H-1B Visa Stamping Process Guide

Don’t start packing your bags once USCIS approves your H-1B visa. To get entry into the country, you need to go through the H-1B visa stamping process. Getting the H-1B visa stamp means the government endorses your visa. There is an entire process to get an H-1B visa stamp including an interview, forms, photos, and other H-1B documents for stamping. It is crucial to follow the process precisely in order to be successful in getting the stamp in 2023.

H-1B Visa Stamping Process

Knowing the H-1B visa stamping process is crucial to finalize your application correctly and eventually starting your job in the U.S. or continuing to work in the country. Below is a 4-step process to get your visa stamped:

H-1B Stamping Process Chart 2023

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.

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.

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.

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 Documents for Stamping

The best way to ensure you get the H-1B visa stamp is to get all your documents in order for submission and the interview. While it’s normal to only include what’s required, there are some H-1B documents for stamping that we recommend you bring with you, even if USCIS does not require them.

H-1B Documents for Stamping Chart 2023

Job-Related Documents for H-1B Stamping

It is good for you to take the following documents with you as USCIS might need them even if they don’t require them:

  • 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)
  • I-797 A, B, or C

Educational Documents for H-1B Stamping

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 for H-1B Stamping

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

Personal Documents

The personal documents you need will depend on your particular case. If you already live in the U.S., bring copies of your utility bills and rental agreement. If you are unsure which document to take along, speak with your immigration attorney. For your application to be successful, you must 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 principal applicant
  • The I-129 of the main applicant. If the I-797 is a blanket permit, bring a copy of the I-797 and I-129.
  • A photocopy of the principal 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 you need, 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.

What is the Current Status of H-1B Stamping in India?

The H-1B stamping process in India is not different than any other country. However, the pandemic has made situations different for embassies and consulates around the country.

One pandemic-related change is that the in-person interview is waived for certain H-1B petitioners until 31 December 2023. The eligibility requirements for waiving H-1B stamping interview in India are:

  • First-time applicant
  • Applying for a visa as an Indian resident
  • Never been denied a visa (exceptions are made if the denial was reversed or waived)
  • Previously visited the United States with authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

H-1B Visa Stamping in India: Appointment Dates

If you’re not eligible for a waiver, the U.S. Embassy in India highlights that appointment demands are high and wait times are lengthy due to staff shortages. The following are the appointment wait time as of January 2023 for H-1B stamping in India:

  • Chennai Consulate: 65 calendar days
  • Hyderabad Consulate: 72 calendar days
  • Kolkata Consulate: 64 calendar days
  • Mumbai Consulate: 3 calendar days
  • New Delhi Embassy: 290 calendar days

These times don’t include any administrative processing that specific applications may need.

H-1B Stamping India: Dropbox

If you are planning on using USCIS dropbox for stamping, you should be aware that you can do so 48 months prior to the expiration of your status. The general requirements to use dropbox in India for H-1B stamping are:

  • Your US Visa must not be expired when you use dropbox;
  • Your H-1B visa was stamped after 1 January 2008;
  • You have not received any denials for other visa applications while you were on your H-1B;
  • You received the H-1B stamp after you turned 14;
  • Your visa stamp has clear annotations of “Clearance Received” or similar.

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.

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.

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 An H-1B Stamping 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.

To contact a VisaNation Law Group attorney, please schedule a consultation.