LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not legal advice and does not constitute any agreement by Bordeau Immigration Law, LLC to provide legal representation to any individual. This information is only intended to provide general information about common immigration matters and does not present an exhaustive discussion of immigration law. Immigration law and procedures change frequently and some information on this website may not be current. No individual should rely on information contained herein for his or her particular case and should consult with a qualified immigration attorney regarding specific questions about immigration status and eligibility.

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Travel Information 

H-1B Travel and Re-Entry Information

To leave and re-enter the United States on a H-1B visa there are a few things you will need to know and do beforehand. 

DOCUMENTS NEEDED:

If  you are in H-1B status and plan to travel abroad, you will need the following items to re-enter the U.S. (unless you are visiting Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days). 

  • The original I-797 approval notice (H-1B approval notice)--both top and bottom portions.

  • A current letter of employment from your employer on your employer's letterhead verifying employment. (Click here for a sample letter of employment.)

  • A valid H-1B visa:

        *If you have changed employers since you entered the U.S. and have a valid visa annotated for your previous employer,           you may re-enter the U.S. using that visa if you present a valid approval notice for your current employer upon

          re-entry.

        *Canadian citizens are generally not required to obtain visas before entering the U.S. However, Canadian permanent             residents (“landed immigrants”) should have valid visas to enter the U.S. 

  • A valid passport, which includes your original I-94 entry card. (Note: Make sure your passport is valid for as long as your H-1B is valid. Otherwise, if you travel internationally, when you re-enter the U.S., the Customs Officer will likely shorten your authorized H-1B employment to the date your passport expires. To make sure you get the full period of H-1B time that is reflected on your H-1B approval notice, extend your passport before you travel abroad, if necessary).  

HOW TO OBTAIN AN H-1B VISA STAMP: 

Please be aware that once your status has been changed to H-1B, if you leave the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter as an H-1B without first obtaining an H-1B visa in your passport from a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. Typically, this is at the U.S. consulate in your home country. (Note: If you have violated your status at any time after first entering the U.S., you may be required to get the visa at your home country's U.S. consulate.)

To obtain an H-1B visa stamp, you must make an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate. No matter where you are going to consular visa process, before you make any plans to leave the U.S., you must first consult that consulate’s website at http://usembassy.state.gov/ for the most current processing requirements, and contact the consulate to request an appointment.  Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck outside the U.S. for an extended period of time.

Recommended Items to Bring: 

  • The original I-797 approval notice (H-1B approval notice) - - both top and bottom portions. Keep the original with you to re-enter the U.S.

  • An attorney-certified copy of the entire H-1B petition (If we prepared your case, this was provided when we prepared/filed your H-1B petition).

  • An attorney-certified copy of the LCA-Form 9035 (If we prepared your case, this was provided when we prepared/filed your H-1B petition).

  • A current letter of employment from your employer on your employer’s  letterhead verifying employment. Keep the original or a copy of the letter with you when you re-enter the U.S.

  • A valid passport, which includes your original I-94 entry card. (Note: Make sure your passport is valid for as long as your H-1B is valid. See above.)

  • Two recent pay receipts/pay stubs (if already working), to show that the employer is paying the correct wage reflected on the petition to the employee.

  • Income Tax forms (1040's), if applicable.  (In cases regarding prior authorized employment in the U.S. or in some situations involving out-of-status situations, copies of all income tax returns showing that the H-1B beneficiary has complied with the law requiring every employee to file income tax returns).  W-2s are also useful.

  • All evidence showing that you have continuously maintained your status (all I-20AB's, EADs and transcripts if you ever had F-1 student status;all DS-2019’s/IAP-66's if you have ever had J-1 status, and if you were subject to the two-year home residency requirement, the I-612 waiver.

  • Original diplomas and transcripts. (Note: If consular processing in Canada as a third country national, you should hold a U.S. or Canadian university degree).

  • For dependent family members in derivative H-4 status, bring proof of your relationship to them, including original marriage and birth certificates, etc. (with translations, if relevant).

  • Contact the consulate to find out the cost of the visa.  (The cost varies, depending on the country you are from.) You may wish to consult the following website: http://usembassy.state.gov/

  • A recent passport-sized photograph. (Citizens of the following countries must provide two recent photos:  Cuba, North Korea, P.R. China, Russia and Vietnam). Please note: most consulates are requiring the following:  (1) photographs must be no more than 6 months old; (2) photographs must be taken against a light background; (3) the photo must be a FULL-FRONTAL view of the individual looking straight into the camera (unlike most immigration photos which are taken more from the side), and (4) the individual should not wear hats, sunglasses or other clothing which detracts or hides facial features (some narrow exceptions are made for religious customs).

  • Completed DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You can fill out this form online at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ or from the consulate’s website and print out a copy in advance of your trip.  If you fill out the application online, you need to be sure and print out the visa application “confirmation” page. (Note: You only need to print out the confirmation page and nothing else).  (Note: visa issuance processing times for all U.S. consular posts worldwide are posted at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.  With the introduction of the new DS-160 form, the visa applicant must submit the DS-160 first along with the payment of fees, and then determine when and where appointments are available. You must pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee online.  Reciprocity fees may be paid at the consular post after the interview is completed and the visa is approved.

  • Any other items that the embassy or consulate requires. We recommend that you visit the U.S. Department of State web site (http://www.state.gov/) before you leave to research these requirements. 

**WARNING** 

The H-1B visa stamping process has become subject to an increased level of unforeseeable delay, also known as ‘administrative review.’  Reasons for administrative review may include, but are not limited to:  the applicant has a criminal conviction; the applicant has a name and date of birth which closely parallel those of a known criminal; the applicant is a national of a country listed as a state sponsor of terrorism; the applicant will be exposed to sensitive technology during his/her visit to the United States.   If you do travel internationally and experience delays due to administrative review, there is practically nothing that can be done to expedite the process.  You should prepare your employer and yourself for the possibility of an extensive delay.

Also, as a matter of practice, many consular posts cancel prior visas in an applicant’s passport if their visa application is denied or subjected to ‘administrative processing’ for a pending security clearance or other reason.  If this occurs, the applicant must await U.S. visa issuance in the third country, or travel back to their home country directly from Mexico or Canada. Depending on the reason for rejection, they may have the option of applying for the visa again in their home country.

The State Department has instructed consular posts to carefully review visa applications where individuals work with potentially sensitive technology that may be governed by export laws.  Technologies related to GPS technology, nuclear physics, nuclear engineering, robotics, avionics, marine technology, chemical/biological and biomedical engineering, remote sensing, advanced computer/microelectronics, materials technology, lasers, sensors, urban planning and other fields may require higher level security clearances that can result in visa processing delays.  Delays may occur at any consulate but we have recently seen delays in India, some taking as long as 1-3 months. Please make sure you have sufficient time on your trip abroad and schedule your visa appointment to take place upon your arrival to allow for possible processing delays. 

Citizens of the following countries should expect ‘administrative review’ on their visa applications when travelling outside of the U.S.: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait. “Administrative Processing” may take several weeks or longer and some visa applications are ultimately denied. It is certainly safer if you do not travel until you can secure an Advance Parole through a permanent residence case or until this situation changes at the consulates.  Again, if you do travel internationally and experience delays due to administrative review, there is practically nothing that can be done to expedite the process.  You should prepare your employer and yourself for the likelihood of an extensive delay.

 NOTE: Before planning any trip to Canada for consular visa processing purposes, consult the consulate’s requirements at their website. Under no circumstances should you leave the United States for Canada unless you have a confirmed appointment. Information regarding booking an appointment in Canada can be found at: http://canada.usvisa-info.com

Please note: rules regarding Consular Processing in MEXICO (for Third Country Nationals (TCN’s). Information regarding booking an appointment in Mexico can be found at  https://ais.usvisa-info.com/es-mx/niv.  

THIRD COUNTRY NATIONALS WHO CANNOT APPLY FOR A VISA IN MEXICO:  

  • Applicants who entered the U.S. with a visa issued in their home country and changed status from within the U.S. who seek a new visa in the new visa category.

  • Applicants who entered the U.S. in one visa category and are seeking to re-enter the U.S. in a different visa category.

  • Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. having violated the terms of their visas or having overstayed the validity indicated on their I-94s.

  • Applicants who entered the U.S. under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program.

  • Applicants who obtained their current visa in a country other than that of their legal residence.

TRAVELING WHILE AN H-1B PETITION IS PENDING:

    For Change of Status: If you are applying to change to H-1B status from another status, travel outside the United States will abandon your request to change to H-1B status. If the H-1B petition is later approved by USCIS, you will need to apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. consulate before you can enter the U.S. in H-1B classification.

 

    For Extension of Stay: Traveling while an H-1B extension petition is pending does not abandon the extension petition. However, you should be physically present in the U.S. when the case is received by the USCIS.  Please let our office know immediately if you are planning to travel while your H-1B extension is pending. If the extension is approved while you are outside of the U.S., you will need to make arrangements with us to send you the new approval notice overseas. The latest approval should always be used when entering the U.S. Otherwise, the I-94 will be issued with the end date of the previous approval and it will be necessary to exit and reenter the U.S. to obtain an updated I-94. This is because USCIS considers the last I-94 issued to be the current, active one.

***If your extension is pending, you still need a valid H-1B visa and a valid H-1B approval notice to reenter the U.S.

 

NOTE: Travel during the 240 day automatic extension of work authorization after the current H-1B period has expired is not allowed. If you travel during this time, you will need to stay abroad until the extension is approved and apply for a new visa to be readmitted to the U.S. in H-1B status. 

TRAVEL TO CANADA OR MEXICO:

The “automatic extension of validity” provision allows most H-1B workers to re-enter to the U.S. without a valid H-1B visa stamp after a trip to either Canada or Mexico that lasts no more than 30 days. Automatic re-validation is not applicable to nationals of countries identified by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism. For a list of these countries, go to http://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm

While F and J non-immigrants can use automatic re-validation to re-enter the U.S. after trips to the Caribbean, H-1B workers cannot. H-1B travel under this provision is limited only to Canada and Mexico.

To take advantage of this provision, the following must be true:

  • The visit to Canada or Mexico is for 30 days or less.

  • Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of re-entry to the U.S.

  • You must possess your I-94 card, which shows an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay.

  • You must possess your H-1B approval notice (bottom left side of I-797).

  • You must apply for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission/extension of stay.

  • You must have maintained and intend to resume your nonimmigrant status.

  • You did not apply for a new visa stamp while in Canada or Mexico.

Please remember when exiting the U.S. that you should not surrender your I-94 card; you will need it to re-enter under the provisions of automatic re-validation.

Note: automatic re-validation applies only when re-entering the U.S. You may need to obtain a Canadian or Mexican visa stamp to enter Canada or Mexico. 

For a list of Canadian consulates in the U.S., see: https://travel.gc.ca/assistance/embassies-consulates/united-states

For a list of Mexican consulates in the U.S, see: http://www.mexonline.com/consulate.htm.

 

NOTE: Any non-immigrant who applies for a new H-1B visa in Canada or Mexico and is refused a new H-1B visa, or has an application for a new H-1B visa pending, will not be able to re-enter the United States. When applying for a visa stamp in any country, there is always a risk of being delayed for security clearance.

Sources: 22 CFR 41.112 (d); Amended and revised 67FR 10322; adopted as final rule, 68 FR 49351 (8/18/03)

MISCELLANEOUS TRAVEL INFORMATION:

IMPORTANT - US-VISIT info:  Please note that the Department of Homeland Security has a new program to register entries and exits from the U.S.  The program is called “US-VISIT” and is being implemented in stages throughout the U.S.  You must consult the Department of Homeland Security’s website (https://www.dhs.gov/obim-biometric-identification-services) to see whether your port of entry has implemented US-VISIT and review special procedures for registering your entry or exit at that port.

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to changed verification procedures entitled “PIMS” (Petition Information Management Service) you should expect a minimum 3-4 day delay from the time of your interview to actual visa issuance.

**WARNING**

  Every time you leave the U.S. and re-enter, you must check the date on the new I-94 that you are given.  This date on the new I-94 overrides the expiration date on your I-797 H-1B approval notice and if it is an earlier date, it becomes the new expiration date of your H-1B work authorization and your H-1B status expires on this earlier date.  If the expiration date on a new I-94 is earlier than the expiration date on your I-797 H-1B approval notice, please contact our office immediately.  In addition, please make sure that your passport is valid for the full H-1B authorization period as USCIS otherwise may limit your work authorization to the expiration date of your passport.