With the upcoming holiday season, many foreign nationals are making plans to visit home over the holidays. While we can’t do anything about stress created by long airport lines or visiting the in-laws, we offer the following tips to reduce visa stamping stress:
- Make sure you travel with the documents you will need for the stamping. You will need, at the minimum, the following documents:
- Petition approval notice (H-1B approval notice, for example)
- Confirmation of employment letter from your employer, with current date
- Copy of recent pay stubs
- Copy of petition and supporting documents sent to USCIS, if possible
- Visa fees
*For the specifics on items e-g and other documents required, check the details on the website of the consulate that you will go to, as each consulate has slightly different requirements.
- Red alert! If you work at a location other than your employer’s headquarters (for example, if you move from client site to client site, which is common in the IT and some health care industries), the consular officer will want to make sure that there is a position available for you, and that the employer actually controls your employment (the same type of issues that we have to prove at the USCIS level). Prepare yourself for this: if possible, obtain the end client letter ahead of time and take it with you to the interview appointment. If possible, also take with you a copy of the contract and work order (I realize that it may not be possible to take this with you as an employee).
- Be ready for delays. Visa stamping is increasingly difficult these days, with consular officers on the alert for potential fraud, carefully checking employment relationships, conducting background checks, etc. Visa stamping is particularly problematic these days in India, with frequent delays for administrative processing , 221g requests (for additional documents), and even denials.
- Likewise, allow sufficient time for the return of your passport with the new visa. Each consulate has different processing times, which are constantly changing depending on case processing volume. Further, consulates are closed for US holidays and local holidays, which may delay processing times. Plan ahead and allow time for unexpected delays!
- Consider your alternatives. You may already have a valid advance parole (AP/travel document) in hand. If so, you may want to consider skipping the visa stamping process altogether, and re-entering using the AP. You should consult with an attorney before traveling to confirm the ramifications, if any, on your underlying non-immigrant status.
While consular processing is rarely fun, if you proactively prepare yourself with the required documents, and have realistic expectations of the possible timelines and challenges, you will have set the stage for a positive experience.
As always, this information is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult an experience immigration attorney before taking or refraining from taking any action.