Many foreign nationals in the United States on work-related visas obtained their status through a change or extension of status petition done within the U.S.. They may not have a valid visa foil, otherwise known as a visa stamp, on their passport. They can remain in the United States so long as their status is good and even change or extend beyond that without needing a visa stamp. However, if they plan to travel outside the US, the foreign national needs to plan to go to the U.S. consulate nearest where they are going to be visiting to apply for a visa stamp since they will not be allowed to return to the U.S. without one. During the pandemic, visa appointments at the consulate became very hard to obtain, Although things are getting back to normal, there are still delays, so scheduling an appointment as early as possible is imperative.
A foreign national planning to apply for a visa stamp should follow these steps:
- Go to the CEAC website and fill out the DS-160 form online. This form will also ask the applicant to upload a passport photo
- Pay the visa application fee
- Schedule the appointment
If traveling with family members who are also foreign nationals, the above steps must be followed for each family member. In other words, each family member has to have their own DS-160 application, pay the fee, etc.
On the day of the appointment, they should bring the following documents:
- Valid passport
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Original H-1B approval notice, form I-797
- Recent pay stubs
- Employment verification letter obtained recently
In addition to the above, family members must also bring proof of the relationship, i.e., marriage certificates for spouses and birth certificates for children.
Once the visa is issued, foreign national employees must bring the original H-1B approval notice when they travel to present that at the port of entry to be admitted to the United States. The approval notice of the H-1B controls how long Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers accept one to the U.S. CBP and will issue an I-94 form electronically.
When entering the US, it is essential to check the I-94 online here (link) to ensure it is correct. Errors or shorter periods of admission due to passports expiring soon are ordinary,. Sometimes, foreign national workers go out of status because they ignored the I-94, which is for a shorter period than they assumed. This could cause grave immigration consequences, so ensuring one was admitted for the correct amount of time is essential.