Here is a three-point gist of what you will find in this article:
- The checklist for H1B Visa stamping
- The checklist for US port of entry
- A mini-packing guide for your H1B Visa travel
H1B visa application is a long process that involves a lot of documentation at each stage. Once your petition is approved by the USCIS, a visa interview might come as the next step, if you live outside the US. This step will be an initiation of your visa stamping application, so there will be a lot of documents you need to carry with you to the interview.
Since documentation is a very important factor in H1B Visa approval, let's take a closer look at the right documents you need to put together and the right way to file them in this short guide given below.
H1B Visa Stamping - The High-level Process
If your H1B petition was filed as Consular Processing with the USCIS, your visa stamping will be done at a US Consular Office or US Embassy. Applying for H1B visa stamping is the same as the procedure for general non-immigrant visa stamping. Here is a general outline of the steps involved:
- Complete the Non-immigrant Visa application form (DS-160 form) online.
- Settle the US Visa Application amount of $190 USD online or at the bank.
- Book your appointments for the US Visa Biometrics and in-person interview.
- Attend the in-person interview and the biometrics appointment.
- Wait for the decision from the Consulate.
- Collect your passport with the H1B Visa stamp.
Both the interview process and the biometrics appointment will have associated documentation.
Also Read: Documents Needed for H1B Transfer & the Application Process
Your Document Checklist for H1B Visa Stamping
Once the USCIS sends you Form I-797, the approval notice, you are eligible to schedule an interview at the closest Consulate or US Embassy Office to get the H1B stamp in your passport.
To make an appointment, applicants must go through the following process:
- Make a photo available that meets the specification standards of the USCIS. Your photo must be in color, square-shaped, and between 600X600 pixels and 1200X1200 pixels, in JPEG format that is less than 240 kilobytes.
- For the next step, keep the following available: a valid passport number, details of travel arrangements, a record of all your travels to the US within the past five years, educational and employment records, and a copy of the USCIS approval. When you have gathered these documents, you are ready to fill the H1B Form DS-160, available on the US Department of State (DOS) website.
- Pay $190 USD towards DS-160 fees.
- Schedule a biometrics collection appointment at an off-site facilitation center.
- Make an appointment for your visa interview in your home country.
- Bring all the relevant documents for the H1B stamping interview and, finally, get your H1B visa stamp.
Here is an H1B document checklist for when you appear for the H1B interview at the US Embassy or Consulate Office:
- All passports in your possession - current and previous.
- A completed DS-160 form barcode.
- Form I-799 - The H1B approval notice.
- Form I-129 - The Petition for Non-immigrant Workers.
- A completed LCA from your sponsoring employer.
- An employment verification letter.
- An updated Resume/CV.
- Documentation about the sponsoring company of the H1B applicant.
- Pay stubs, transcripts, diplomas, degrees, and any supplemental documentation to support evidence of education and previous employment, and
- All relevant forms that show evidence and records of the applicant's studies in the US, if applicable.
In addition to these, the applicant may have to include the following documents if they intend to apply for H-4 visas on behalf of their dependents:
- The original I-797 form of the H1B applicant.
- The original I-129 form of the H1B applicant.
- Proofs of marriage in case the dependent is a spouse, including marriage certificates, wedding photographs, joint bank-account details, or any other proof.
- If there are dependent children, original birth certificates will have to be produced.
- There may be a return trip to the home country involved to get your H1B visa stamp, if you had studied in the US, on a student visa, or worked through Optional Practical Training (OPT).
The stamping process can only be done at a US consulate office, or the nearest US Embassy branch.
Documents to Carry While Travelling to USA on H1B
When you have received your passport with the H1B visa stamp, you are ready to travel to a US port of entry. The following documents need to be produced upon entering the port of entry:
- Your original passport with a minimum 6-month validity at the time of admission, and the H1B visa stamped on the passport.
- Form I-797A Notice of Action - your H1B Visa approval from the USCIS.
- The Labor Condition Application (LCA) from your employer.
- A valid job offer letter from your sponsoring company.
- The Employee agreement you signed with your H1B sponsor company.
- Original educational certificates showing all your qualifications, including Bachelor's degree, Master's degree (if applicable), high school certificates, etc
You should carry the following list of documents if you have studied in the US:
- All previous I20s from the schools you attended.
- OPT card related to your employment before the H1B visa.
- Any STEM OPT cards you may have used before H1B, if applicable.
- If you have worked on an F1 visa in CPT, you must include previous W2 tax forms.
Include the following if you have already worked on an H1B visa for the sponsor:
- Payslips from the last 6 months of employment.
- All W2 tax forms from the past.
H-4 dependents need to carry proof of relationship with the H1B principal beneficiary. The following is an optional list you can carry with you:
- The following documents if you have worked for a client as a third party while on an H1B visa:
- The Client letter
- All project-related documentation, if applicable
- A copy of the Client letter if you have worked at Client on H1B
- Experience letters regarding your previous work, if any
- Professional licenses or certificates, if any
- Copy of your resume you used to file for an h-1b visa
What to Pack When Travelling on Your H1B Visa
With all the documentation and procedures involved, packing for your trip to the US port of entry may be rushed through. Here is a small checklist you can use to ensure you don't miss important information or items before departure:
- Know the weight limit per ticket: Most airlines allow 23 kg and carry-on luggage per passenger. But these specifics may differ with some airlines, so it is best to double-check.
- Categorize all items that need to be carried and follow a systematic method of packing them into your luggage so that you don't miss out on anything important.
- Follow an even weight distribution for all your luggage: make sure that you don't overstuff one suitcase and have another that's almost empty. In times of emergency, or even for the sake of functionality, it is wise to even out the luggage in all your bags.
- Optimal use of space: Mixing and matching items into your luggage will ensure optimal use of space and even distribution of weight into the bag.
- Label your baggage. Putting labels on your luggage stating your name and contact number is a wise step over long commutes so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Also, personalizing your belongings with ribbon, stickers, or other items that stand out will help you keep an eye on them and access them easily in a high-traffic environment.
- Valuables: The best way to carry valuables like laptops, money, phones, etc is in your hand luggage. Stuffing them into your suitcase or other check-in luggage will not be a good idea.
A Final Note
Carrying extra documentation never hurts. Whatever you feel could be of value can be included in the file you will produce before the consulate officer. Keep checking back with the US Consulate Website for updated information, and for any checklists they may upload that could be of value to you.
If you are just starting out on your H1B visa application journey, you will need a good place to start. Visit TechFetch H1B to get more information on the process of obtaining your H1B Visa.
**Disclaimer: H1B rules and regulations keep changing from time to time. For updated information, always refer to the USCIS official website**