H-1B Visa Stamping Process in USA

Historically, for U.S. visa renewal, foreign nationals had to leave the U.S. to get their visa stamping done in their home country or another country that allows third-country nationals to get their stamping. However, recent developments may change this, enabling U.S. visa stamping within the U.S. itself. This article provides an in-depth analysis of this new development and covers the latest news on this subject as of July 2023.

Table of Contents

  1. Historical Background of U.S. Visa Stamping
  2. The U.S. Department of State’s Pilot Program for H1B Visa Renewal
  3. What to Expect Next
  4. Recent News on U.S. Visa Stamping in the U.S.
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s start by understanding the history behind U.S. visa stamping within the U.S.

1. Historical Background of U.S. Visa Stamping

Previously, until 2004, the U.S. Department of State used to conduct U.S. visa stamping within the U.S. for renewals of various visa types, initially targeting foreign government officials and international organizations’ employees. However, the service was discontinued from July 16, 2004, due to changes in the U.S. visa interview requirements and challenges in collecting biometrics for applicants within the U.S.

2. The U.S. Department of State’s Pilot Program for H1B Visa Renewal

Fast forward to 2023, in an interview with Bloomberg Law, Julie Strufft from the U.S. Department of State indicated plans to launch a pilot program to test out U.S. visa renewals within the U.S. Specifically, the program will focus on H and L visa applicants, with plans to extend it to other visa types later.

This news was officially confirmed by The White House in a joint statement released during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. The pilot program, aimed at reducing the need for visa holders to travel out of the country for visa stamping, is set to commence later in 2023, with a broader expansion in 2024.

3. What to Expect Next

While the pilot program is confirmed, the specifics regarding its operation and start date are still awaited. More details are likely to be shared by the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Consulates/Embassy websites in the near future.

4. Recent News on U.S. Visa Stamping in the U.S.

This section tracks the timeline of news related to the pilot program, from its initial mention in Bloomberg News to its official confirmation by The White House.

5. Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions related to U.S. visa stamping within the U.S., providing current information based on the available news and updates.

Indeed, this development could revolutionize U.S. visa stamping and significantly ease the process for many. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to track this story. Your thoughts on this news are welcome in the comments section below.

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.

Check Case Status for H1b Visa 2024