H-1B Visa Stamping
Working in the United States on an H-1B requires foreign professionals to have their H-1B visa stamped, which shows that the government endorses their stay.8 min read
While there are a few steps to the H1B visa stamping process, applicants should know that recent statistics show a bright future for prospective H-1B visa holders.
- The United States issued 206,002 new and initial visas in 2022 alone.
- Rejection rates have been lower in the last two years. In 2022, the rejection rate for H-1B visas was only 5%.
- Normally, H-1B visa stamping requires an in-person interview. However, until December 31, 2023, there are exceptions. Check them out in this guide.
- Approximately 75% of H-1B visa holders are from India.
Let’s go over the steps you need to follow to ensure a successful application. If you need extra help, it’s best to contact an experienced immigration lawyer.
H1B Visa Stamping Documents
Applicants must submit the following documents as part of the visa stamping process.
- Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application)
- Form I-797 (H1B Visa Approval Notice)
- H1B Classification Supplement Form
- Labor Condition Application
- Confirmation of visa application
- Petition documents
- One digital color photo that is square, is between 600 by 600 and 1200 by 1200 pixels, is in JPEG format, and is no larger than 240 kilobytes
- A letter of employment
- A description of the job
- Financial statements, such as payslips or monthly bank statements
- A degree or professional certifications
- Their passport
H-1B Visa Stamping Process
Let’s discuss each of the H-1B visa stamping steps.
Since this type of visa is highly competitive, it’s important that applicants understand the process. This will help ensure the submission of a successful application.
Form DS-160 - H1B Visa Application
An important step is to file Form DS 160 for the H1B stamping process. Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) helps the U.S. Department of States determine if an applicant is eligible for a nonimmigrant visa.
Applicants must fill out this form on the U.S. Department of State website. It will take about 90 minutes to complete. Applicants can seek help from experienced immigration lawyers, but must submit and sign the application themselves.
Pay Application Fee and Book H-1B Visa Stamping Appointment
Next, applicants must pay the H-1B application fee, which can cost anywhere between $1,700 to $6,500.
The costs depend on lawyer fees, employment criteria, and other potential optional fees. It’s important to note that employers handle all fees, except for the premium processing fee, an optional cost of $1,500 paid by the applicant.
All applicants must first schedule an H1B visa stamping appointment with the Offsite Facilitation Center, and then a second interview with the US consulate. It’s recommended to schedule the second interview at least 2 days before the interview with the Offsite Facilitation Center.
Scheduling appointments is easy. Simply create a user profile on the U.S. Visa Service website and choose “Schedule Appointment”. You must schedule the appointment within 1 year of securing payment approval.
Schedule Fingerprinting Appointment
The third step in the H-1B visa stamping process is scheduling a biometric appointment to provide your fingerprint at the Visa Application Center. You’ll need to schedule this appointment at least 1 day prior to the H-1B interview, but no more than 3 days before.
It’s recommended to arrive 15 minutes before your interview. If there are any cuts on your fingers, you’ll have to reschedule the appointment.
Fingerprinting is a crucial step in the H1B stamping process because it allows the United States government to verify your identity.
H-1B Visa Interview
As part of the H-1B visa interview, you’ll have to answer general questions, job qualification questions, and employment background questions.
Below are some example questions applicants can expect to answer.
You may also be required to provide recommendation letters from past employers.
H-1B visa stamping while in the USA
Applicants must go to the US Embassy or a US consulate to complete the H-1B visa stamping process. Indian citizens, for example, can go to the US embassy in New Delhi, or to a US consulate in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
H-1B visa stamping timeline
The timeline for H-1B visa stamping can vary depending on numerous circumstances, such as your application location and local staffing needs.
Indian citizens, for instance, may experience longer wait times depending on where they apply due how many applicants there are, along with the issue of staffing shortages. Below are average wait times for H1B visa stamping in India.
|New Delhi Embassy||290 days|
|Hyderabad Consulate||72 days|
|Chennai Consulate||65 days|
|Kolkata Consulate||64 days|
|Mumbai Consulate||3 days|
When can I enter the US with an H1B visa stamp?
H-1B visa holders can enter the United States 10 days before the start of the job, which is usually stated on approved I-797 Forms.
U.S. immigration will not allow foreign professionals to enter earlier. All successful applicants should know their individual H1B visa stamping timeline to plan for flights accordingly.
When can an H-1B visa be stamped for visa applicants?
Form I-797 (Notice of Action) will tell foreign professionals when their employment begins.
This form is also important because it shows an applicant’s official start date. This helps applicants determine when they can apply to get their visa stamped (which is usually 90 days before the start of the employment).
H1B visa stamping rejection
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may deny applicants the stamp for the following reasons.
- Failing to meet adequate academic standards or occupation requirements
- Not maintaining current status
- The employer cannot meet H-1B visa requirements
- Failing to pay associated fees
- Not providing additional evidence upon request
H-1B denial notices will indicate if applicants can appeal. However, appeals are only granted in rare situations.
H1B visa re-stamping
For foreign professionals that want to extend their stay past 3 years, they must go to a US consulate and attend an interview to have their visas re-stamped.
Currently, foreign professionals cannot re-stamp their visas in the United States. The H1B re-stamping process should start at least 6 months prior to the visa expiring.
H-1B visa renewal stamping
The U.S. Department of State is now allowing applicants to renew their H-1B visa stamp without an interview and using the dropbox process, so long as it is within 48 months of the expiration date.
This option is available to anyone looking to renew their visa, including Indian citizens. This is not available for people looking to apply for another visa.
Let’s review the general eligibility requirements for the visa renewal stamping process.
If an applicant had their visa stamped after their 14th birthday, then they must follow the criteria below.
- No previous visa denial
- The passport has not been lost or stolen
- The passport cannot be have notes like “clearance received” or “department authorization”
- The stamp was issued after January 1, 2008
If any applicant is over 80 years old, there is only one requirement: they must not have received a visa denial at any point in the past.
Children under 14 must simply submit photocopies of their parent’s passports and a copy of their valid US visa.
H-1B Visa Stamping in India
Applying for an H-1B stamp is the same in India as it is for any other country.
However, there is an exception that’s valid until December 31, 2023. The USCIS may waive in-person interviews for certain applicants and instead, foreign professionals can submit their application through dropbox. They must be an Indian resident and meet the following criteria.
- First-time applicant
- Previously approved United States visa (any type)
- Never received a visa denial of any kind in the past
- Have visited the United States by gaining approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
Steps for H-1B visa stamping in India
Let’s summarize the H-1B visa stamping process for Indian citizens.
|Submit Form DS-160||Submit Form DS-160 online. This will assist the U.S. Department of States in assessing if an applicant is eligible for a nonimmigrant visa.|
|Pay application fee and book H-1B visa appointment||Pay the fee, which can cost anywhere between $1,700 and $6,500 and schedule an interview with a US consulate or embassy.|
|Schedule a fingerprinting appointment||Schedule a fingerprinting appointment at the Visa Application Center, at least 1 day prior to the H-1B interview.|
|Attend an H-1B visa interview||Attend a visa interview prior to working in the United States.|
H-1B visa stamping appointment in India
Indian citizens can schedule an H-1B stamping appointment by visiting the USTravelDocs website.
After navigating to the website, applicants should select a “nonimmigrant visa”. From there, you’ll need to login and schedule an appointment at a US consulate or embassy in India.
Wait times for appointments are long. It’s important to follow this guide and contact an experienced immigration lawyer for guidance. If you need to reschedule, you can change the date online or call the visa application center for help.
H-1B Visa Stamping FAQ
Let’s review the most commonly asked questions about the H1B stamping process.
When should you apply for H1B visa stamping?
You should apply for an H-1B visa stamp 90 days prior to your employment start date in the United States.
H1B change of status visa stamping
Stamping is not required for an H-1B change of status. The stamp is only required if the visa holder wants to travel outside the United States.
Can someone with an H1B visa travel from India to the USA?
Foreign professionals with an H-1B visa and a valid I-797 Approval Notice can travel from India to the United States.
While applicants can travel from India to the United States with a H-1B visa, they should always bring all the necessary H-1B documents with them. This will help prove the status of the visa if there are any problems at the border.
How long H1B visa is valid without stamping
Applicants should get H1B visa stamping done 90 days prior to their employment start date.
Is there a requirement to go to my home country for H1B stamping?
Yes, foreign professionals cannot get their H-1B visa stamped in the United States. They must go to a US consulate or embassy in their home country.
Can you travel outside of the U.S. and return with an H-1B?
Foreign professionals can travel outside of the United States while the H-1B visa status is being evaluated for an extension or while there is consideration for a transfer from one employer to another.
Is it better to change status or use consular processing for H-1B visa stamping?
Foreign professionals who currently live in the United States should request a change of status. When applicants are outside of the US, they should consider consular processing for the H1B stamping process.
Can I get an H-1B visa stamp in the US?
No, you cannot get an H-1B visa stamp in the US. Applicants must go to a US consulate or embassy to get their H-1B visas stamped.
Can I get my H1B stamped in any country?
Typically, H-1B visa applicants will return to their home country to get the visa stamped. However, foreign professionals can also go to Canada or Mexico.
Can I go for H-1B stamping in Canada?
Yes, applicants can go to Canada to get their H-1B visas stamped. However, the Canadian consulate reserves the right to deny requests.
What is the difference between H1B status & H1B visa stamp?
H-1B visa status grants foreign professionals the ability to work temporarily in the United States, whereas H1B visa stamping means that the government endorses a foreign professional’s stay.
Can we choose the stamping location of H1B?
Applicants can opt to get their H-1B visa stamped in Canada or Mexico. However, this is a riskier process. Generally, it is easier to get a stamp in your home country.