H-1B Visa Interview
For foreign professionals that wish to enter the U.S. to work under an H1B visa, the screening process can be extensive. This is especially true for those who either choose to or must go through consular processing. Because this route involves a one-on-one H1B visa interview with an immigration officer, it’s best to be prepared before you go in.
H1B Process Overview
For those who are not aware of the process involved with obtaining an H1B visa, here is a general outline of the steps:
- You must first find a U.S. employer who will sponsor you to fill a specialty position that requires your bachelor’s degree.
- Then your employer needs to obtain a Labor Condition Application from the Department of Labor.
- If you or your employer are subject to the annual cap, then your employer must file an I-129 petition with the USCIS during the lottery window.
- If your petition is selected and approved, then you can choose from two options to acquire your visa:
- Wait for your employment to start on October 1st. Your status will be automatically adjusted to H1B as soon as you begin working for your sponsoring U.S. employer. This is ideal if you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant status.
- If you are not yet inside the U.S., then you will need to travel to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in order to obtain a visa stamp and enter the country with H-1B status.
This last part can be both a difficult and sensitive process. This is because each consulate or embassy is different and may pose differing rules and regulations. While we will cover the basic things to expect during the consular H1B visa interview, it is always advisable to work with an experienced immigration attorney who can better assess your options.
H1B Change of Status vs Consular Processing
Our firm often gets asked the question: which is better, consular processing or change of status? The answer usually depends on your situation and whether or not you are inside the U.S. If you are overseas, then you do not have a choice and must go through consular processing.
Ideally, most H1B applicants would want to change their status rather than go through consular processing. This is because the change of status happens automatically once you begin your employment, requiring no further action from either you or your employer. Consular processing subjects you to the rules and waiting periods of the particular consulate or embassy that you use, which usually includes an H1B interview.
One main drawback to using consular processing is this: your visa could be denied regardless of whether or not your petition is approved. The immigration officer in charge of your interview process has the authority to deny your visa and also to suspend a decision on your case for an indefinite amount of time. This can sometimes result in having your I-129 approval expire before the consulate makes a decision.
However, if you are in the U.S. you can opt for consular processing if you would like to have greater control over the validation start date of your visa. Here is an example to illustrate. Julio is in the U.S. under TN status and has an approved H-1B petition. He wants to apply for a green card, but cannot do so under TN status. Therefore he opts for consular processing so that he can “activate” his H1B status as soon as he is ready to apply for a green card.
Some may consider attempting to enter the U.S. through a different visa status (such as B-2 or J-1) so that they can simply apply for a change of status to get an H1B visa. However, the B-2 only grants you a six-month stay, which is often not enough time to obtain an H1B. The J-1 visa holder must comply with the directors of his or her sponsoring program, and so can easily encounter unnecessary complications. Your immigration attorney will be able to guide you in this decision.
The H1B Visa Interview Experience
Whether you choose it or it is required, consular processing will necessitate traveling to a specific U.S. consulate or embassy. For first-time H1B applicants, this is usually the consulate that is closest to the city in which you maintain a foreign residence (which is required for the H1B). You should visit the U.S. embassy website to find your consulate and schedule an interview time.
For example, if you maintain a permanent residence in Mumbai, then you would need to travel to the consulate in that city for your H1B visa interview. For all subsequent applications, you can use any U.S. consulate or embassy (such as an embassy in Canada or Mexico).
When you arrive at the consulate, you will most likely be asked to wait for your number to be called depending on how busy that particular consulate is. Be sure to have all of your documents in an order that makes it easy for the officer to locate the items he or she needs.
In the interview, it is important to be relaxed and professional when interacting with the officer. Try to answer all posed questions as quickly and accurately as possible, speaking clearly and enunciating each word all the while.
You should be well versed in the position that you will be filling. From your day to day tasks to your wages, the officer will likely question the specifics of your job in the U.S. It is important to remember that the purpose of the H1B visa interview is to detect people who are attempting to enter the U.S. through fraudulent means. If your employment and qualifications are legitimate, then your H1B interview experience should not be stressful.
What are the H1B Interview Documents to Bring?
Here is a list of the general documents that are required by all U.S. consulates and embassies during H1B interviews. There may also be required supplementary items that are not listed here. To learn what these are, work with your immigration lawyer or visit the consulate’s website.
- A valid passport that will not expire before the end of your visa validation period.
- A printed confirmation of your completed DS-160 online application form.
- The original letter you received confirming your interview appointment as well as a copy.
- Copy of both your approved I-129 petition and your I-797 notice of approval form.
- A receipt for the visa fees that should have been paid in advance.
- A passport-sized photo of you.
- Your original I-129 petition
- Degree and certification certificates
- Any expired passports
- Letters from your sponsoring employer and previous employers
- Pay stubs from most recent employer
- Contact information for co-workers and managers at both your current job and past jobs.
- Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
Sample Interview Questions
Here is a list of some of the questions that you may be asked in your H1B visa interview. Please be aware that this is not a comprehensive list and the immigration officer may ask you questions that are not included.
Your U.S. Sponsoring Employer
- What kind of business does your sponsoring employer do?
- What tasks and duties will you be expected to perform during your stay?
- What skills do you possess that make you an asset to your sponsoring employer?
- How will you be compensated by your sponsoring employer/ what will be your salary?
- When was your sponsoring employer’s business founded?
- Who is the CEO of the company/entity?
- How many people work for your sponsoring employer?
- How did you first come into contact with your sponsoring employer?
- Are you sure that the company/entity you will be working for is a legitimate organization?
- Where is your sponsoring employer located?
Your Educational Background and Experience
- Are you currently studying?
- Where did you obtain your degree?
- Have you pursued higher education than a bachelor’s? If so, what topic did you use for your thesis?
- How long have you worked in this industry/field?
- What related jobs have you held in this industry/field?
- Why have you chosen to work in the U.S.?
- Have you ever lived in any country other than your home country?
- Do you have a plan to support yourself before you receive your first paycheck?
- Do you have family members currently living in the U.S.?
- When your H1B validation period ends, what is your plan?
- When do you plan to return to your home country?
Your immigration attorney can help you determine what the appropriate answers would be for your specific situation to ensure that the officer does not have any reason to deny your visa.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Attempting to navigate immigration law without an expert can result in disastrous consequences that can cost you both time and money. By retaining an immigration attorney, you can take the steps necessary to avoid costly delays.
Our experienced H-1B lawyers will assess your immigration case and help you decide which processing route would be best for your situation. If you decide to use consular processing, our attorneys will guide you through the H1B visa interview process step by step in order to ensure that you have the best possible chance for approval.
To speak with one of our immigration lawyers about your H1B case, feel free to fill out this contact form to schedule your consultation today.