H-1B visa stamping requires the foreign professional to have had their petition approved. Once the petition has been approved, it is time to schedule an H1B visa interview. Scheduling the interview may be conducted at the closest U.S. consulate or embassy. The H-1B visa stamping process should be implemented in the following order:
What is H-1B Visa Stamping?
H-1B visa stamping simply means the part of the immigration process where your visa is endorsed. Having an approved H-1B visa doesn’t mean you will be given automatic entry into the United States. When you get to the port of entry (POE), you will have to undergo security clearance before you can be allowed to enter the country. Your visa stamp is one of the requirements to prove that you have valid authorization to travel to the United States.
H-1B Visa Stamping Process
Submit a Photo
The H-1B visa photo must meet specific requirements.
- It must be a square photo
- Dimensions: minimum of 600 pixels by 600 pixels, maximum of 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels.
- It is required to be in color
- It must be saved in JPEG format
- The size of the photo cannot be more than 240 kilobytes.
H-1B Visa Application Form DS-160
- Form DS-160 can only be completed online at the Department of State.
- 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.
Complete Application Payment and Schedule the Appointment
After paying the required fees, the foreign professional must schedule two appointments. One will be with the Offsite Facilitation Center and the other will be with the consulate or embassy. Don’t forget your fingerprints. The Visa Application Center (VAC) obligates the foreign professional to schedule an appointment a minimum of two days before the scheduled interview with the consulate/embassy. The Visa Application Center requires a foreign professional to provide biometrics information.
- There is a fee associated with the H-1B application. This fee can be processed electronically.
- To secure payment approval, create a user profile with the U.S. Visa Service website. 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 important to schedule the appointment within that time.
Go to the indicated consulate for the interview. All the following documents must be presented:
- Current and expired passports
- Photo (Dimensions are provided above)
- 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)
Additional Documents for Your H-1B Visa
Though you may not be required to present them, it is good for you to take the following documents with you as they might be needed:
- A copy of your resume or CV
- A letter from your current employer
- A company description
- Documents of company projects
- H-1B approval from your previous employer (if applicable)
- 1-797 A, B or C
Make sure to bring these documents to your H-1B visa interview:
- Official diploma certificate, degree, or both
- Official transcripts from your undergraduate or official graduate universities
- Original I-20s forms, if you have a degree from the U.S.
- OPT or EAD card, if applicable
U.S. Government Documents
Bring the following documents as applicable to you:
- Client letter
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- W-2 tax forms received in the last two years
- 1040 tax returns
The personal documents you need will depend on your particular case. What is required in one situation may not be required in another. If you already live in the U.S., bring copies of your utility bills and rental agreement. If you are not sure of which document to take along, speak with your immigration attorney. For your application to be successful, it is important that you bring all the relevant documents to the interview.
Documents for Spouse and dependent Children
Applicants who intend to apply for an H-4 visa for their spouse and dependent children should bring:
- The original notice of action form I-797 of the main applicant
- The I-129 of the main applicant. If the I-797 is a blanket permit, bring a copy of both the I-797 and I-129.
- A photocopy of the main applicant’s valid visa, if you are applying separately.
- The original marriage certificate and any evidence that can prove the marriage such as a wedding photo album
- Original birth certificate for each child.
Inquire at the U.S. consulate in your country about which documents are needed as the list might be different in each country. Before going in for your interview, make sure you are well prepared. Take all relevant documents with you and be ready to answer all questions confidently and honestly.
Common H-1B Visa Stamping Questions:
Q: What is the maximum amount of time I can stay in the United States with an H-1B visa?
A: 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 he or she is granted 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 his or her 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.
Q: When can I enter the U.S. with my H-1B visa?
A: 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.
Q: My employer is petitioning for my H-1B visa, but I was previously a dependent on the H-4 Visa. Does the time spent on the H-4 transfer to the time allotted on the new H-1B visa?
A: No, because they are two different subcategories of visas. The H-4 will have no effect on the time given for the new H-1B visa.
Q: I had an H-1B petition in the past, but I did not go through the process of H-1B visa stamping. Is my H-1B still legitimate?
A: For the H-1B visa petition to still be valid, the I-797 and job offer must remain current. The H-1B petition may be discontinued by the expiration of the I-797. The employer also has the option to submit a request to withdraw your petition which would result in having your visa revoked.
Q: My employer just told me that I am going to be laid off. Is there a grace period for me?
A: 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 out from the moment that you stop working for your sponsoring employer. This grace period is given so that H-1B holders 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.
Q: Can My H-4 Spouse Work in the U.S.?
A: Yes. As of the new rule released by the Department of Homeland Security in 2015, H-1B spouses and dependents on H-4 status are able to apply for Employment Authorization Documents if they are 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 your I-140 is revoked, your H-4 spouse or dependent will not be able to renew his or her EAD.
Q: Is It Better To Change My Status or Use Consular Processing for H-1B Stamping?
A: 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 simply 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.
Q: What is the easiest way to get my first H-1B visa stamped if I am already in the U.S.?
A: 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 want 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. It is possible for you to 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.
Q: What if my H-1B visa is rejected?
A: If your H-1B visa is rejected at stamping, you will not be allowed to enter the United States. Your H-1B application can be rejected 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 appointment again. Before doing this, obtain adequate information from the U.S. embassy, and make sure that this time around you have the additional documents they request for. You should also consult with your attorney on how to proceed with the application process to improve your chances of approval.
Q: How can I get my H-1B visa re-stamped?
A: Your H-1B visa will be valid for a maximum of six years. If it expires and your new one has been approved, 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.
Q: Can Premium Processing Help My Case?
A: 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 your visa will be approved in the H-1B visa stamping process.
There are times, however, 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 An Immigration Lawyer Can Help:
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.
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