes up a whole page of the passport, says "VISA" on it, and can only be obtained at a US consulate. Canadian citizens do not need US visas to enter the US on most nonimmigrant statuses, so there would essentially never be a reason for you to get an H4 visa. You would simply enter the US into H4 status with your Canadian passport, evidence of your parent's H1b status, and evidence of your relationship to your parent. Do you mean that your I-94 expires September 2024 instead?
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 16 at 3:44
  • @Doc My passport does not expire at the same time. Our family also lives and works in the U.S, not in Canada. My parents were just concerned that as the as the status goes in for review during the renewal process, it would be unsafe or risky to leave the country in case the status was frozen or something similar, and we would not be allowed back in the U.S. Is this correct, or is it still safe and secure to travel within 2-3 months of the expiry? I'd be glad to clear anything up if this wasn't enough information. Thanks! Commented Jan 17 at 2:05
  • That makes more sense. The simple answer is "Talk to your immigration lawyers". It's impossible for anyone to answer your question without having the full facts around what they may be doing around visa/status extensions.
    – Doc
    Commented Jan 17 at 5:24

2 Answers 2

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My parents have stated that we can't travel within 6 months of its expiry

This is incorrect. The US states in several places that a US visa needs to be valid only when you arrive in the US. For example:

What the Visa Expiration Date Means

The visa expiration date is shown on the visa along with the visa issuance date. The time between visa issuance and expiration date is called your visa validity. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States.

Another example:

My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?

No. If the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer at the port-of-entry admitted you into the United States for a specific period of time, s/he will note your authorized period of stay on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, called an Arrival/Departure Record. You will be able to remain in the United States during your authorized period of stay, even if your visa expires during the time you are in the United States. Since your admission stamp or paper Form I-94 documents your authorized stay and is the official record of your permission to be in the United States, it is very important to keep inside your passport.

You can use a visa to travel to the United States right up until the very last day of the visa's validity, as mentioned in Doc's comment.

Your question is a bit confusing, however, because, as noted in user102008's comment, Canadian citizens do not require a visa whatsoever to enter the US in H-4 status. From the dedicated page for citizens of Canada and Bermuda:

Citizens of Canada traveling to the United States do not require a nonimmigrant visa, except for the travel purposes described below. ...

The list that follows does not include H visas; it includes all types of A, G, and NATO visa along with E-1, E-2, E-3D, K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, S-5, S-6, and S-7.

Because you are Canadian, you should be eligible to travel to the US and enter in H-1B status without an H-1B visa. This means that if you for some reason have an H-1B visa in your passport you should be able to return to the US after it expires.

Now in my experience, Canadians in the US often use the word "visa" to mean "immigration status." For example, I have a friend who lived and worked in the US for many years in TN status, a status that is similar to H-1B that was created to implement the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He was always talking about going to Canada to "renew his visa."

But he never had a visa; in fact, he was flying to Canada because the period of admission on his I-94 form was coming to an end, and he needed a new period of admission. You can extend this period without leaving the country by filing an application along with its fee of $370, or you can leave the country and get a new period of admission when you return.

If your parents are talking about extending the period of admission rather than the visa then they may be thinking about how to time the filing of your I-539 extension application. If that's the case then the best solution is probably simply to file it after you return from Europe. You might get the extended admission at the border, saving the $370 fee; if not, you can file the extension application.

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  • Canadians working in the US need some sort of work authorization. The easiest to get seems to be the TN, but most Canadians working for me wanted an H1B as a path to Green Card and eventually citizenship
    – Hilmar
    Commented Jan 16 at 13:23
  • Thanks for your detailed explanation! My question was a bit unclear, so I will try to clarify. My family lives and works in the US. My mom believes that the status will go in for review during the renewal process, and it will be unsafe or risky to leave the country if the status was frozen or something similar, as we wouldn't be allowed back in at the US border. Is this correct, or is it still safe to travel within 2-3 months of its expiration? When you stated that Canadian citizens can enter the US without a nonimmigrant visa, was that just for visitors, or also those who live and work here? Commented Jan 17 at 1:22
  • I am happy to clear up anything else that I may have left out. Commented Jan 17 at 1:23
  • @VidyanSarvesh your additional questions are already addressed in the answer.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 17 at 1:46
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Since you are a Canadian citizen, you most likely do not have an H4 "visa". You do not need a visa to enter the US into H4 status (or most other nonimmigrant statuses; it's not just visitor statuses). What you probably mean is that you and your parents' H1b and H4 I-94s expire in September, and the H1b petition also expires in September.

There is no problem with you leaving the US and returning in June and July. When entering the US, you will present your Canadian passport and your parent's H1b I-94, and be admitted into H4 status with an I-94 that expires at the same time as your H1b parent's I-94 (so presumably September).

I am presuming that the company will apply for an extension of the H1b petition, along with an H1b extension of stay, and you guys will apply for H4 extensions of stay along with it. In that case, the period of time that you guys would have most trouble returning to the US is after September and before the extension is approved. Although you guys can stay in the US (and the H1b worker can work) while an extension of stay is pending, you guys will not be able to enter the US during this period, since there is no valid H1b petition. This period can be reduced or eliminated by filing H1b extension with premium processing.

After the H1b petition and extension of stay extension is approved, you will again have no problem returning to the US, since you can enter into H4 status on the basis of your Canadian passport and your parent's new H1b I-94.

I don't know why there would be a concern about taking a trip in June or July. One possibility might be that they were planning on filing for extension really early, and if you leave the US while an extension of stay application is pending, it automatically abandons the application, so it would be a waste. However, you could just wait until you get back to file your extension of stay application. It just has to be received by USCIS before your status expires, so there would be plenty of time to file it after you get back in July.

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