After USCIS approves your H-1B visa, don’t start packing your bags just yet. You must go through the H-1B visa stamping process to gain entry into the country. The H-1B visa stamp serves as the government’s endorsement of your visa. The stamping process involves an interview, filling out forms, and submitting photos and other H-1B documents. It is crucial to follow this process precisely to increase your chances of successfully obtaining the stamp in 2023.

Breaking news (12/21/23): Details of the H-1B Visa Domestic Renewal Pilot Program Released!

What is H-1B Visa Stamping

H-1B visa stamping is the process where an individual has been approved for an H-1B visa. They must go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to get the H-1B visa stamped onto their passport. This stamp serves as proof of the individual’s legal status to work in the U.S. under the H-1B category. It involves an interview and the submission of various documents, including the passport, H-1B approval notice (Form I-797), and employment-related papers. The stamping process is essential for entering or re-entering the U.S. in H-1B status, especially after travelling abroad. The duration of the visa stamp aligns with the approval period of the H-1B petition.

Learn all about the H-1B Visa Requirements.

H-1B Visa Stamping Process

Understanding the H-1B visa stamping process is crucial for finalizing your application and starting or continuing work in the U.S. Here are the four steps to get your visa stamped:

  1. H-1B Visa Application Form DS-160
  2. Submit Application Payment and Schedule the H-1B Visa Appointment
  3. Schedule a Fingerprinting Appointment
  4. The H-1B Visa Interview

H-1B Visa Stamping Process Flowchart

Step 1: H-1B Visa Application Form DS-160

To get the entire stamping process started, you must do the following:

  • Submit Form DS-160, which can only be completed online at the Department of State website.
  • A 10-digit barcode will appear on the confirmation form. Be sure to print the confirmation form and save it for future use. This will be necessary for the scheduled interview.

Find out all you need to know about H-1B Annual Cap.

Step 2: Submit Application Payment and Schedule the H-1B Visa Appointment

After paying the required fees, the foreign professional must schedule interview appointments. One will be with the Offsite Facilitation Center, and the other will be with the consulate or embassy. The Visa Application Center (VAC) obligates the foreign professional to schedule an H-1B visa appointment at least two days before the scheduled interview with the consulate/embassy. 

  • There’s an H-1B application fee. USCIS processes it electronically.
  • Create a user profile with the U.S. Visa Service website to secure payment approval. Select ‘Schedule Appointment.’ A payment confirmation page should appear. This page will allow the applicant to select the best-fitted payment information for the individual. The payment is only valid for a year, so it is essential to schedule the H-1B visa appointment within that time.

Step 3: Schedule a Fingerprinting Appointment

The second appointment that you should schedule will be for your biometrics appointment. You must schedule this appointment at least one day before the interview. At the most, you can schedule your appointment three days prior to your interview appointment but no later than that. You will attend this appointment at a VAC location.

VisaNation Immigration Law Client Reviews Graphic

Step 4: The H-1B Visa Interview

Go to the indicated consulate for your H-1B interview. Present all the following documents:

  • Current and expired passports
  • Photo
    • It must be a square photo
    • Dimensions: Minimum of 600 pixels by 600 pixels, maximum of 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels
    • Be in color
    • JPEG format
    • The size of the photo cannot be more than 240 kilobytes
  • DS-160 Visa Application confirmation page with VAC stamp
  • Visa application receipt
  • Petition related documents
  • Appointment Letter
  • Any supplementary documentation
  • Original H-1B visa approval notice (1-797 Form)
  • H-1B classification supplement form
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA) for H-1B & H-1B1 nonimmigrant
  • Employment verification letter
  • Payslips for at least three months (if you were working on H1B)
  • Monthly bank statements (last three months)

H-1B Visa Stamping in USA

The Department of State has introduced a pilot program allowing domestic renewal of H–1B nonimmigrant visas for qualified applicants. This pilot, active from January 29 to April 1, 2024, mandates specific eligibility criteria and emphasizes an online application process.

It is open to H–1B visa holders who previously had their visas issued by Mission Canada (from January 1, 2020, to April 1, 2023) or Mission India (from February 1, 2021, to September 30, 2021). Key requirements include the absence of a visa ineligibility requiring a waiver, current H–1B status maintenance, and an approved and unexpired H–1B petition. Applicants must have previously submitted ten fingerprints and be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.

The program aims to test domestic visa renewals’ feasibility and improve global visa processing efficiency. Participants must complete the DS–160 form, pay a non-refundable $205 fee, and submit the required documents.

Domestic processing time is expected to be 6-8 weeks, and successful applicants will receive their visas via mail. However, visa issuance is not guaranteed. The pilot aligns with the Administration’s goal of enhancing federal customer experience and service delivery

H-1B Documents for Stamping

To ensure a successful H-1B visa stamping, it’s crucial to prepare and bring a comprehensive set of documents for the interview. These include:

  1. Job-Related Documents: Your resume or CV, a letter from your current employer, a company description, documents related to company projects, and H-1B approval from any previous employer, if applicable. Also, have I-797 forms (A, B, or C).
  2. Educational Documents: Official diploma, degree certificates, transcripts from undergraduate or graduate institutions, and original I-20 forms if you have a U.S. degree. If applicable, include your OPT or EAD card.
  3. U.S. Government Documents: Client letters, driver’s license, social security card, W-2 tax forms from the last two years, and 1040 tax returns.
  4. Personal Documents: Depending on your case, this may include utility bills, rental agreements, and other relevant items. Consult with an immigration attorney if uncertain.
  5. Documents for Spouse and Dependent Children (for H-4 visa applicants): The principal applicant’s I-797 notice of action and I-129 form, a photocopy of the principal’s valid visa, original marriage certificate, and any supportive evidence like a wedding photo album, along with the original birth certificates for each child.

VisaNation Immigration Law Success Stories Graphic

H-1B Visa Stamping FAQ

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about H-1B visa stamping.

What is the maximum amount of time I can stay in the United States with an H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa typically has a maximum validity period of six years. It is initially issued for three years, depending on the contract between the foreign professional and the employer. However, after the first three years, the foreign professional may obtain an additional three years if USCIS grants an H-1B visa extension.

Generally, the total validity period for an H-1B visa is six years. However, if you want to continue living in the United States, you have the opportunity to apply for a green card, provided you meet the requirements. An H-1B visa holder who has commenced their green card application process may extend his stay in the U.S. for more than six years.

In addition, if you spent a considerable amount of time outside the U.S. during your H-1B stay, you may be able to recapture that time spent abroad by requesting it from the USCIS when you file your extension.

When can I enter the U.S. with my H-1B visa?

After you get your H-1B visa stamped, you can enter the U.S. only ten days before you start working. U.S. immigration will not allow you to enter the country earlier than that. So put that time frame in mind when you book your flight.

My employer is petitioning for my H-1B visa, but I was previously a dependent H-4 visa holder. Does the time spent on the H-4 transfer to the time allotted on the new H-1B visa?

No, because they are two different subcategories of visas. The H-4 will not affect the time given for the new H-1B visa.

Learn all about the H-1B Visa Transfer.

I had an H-1B petition in the past, but I did not go through the H-1B visa stamping process. Is my H-1B still legitimate?

For the H-1B visa petition to still be valid, the I-797 and job offer must remain current. The expiration of the I-797 may discontinue the H-1B petition. The employer can submit a request to withdraw your petition resulting in having your visa revoked.

My employer just told me that I am going to be laid off. Is there a grace period for me?

The short answer is: yes. In the past, no grace period existed for H-1B holders who suddenly found themselves without a job. They would need to leave the country and go through the H-1B stamping process all over again.

Now, with the new Final Rule in place, a 60-day grace period extends from the moment you stop working for your sponsoring employer. This grace period gives H-1B holders an opportunity can find a new job, transfer their status to another visa class (such as an L-1 visa) or make preparations to leave the country.

Can my H-4 spouse work in the U.S.?

Yes. As of the new rule released by the Department of Homeland Security in 2015, H-1B spouses and dependents on H-4 status can apply for Employment Authorization Documents if eligible and if you, the principal holder, have an approved I-140 immigrant petition with the USCIS.

However, your spouse or dependent’s H-4 status is only valid as long as your status is valid. Also, if USCIS revokes your I-140, your H-4 spouse or dependent can’t renew their EAD.

Find out how to get H-1B for Nurses.

Is it better to change my status or use consular processing for H-1B stamping?

The answer to this question depends on your current status. If you are in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant status, then it is usually preferable and cheaper to have your status adjusted to H-1B at the start of your employment. However, if you are currently outside the U.S., then you will have to travel to a U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain your H-1B visa.

However, if you are currently outside the U.S., then you will have to travel to a U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain your H-1B visa.

What is the easiest way to get my first H-1B visa stamped if I am already in the U.S.? 

If you are already in the U.S. and want to get through first-time H-1B stamping with as little hassle as possible, you may wish to return to your home country for that purpose. This removes many of the risks and red tape posed by any other option while allowing you to have your interview in a familiar and more comfortable setting. You can get your visa stamped at the U.S consulate in a neighboring country to the U.S., but that involves more risk and processes. That’s why it can sometimes be easier for you to go to your home country to do it.

What if USCIS rejects my H-1B visa?

If your USCIS rejects your H-1B visa at stamping, you will not be allowed to enter the United States. USCIS can reject your H-1B application for different reasons including issues with fees, documentation, or fraud suspicion. If it is a fee or documentation issue, you should try to reapply and get an H-1B visa appointment again. Before doing this, obtain adequate information from the U.S. embassy, and make sure that you have the additional documents they request for this time around. You should also consult with your attorney on proceeding with the application process to improve your chances of approval.

How can I get my H-1B visa re-stamped?

Your H-1B visa will be valid for a maximum of six years. If it expires and USCIS approves your new one, you can get it re-stamped. Just follow the same procedures as when you first applied for the stamping, except that the U.S. consulate may ask for some additional documents.

Can premium processing help my case?

Usually, premium processing is a service that only speeds up the time it takes for the USCIS to process your I-129 petition. It does not increase your chances of being selected in the lottery nor does it make you cap-exempt. It also does not guarantee that USCIS will approve during the H-1B visa stamping process.

However, there are times when the USCIS will suspend premium processing to give preference to long-neglected petitions. This is true for all H-1B petitions during the 2017-2018 season.

How to book an H-1B visa appointment?

To book an H-1B visa appointment, visit the U.S. Department of State’s visa appointment website, complete the DS-160 form, pay the applicable fee, and choose a date and location from the available slots.

How An H-1B Stamping Lawyer Can Help

Get Started

VisaNation Law Group's H-1B visa lawyers have a deep knowledge of the supplementary documentation required to ensure the best outcome in your H-1B stamping case. They can advise you on filing Form DS-160 and taking the necessary steps in completing your H1B visa stamping process. They can also assist you with scheduling consulate interviews and VAC appointments associated with your H1B visa stamping.