If you are a professional with outstanding abilities due to your advanced education and training, you might qualify for an H1B non-immigrant U.S work visa. This means that you could work in the U.S for a maximum of six years.
The H1B visa is popular amongst those who would like to become employed in the U.S for a specified period of time. They might want to have some international experience or a higher salary than what they have in their home country.
Those who want to get the H1B visa are aware that the process starts with the U.S employer. The employer has to petition the U.S government to get permission to hire a foreign worker. For all the procedures on how to get this visa, we have compiled the requirements on the H1B visa article.
In addition, another major benefit in getting the H1B visa is that you are allowed to apply for an American Green Card. To find out more about how to get it, go to the H1B to Green Card article.
However, there are procedure in between getting the H1B visa. If you and your employer have obtained the Form I-797 or Labor Certification and the USCIS petition of the Form I-129 has been approved, you qualify to apply for the visa. After the application is over and you have completed your interview, the U.S Embassy where you applied will give you an answer on whether you got the visa or not.
In case the answer is positive and you have been granted an H1B visa, you need to go on and apply for the H1B visa stamping. This a process on its own, and below we will go into detail about how you can complete this procedure.
What is the H1B Visa Stamping?
H1B visa stamping is the last step to going to the U.S under a H1B visa. When you get to the U.S, you will need to undergo security clearance from U.S Immigration. The officers will do the following:
Check your documents
U.S immigration is responsible for allowing you to enter the U.S. Even if you have a visa, that does not guarantee that they will grant you the permission to go through. That is why, they will extensively check all your documents to ensure that you have fulfilled all the requirements.
Ask you questions
They also want to know why you are in the U.S and what you will be doing there. So they will ask a few questions and you need to answer as best you can. If they suspect you are hiding something or are providing untruthful answers, they will either deny you entry and send you back to your home country, or they will conduct a more extensive interview.
Check your belongings
All of your luggage will be subject to extensive control. The officers will scan your belongings to ensure you have not brought anything that is not allowed by U.S rules or any illegal substances or objects. That is why it is important to learn about what you are and are not allowed to bring. If officers suspect you have something illegal in your bags, they are allowed to confiscate and go through them.
If you have passed all of these three steps, the Immigration officers will allow you to enter the U.S without any problem. They will provide you with a Form I-94 with the dates of entry and expiration of your visa. However, in the first stage of looking at your documents, they will check whether you have a U.S stamp in your passport.
The visa stamp tells them that you have gone through all application procedures and that the U.S Embassy in your country has decided that you fulfill the requirements to enter the U.S. For an H1B visa, this means that the U.S Embassy, the Department of Labor, and USCIS have unanimously decided through their petition approvals that you can go into the country and work there.
Without the U.S stamp, U.S Immigration will not even undergo any other security checks, since they will know you are trying to go through the country illegally. They will send you back to your home country immediately.
When to apply for H1B visa stamping?
There are timing rules as to when you can apply for the stamp. If you apply earlier or later, you run the risk of not getting the stamp at all. For those who have an attorney that works to get the H1B visa, they know best when to complete these procedures. So for any H1B Visa Stamping questions you can ask your attorney of the U.S Embassy where you are applying
When you get hired by a U.S employer, they will provide you with a document which states your beginning employment date. This date will help you find out when you should apply for the H1B visa stamping. The rule is that you should apply around 90 days before you have to begin working in the U.S.
This means that if your employment starting date is on August 1st, you can apply for the visa in the beginning of May. It is recommended that you apply as soon as you are eligible to, since processing times vary from country to country and the U.S Embassy might not get you the stamp on time.
H1B Visa Stamping Documents
To qualify for your H1B visa stamping, you should fulfill these criteria:
- Have a valid passport – which should continue to be valid for 6 more months after your H1B visa expires. If your passport expires earlier, you should apply for a new one before starting your H1B application.
- Successful medical examination – before you go in for your H1B stamping, you should undergo a medical examination. This means that a licensed doctor has done a full check up which is required by the U.S Embassy and that you are healthy and in good condition to work.
Before you get your visa stamp, you also have to submit a complete set of these documents:
- A completed DS-156 Form which must be signed by the applicant
- A completed DS-157 Form
- One photograph taken within the last six months
- The USCIS approval through Form I-797
- The original visa petition through Form I-129
- The Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor
- Letter from your U.S employer with details about your job position, salary, and job description
- Company information of your US employer with photographs, address, prospectus, brochures, and annual report
- Letters from previous employers to prove your work experience
- Diplomas and certificates of your academic qualifications
- Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
- Your current address in your home country
- Bank statements for the last three months
- Receipts that you have paid all applicable fees
- Your Social Security Number (if you already have one)
Besides these documents, U.S Embassies in different countries might require additional ones. You should contact them to ask if they need more documents and also consult with your attorney.
When can I enter the U.S with an H1B visa stamp?
After you submit the documents above and prove you have fulfilled all criteria, the U.S Embassy could decide to give you the H1B visa stamp. If you get the stamp though, you might ask yourself when you can enter the U.S with that stamp.
There is a rule from the U.S that H1B visa holders can enter the U.S only 10 days before they have to start working. The date when you start working is on your Form I-797 that proves your USCIS petition was approved.
So when you get the visa stamp, you can go on and book your flight ticket within that time frame of 10 days. U.S Immigration will not allow you to enter the country if you go before the 10 days start. So if your start date on your Form I-797 is June 1st, you cannot enter the U.S if you go before May 22nd.
H1B visa re-stamping
If your H1B visa has expired and your renewed one has been approved, you would have to get your passport re-stamped. An H1B stamping cannot be done within the U.S. This means that when you are in the U.S, whether you are getting the H1B visa for the first time or you are getting it renewed, you cannot stamp it in the U.S Consulate within the U.S.
So to re-stamp your H1B visa you will need to follow the same procedures as before, except that the consulate might ask for some additional documents, which they determine. You will need to go out of the U.S and to another country, preferably your home county to get your H1B visa re-stamping.
H1B visa stamping rejection
The other alternative for the H1B visa stamping is that the U.S Embassy rejects you. This could happen for a variety of reasons, such as a missing document or the request for additional documents.
When your visa stamp is rejected, you will not be allowed to enter the U.S. This means that you should not purchase your ticket, since you will be stopped at the port of entry and U.S immigration will return you to your home country.
The solution to this problem is that you should try to reapply for the visa stamping process and get an appointment. You should take into consideration all information from the U.S Embassy and if they require additional documents, you should make sure that you have them. You could also consult with your attorney on how to proceed and to get help with the documents.