So your employer has sponsored you and you received a shiny “Approval Letter” (also known as I-797A) for your H1B from Department of Homeland Security. Your done. So you think. Until you realize that you don’t really have a Visa. Not in your passport nor did it arrive with that shiny document.
The story is that you DO NOT have a H1B Visa. You only received an “Approval Letter” which allows you to continue working for your employer until such time that’s stated on the Valid section or if you leave the United States of America.
What this means
If you leave America even for a holiday you will not be able to go back in unless you have a H1B Visa in your passport. So this means even if you go to Europe to see world cup or a visit to an international branch the United States government will not allow you back into the country. Even though they have given you an Approval Notice.
Don’t panic! It’s ok. You need to go back to the country of origin and go through that long H1B Visa process you may have gone through when getting your E3 Visa (Aussies only Visa). Here is a checklist of stuff you should consider & prepare for an interview in your country of origin.
Prepare for H1B Non-immigrant Visa Application:
- Make sure you have a “Valid passport”. Check the expiry dates on it.
- H1B approval notice (in original). This is that shiny document also known as I-797A.
- Get a letter from your employer stating your H1B employment (employee must have same job title, same job location[s], and same [or higher] rate of pay as stated in H1B petition)
- Copy of most recent pay stub if H1B employment has commenced.
- Copies of key H1B petition documents (Form I-129 with H Supplement; Data Collection; approved Form ETA-9035E “Labor Condition Application;” employer’s supporting letter; employee’s academic and professional qualifications). Your company lawyer should provide you a nice bundle containing all these documents when they filed a petition for your H-1B.
- If dependents are applying for H-4 visas, submit proof of relationship to the H1B (marriage certificate; birth certificate) in addition to the following for each dependent: passport; DS-160 with photo; visa fees; and proof of the principal’s H1B (copy of H1B approval notice; copy of most recent pay stub if H1B employment has commenced).
- If you changed titles (roles) and this isn’t reflected in your original petition document you have 2 options:
- File a petition to change your title. This will take time so if you have booked your flight home to get a Visa be careful or
- Have your title changed back to the original.
Fill out a bunch of forms:
- H1B Visa fees.
- Pay the application fee online (http://canberra.usembassy.gov/niv_fees.html). You can get a family member to do this for you too. Make sure you retain the receipt as proof of payment during your interview, and
Purchase a prepaid and self-addressed Express Post Platinum envelope, Registered Post envelope or courier satchel for the return of your documents. Failure to provide this will cause a delay in the processing of your application.Used to be the case – now it’s part of the mammoth of fees you pay.
- Fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)
- Dedicate around 1-2 hours to this long process. Many many questions.
- You will upload a passport photo of yourself. Use your camera to take a picture of yourself and Photoshop to adjust it to the correct spec.
- At the end of the process Print out the Confirmation page. You will need to bring this to your interview.
- Here: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4230.html
- Book (online) an appointment from the Visa Information Service at your hometowns U.S. Consulate General.
Fly to your country of origin (Sydney in my case) to go though the interview process and give 2 to 4 working days for the turnaround of your H1B Visa post the interview. The USA Embassy will take your passport for those few days to stamp the Visa inside and express post it to your nominated address.
Now you’re ready to rock and roll! Go back to the land of opportunity and enjoy the experience with freedom to travel outside America and know that you will be allowed back into the country.