Applying for an H-1B visa can take a significant amount of time, from obtaining a specialty occupation to having your petition selected in the H-1B lottery. Now that you’ve been approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), what are your next steps?
In this guide, we provide you with an overview of what happens and the steps you need to take after you’ve received an H-1B approval.
What happens after an H-1B is approved?
Usually, once USCIS has approved an H-1B petition, the USCIS Online Case Status website will be updated. Your new employer should send you a petition receipt notice, which has a petition receipt number printed on it.
To check the status of your case, visit the USCIS website and enter your receipt number. Because your H-1B petition was approved, you should receive a message that states your case approval, including your receipt number and the date your Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) was approved.
The message should also state that USCIS will mail your approval notice to the petitioner (your employer) or an immigration attorney if your employer used an attorney to file your case. Your employer or their attorney will send you a hard copy of the approval notice.
If your H-1B application was filed for a Change of Status, an updated I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) will be attached to the approval notice.
Step one: Schedule an H1B visa stamping interview
You will need to schedule an appointment for an H-1B visa interview once you have your approval notice. You may visit the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the visa stamp on your passport.
Applying for visa stamping is allowed up to 90 days before the start date of your petition. For example, if your H-1B visa is cap-subject and selected during the lottery, the start date will be October 1 (or the first day of the USCIS fiscal year). This means you can schedule your visa stamping interview on or after July 1. Obtaining an appointment for an H-1B visa stamp can be difficult, as time slots tend to fill up quickly; therefore, planning ahead and scheduling your appointment well in advance is highly recommended.
Note that there’s a chance you may not receive your visa stamp at your interview. The consular officer may issue you a 221(g), a temporary refusal notification issued to approved H-1B visa applicants.
A 221(g) is issued when a consular officer determines that additional information and processing is required before issuing the visa stamp. If you are issued a 221(g), the notification will indicate which additional documents need to be submitted and where to submit them; typically, additional documents can be submitted electronically or at a VFS drop box.
Since there is a chance that a 221(g) may be issued, it’s recommended that you schedule your visa stamping interview as early as possible, so that you can submit any additional documents, if necessary
After you’ve scheduled an appointment for your visa stamping, USCIS will issue you an appointment letter. Retain this letter, as you will need to bring it with you to your interview.
Step two: Obtain a photograph
After scheduling your visa stamping interview, you must obtain a photograph of yourself for your H-1B visa. This photograph must comply with the following requirements:
- It must be in color
- It must be square
- It must be a minimum of 600 pixels by 600 pixels and a maximum of 1,200 pixels by 1,200 pixels
- It should be saved as a JPEG
The size of the saved photograph should be no larger than 240 kilobytes.
Step three: Complete Form DS-160
Next, gather the information necessary for completing Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application). This application can only be submitted electronically to the U.S. Department of State.
The information that you will need for your DS-160 application includes the following:
- Your travel itinerary, including your flight information (if you’ve already made these arrangements)
- Travel details from the past five years, including travel to the United States and other countries
- The date(s) you most recently traveled to the U.S. (if applicable)
- The address of the location where you intend on staying in the United States
- Your contact person’s information, including name, phone number, email address and physical address. Typically, the contact person would be your U.S. employer.
- The names and contact information of any relatives you may have in the United States
- Information pertaining to your family, including your mother’s and father’s full names and dates of birth
- Current U.S. work-related information, including the following:
- Name and address of your current employer
- Your monthly salary (you can find this information on the certified Labor Condition Application (LCA))
- Description of your job duties
- Past work-related details, including the following:
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of previous employers, your previous job titles, employment start date and end date, the name of your previous supervisor and his or her job title and job duties
- Past education-related information, including the following:
- Name and address of your high school and the date you graduated
- Name and address of the academic institution where you received your bachelor’s degree and the date the degree was awarded
- Name and address of the academic institution where you received your master’s degree (and any additional degrees) and the date the degree(s) were awarded
You will also need (1) your current, valid passport (2) any previous visas that you were issued and (3) Form I-1797 (Notice of Action).
When completing Form DS-160, take your time and make sure that you have answered all questions accurately and truthfully. Providing false information could result in a rejection, in which case you may not receive your H-1B visa stamp. Additionally, you must pay the necessary filing fee, which can be submitted electronically via the secure Department of State website.
Step four: Schedule an appointment with an Offsite Facilitation Center
Schedule an appointment with an Offsite Facilitation Center to have your biometrics taken. As per the Visa Application Center (VAC), you will need to have your fingerprints taken before your H-1B visa stamping interview.
Step five: Attend your H-1B stamping interview
Finally, attend your visa stamping interview. Make sure that you bring all necessary documents with you to your interview, including:
- Current and expired passports
- Your H-1B photograph
- A copy of you VAC-stamped DS-160 confirmation page
- A copy of your DS-160 receipt
- A copy of your visa stamping appointment letter
- Documents related to your H-1B petition
- Any necessary supplementary documentation that may be necessary
What to expect during the visa stamping interview
During your visa stamping appointment (also known as “consular processing”), you will have an interview with a consular officer. You must present all necessary documentation to the consular officer, as well as answer several questions. These questions will pertain to your education and experience, your intentions and your sponsor employer.
While the questions consular officers ask vary and are determined on a case-by-case basis, examples of some of the questions include the following:
- What is the highest degree that you have completed?
- Where did you receive your degree?
- What is your previous experience in the specialty occupation?
- Why do you want to work in the United States?
- Have you lived in any other country, besides your home country?
- Do any of your family members currently live in the U.S.?
- Do you intend on returning to your home country when your H-1B visa status expires?
- What will your job duties with your sponsor employer entail?
- What will your salary be?
- How did you receive a job offer from the sponsor employer?
The road to U.S. immigration through the H-1B visa can be a long and arduous one, but now that you’ve gotten the approval notice, it’s time to consider how your living situation will be once you make the move. For instance, did you know that access to credit cards, apartment rentals loans and even internet plans are often dependent on having a U.S. credit score? And due to current technological limitations, it is not possible to use transfer your credit history and other data from your home country to U.S. credit reporting agencies.
Fortunately, you can always turn to Nova Credit’s Global Credit Passport®, to translate all that credit data and financial information into a U.S. equivalent score which can be used to support your credit applications. Now keep in mind that this does not automatically mean that you now have a U.S. credit score, but having a U.S equivalent score increases your chances of lenders and creditors approving your application for credit cards, apartment rentals, student loans and other important credit services. Once approved, you can then begin properly building your U.S. credit score.
In line with its commitment to helping U.S. newcomers arrive and thrive, Nova Credit has also partnered with a number of credit providers who are willing to evaluate applications through the Credit Passport. This lets us offer a variety of newcomer products and services aimed at making your transition into the U.S. a more hassle-free one. Want to learn more about our services or speak to us about our products? Fill out our contact form to get started. You can also visit our resource library for more guides on making the most of your new life in the United States.
Nova Credit currently connects to international credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
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H-1B visa holders in the United States: An overview