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H1B Dropbox: The Complete Details
April 5, 2022
15 mins
Close-up of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services logo with the small American flag nearby

This blog discusses:

  • Dropbox Stamping
  • Dropbox eligibility
  • Documents required for H1B Dropbox

H1B Dropbox: What do We Know About it?

All foreigners who dream of working in the US know about the H1B visa.  If you are also interested, click here to know all about H1B visa. It is the ticket that opens the gateway to working and building a dream life on US soil. The H1B visa also allows employers in the US to bring foreigners to work in specialty jobs that require a bachelor's degree or an equivalent educational qualification.

The maximum duration of an H1B visa is six years, although initially, H1B holders are allowed to stay in the US only for three years. Most holders apply for the next three-year extension to continue their careers. To get the H1B extension, most holders have to return to their native countries, get an appointment at the US Consulate and have their passports stamped by the Consular Officer. Sounds like an expensive and time-consuming process? No doubt it is.

That's why the H1B Dropbox Facility.

If you want to renew your visa, you must've surely heard about the US Visa Dropbox option. This facility allows H1B holders to get an extension stamped on their passport without attending the visa appointment.

There are certain eligibility criteria they have to fulfill to get the stamping. This stamping process is called the Interview Waiver or the US Visa Dropbox Stamping.

Most H1B holders refer to it as Dropbox Stamping. By definition, it means that an eligible H1B holder can submit the application and the required documents in a virtual "Dropbox" to get the approval which will be mailed to their residence. Hence, it is understandable that the term "Dropbox" is only a term facilitating the document submitted to a location assigned by the US embassy without going through the rigors of a visa interview.

If you are an Indian citizen with an H1B visa, here's a bit of important news for you.
The US State Department has announced two things:
1. An additional 20,000 H1B Dropbox appointment slots have been made available across various US Consulates in India.
2. The Dropbox eligibility period has been extended to 48 months instead of the usual 12 months upto December 31st, 2022.

This announcement is a breather for Indian H1B holders hesitating to travel to India due to insufficient H1B Dropbox appointments. The new appointment slots will be available by Spring 2022. Therefore, even if your passport expires, you can still travel to the United States if your U.S. visa is valid.

The H1b Dropbox is certainly a convenient method to renew your visa for an additional three-year term. However, there is a long list of criteria to fulfill to be eligible for the same. Let's check out what they are.

Important Eligibility Criteria & Documents for H1B Visa Dropbox

Before submitting an application for H1B stamping using a dropbox option, you need to make sure you meet all criteria, which requires you to:

  • Have H1B Stamping done before and have US Visa foil in your passport of type H1B.
  • Renew your visa in the visa category.
  • Own a previous visa that was limited to a single entry or limited to a ten-year validity period.
  • Not have provided your fingerprints during your previous visa application.
  • Own a recently issued visa issued in your home country or the same country as a renewal.
  • Have received your visa after January 1st, 2008.

You also have to ensure your:

  • Visa does not have annotations like "Department Authorization" or "Clearance Received."
  • Visa was issued after your 14th birthday.
  • Application for a replacement is not due to a lost, stolen, or canceled visa.
  • Visa was not denied in any visa category since you recently issued a visa.
  • H1B visa is valid or has expired in the last twelve months. (Unless the Dropbox eligibility was extended to 48 months from expiry until further notice.)

There is only one criterion for applicants over 80 years of age: Their most recent US Visa Application should not have been refused.

Important point to remember: Your dependents cannot use the Dropbox based on your eligibility. All dependants must attend the visa interview in person.

US Visa Dropbox Requirements for Limited Number of H1B First-timer Applicants

The United States Department of State has issued the decision that between the 1st of January, 2022, and the 31st of December, 2022, they are providing first time H1B stamping dropbox eligibility if applicants meet all the standards listed below. This is in response to the highly constricted levels of operation at most US Consulates and Embassies around the globe.

If you are a first-time H1B applicant, see whether you meet all the criteria below, and you may be eligible for the H1B dropbox process:

  • A Notice of Approval from USCIS.

This notice is typically the first step to getting your H1B visa stamped. Once your employer has submitted an H1B application petition with USCIS, the petition will either be approved or rejected by the USCIS.

  • You are applying from your place of nationality or residence.

According to this mandate, you must apply for the H1B either from your native country or an official place of residence. This means that you could apply from India if you are an Indian citizen or from Germany if you are an Indian citizen working in Germany with a proper work visa and a valid residential address in Germany.

  • A prior non-H1B US visa.

Another requirement for first-time H1B applicants to be eligible for Dropbox Stamping is to have a prior record of a US visa approved in their passports. This could be an F-category visa or even a B1 or B2 tourist visa.

  • No prior visa refusals.

Your records should show no evidence of a prior US visa refusal. Records of a waiver or overcoming should support refusals in the administrative processing category, like the 221G. No potential aspects of ineligibility must be found in your application, though there is not enough clarification on this point.

  • There should be no ‘Department Authorization’ or ‘Clearance Received’ annotations.

Annotations like ‘Department Authorization’ or ‘Clearance Received’ will disqualify you from Dropbox Stamping eligibility.

  • No lost, canceled, or stolen Visas.

Any records of lost, stolen, or canceled US visas will render you ineligible for Dropbox Stamping.

  • A visa issued post 1st of January, 2008.

The last US visa issued in your name must have an issue date prior to the 1st of January, 2008.

Dropbox Stamping Eligibility for Those Showing H1B Change or H1B Transfer

It is a commonly held misconception that H1B employees who have gone through an H1B transfer or changed their employers are not eligible for Dropbox Stamping because the H1B visa foil received under the previous employer is glued to their passport. In reality, the name of your first sponsoring company is only added as an annotation for the CBP official. It does not bear any consequence on your eligibility for Dropbox Stamping if you fulfil all other eligibility criteria.

In fact, if you log on to the CGI Federal website and fill in the details for the US visa on the questionnaire, you will not find any questions on the previous company of employment or other annotation on your first visa foil. We have several visitors on our website and social media channels who can confirm this fact from their experience.

US Visa Drop-Box Eligibility Extension after Covid-19 Pandemic

Initially, the Visa Dropbox facility was available only for visa holders who had a valid visa or their visa had expired in the last 12 months. However, ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, visa services have been hit hard, and many US Consulates are yet to become fully functional. In this situation, the US Department of State decided to relax the visa norms for two reasons:

  1. To align with the different country's various lockdown regulations.
  2. To save the visa applicant from unnecessary exposure to the virus.
As per the latest norms set by the US Department of State, the H1B Dropbox eligibility period is extended to 48 months instead of the usual 12 months until December 31st, 2022.

With this extension, more H1B visa holders will now be able to renew their visas without attending the interview and without exposing themselves to Covid-19 risks.

Please note that you are not eligible for the interview waiver in India if your last visa stamp was issued in Mexico or Canada. Many Indian H1B students make the mistake of getting their visas stamped in other countries, which automatically disqualifies them from the interview waiver.

Also Read: All You Need To Know About the H1B Dropbox Waiver

Steps to Book Your H1B Dropbox Appointment

For the H1B visa interview waiver program, you must meet all the eligibility criteria listed above. If you do, no appointment is necessary at a Visa Application Center. To make an H1B Dropbox appointment, simply follow the steps below:

  • Complete Form DS-160.
  • Submit the form and print the confirmation page.
  • Visit this website, register yourself and schedule your interview.
  • Pay the H1B visa application fees. You will receive the submission letter containing the H1B Dropbox document checklist if you have qualified.
  • Collect the required documents.
  • Deliver them to any one of the 11 service centers.
  • Always have a second copy of all the documents.
  • A CGI officer will review your documents and forward them to the proper US Consulate or Embassy.

Document Checklist for H1B Dropbox

Here's a list of important documents to submit and your valid passport for H1B Dropbox.

  • DS-160 Confirmation Letter copy
  • Dropbox Confirmation Notification
  • Recently taken passport size photographs
  • Original & Valid Passport (Please submit your original, old, and expired passport, if it has an H1B visa stamped on it.)
  • Contact information of your managers at your current office in the U.S.
  • Copy of I-797, H1-B Approval, if applicable
  • Bank statements for the last 12 months
  • Tax forms 1040 and W-2 were submitted while working in the U.S.
  • One set of original supporting documentation with one photocopied set
  • Children applying for the interview waiver should submit their passport bio-page and photocopies of their parent's valid visas

List of drop-off locations and service centers in India:

  • New Delhi Embassy– drop-ff locations at New Delhi, Jalandhar, or Chandigarh processing centers.
  • Mumbai – drop-off at Mumbai, Pune, or Ahmedabad processing centers.
  • Chennai – drop-off at Chennai, Kochi or Bangalore.
  • Hyderabad – Drop all the documents at Hyderabad.
  • Kolkata – Drop off all the documents at Kolkata.

All documents are reviewed by a Visa Application Centre (VSC) employee before accepting the delivery application to the US Embassy or Consulate. You will be notified via email if any additional documents are required. The processing time may take up to three weeks. Upon application approval, you can collect your visa and passport from the selected documentation collection center.

Processing Time for Dropbox Stamping: The US embassy issued a July 9th update stating that there will be a three to four-week US visa dropbox processing time. Expediting of cases will not be possible and the passport will not be available to you during this time. So, you must be prepared to remain without a passport for the three-to-four-week period. <> It is our recommendation that you read H1B Appointment Scheduling & Cancellation for further details on the H1B Dropbox stamping procedures.

What Happens After the Dropbox Process?

Here are important things to note about the H1B visa administrative process through Dropbox:

US visa application process has only two possible outcomes: The consular officer will either issue or refuse the visa. If the eligibility is not properly established, the officer will reject the application.

However, Department procedures also allow consular officers to use information from other sources (other than that of the applicant) to determine an applicant's eligibility. In the case of a refused visa application, the administrative processing is further extended.
A consular officer may conclude that an applicant qualifies for a visa after completing the case-specific administrative procedures.

What you need to know about Consulate Interviews:

  • The US Consulate can still call you for an interview after submitting your documents for the US Visa Dropbox.
  • Fulfilling all the visa renewal requirements is the only way to qualify for the US Visa Dropbox.

Visa processing time:

The processing time for visa renewal usually lasts three weeks. Hence, it is wise to have a three-week buffer after submitting your documents if you are called for an interview.

FAQs About H1B Dropbox & Visa Stamping

Most H1B holders are unsure about the H1B Dropbox option and how it works. We hope this short list of FAQs will help you understand this process.

1. What happens if I miss my scheduled date to drop off my documents?

If you miss your drop-off date, your receipt will be marked "Unused" within 2 hours. However, you can reschedule your appointment and select a new drop-off date. You can also print a new drop-off letter when your receipt is marked "Unused."

2. Can I change the Dropbox location?

Yes, you can change the location by rescheduling your appointment with the new location.

3. What happens if my family members are not eligible despite by H1B Dropbox status?

If your family member is an H4 visa holder, it does not make them eligible, even if you are an H1B visa holder. In that case, you may use any one of the two options :

1. Use Dropbox so that the H4 dependant appears for the visa interview
2. Give up your Dropbox option as an H1B primary applicant and combine your own application with H4 to appear for the interview and the H4 dependant.

4. Can I alter my US Embassy selection?

No, you cannot alter the selection of the US Embassy, especially if you have been asked to attend your interview after dropping off your documents.

5. Can someone else drop off my documents on my behalf?

Yes, they can. You have to designate a person and provide them with all the materials for your interview waiver.

6. Is there a 100% guarantee that I will not be called for an interview after applying for the interview waiver?

No, there are no such guarantees. Sometimes, the US Embassy may still call you for an interview. In that case, you will be intimated about the time and date.

FAQs on Dropbox Stamping Eligibility

1. If I am an Indian, will documents sent through international courier from within the US be accepted for Dropbox Stamping?

No. The applicant will need to be in the country of nationality (India, in this case)for eligibility for Dropbox Stamping. Only scheduling of appointments is acceptable from within the US.

2. Can spouses book the same visa Dropbox appointment?

Yes. Spouses have the freedom to schedule document dropoff on the same day and time. All the details will reflect in the system.

3. I was called for a personal interview after I submitted my Dropbox application. Is it mandatory I attend?

A summons for a personal interview cannot be overridden or ignored. If asked for, it is mandatory to attend.

4. Is the new process for Dropbox stamping application optional? Can I use the old method for application?

The new process of selecting a date and arriving at the appointment location to drop off your documents is no longer an option. It is the only accepted method for document dropoff.

Conclusion

The US Visa Dropbox process is uncomplicated and pretty straightforward. Fortunately, the newly announced extensions boost your chances of qualifying and make the renewal process hassle-free.

TechFetch - All in one platform for H1B visa details

The TechFetch H1B is an all in one platform to offer you important details regarding the H1B Visa and Dropbox process.

**Disclaimer: All H1B visa process details are subject to change. To get updated details, please visit the USCIS official website.

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