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I am in the US and will be in H1B status starting October 1st. If I take a job in the UK with a different employer in January, do I forfeit my H1B status? If I want to move back to the US in two or three years, will I be cap exempt? That is, will a potential employer be able to provide me with an H1B without going through the lottery?

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If I take a job in the UK with a different employer in January, do I forfeit my H1B status?

As far as US immigration law is concerned, you lose H-1B status every time you leave the US. An H-1B worker can regain H-1B status on re-entry to the US only if the employer's petition (I-129) remains valid and the worker remains employed by the employer. So yes, if you take a job in the UK with a different employer, you will lose your H-1B status.

If I want to move back to the US in two or three years, will I be cap exempt?

H-1B cap exemption depends mostly on who employs you (see 8 USC 1184(g)(5)), so the answer to this question depends on who sponsors you when you return.

That is, will a potential employer be able to provide me with an H1B without going through the lottery?

This depends on who the potential employer is.

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    Can you elaborate on how this depends on the potential employer? Bullet point 7 in the link you provided seems to indicate that my petition in the future would not be counted towards the cap. – arni Jun 23 '18 at 3:33
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    @arni that appears to be correct, unless your period of employment in the UK or your change of US employer resets your six-year limit. I don't know anything about the rules governing that. – phoog Jun 23 '18 at 14:06

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