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H1-B Travel & Visa Stamping

If you are outside the US, or are traveling outside the US, then you will need to have a valid H-1B visa stamp to enter the US, unless you are Canadian.  You can only apply for an H-1B visa at a US Embassy or Consulate overseas.  You cannot obtain or renew an H-1B visa from inside the US.

Applying for an H-1B visa stamp

When you apply for your H-1B visa stamp for your passport you should be ready to provide the following items:

  • Original H-1B approval notice (Form I-797)
  • Copy of entire H-1B petition (including I-129 form). You received a copy of this when your H-1B application was filed with USCIS.  The Consular Officer should already have a copy, so do not present your copy unless asked to do so.
  • Copy of employment offer letter or contract if you haven’t started work yet. If you are already working on the H-1B, then we recommend you bring copies of your most recent paystub.
  • Form DS-160 (visa application form)
  • Any other items listed on the US Embassy website where you are applying for the visa, and any other items requested by the visa officer

Travel to Canada & Mexico

Under certain circumstances you can re-enter the US in H-1B status after a trip to Canada or Mexico, even though you have an expired H-1B visa.  Your visit must be for less than 30 days and cannot include trips to any other countries (even for transit purposes).  This process is called automatic visa revalidation, and it is only open to certain nationalities. You cannot take advantage of automatic visa revalidation if you have applied for an H-1B visa in Canada or Mexico and that application is still pending or has been denied. Please remember that you may need a visa to enter Canada or Mexico.   You can learn more about this process on the US Department of State website.

Entering the US in H-1B status

When you first enter the US you will go through US immigration with a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer.  The officer will review your documents, passport and visa and may ask some questions.  We recommend you carry all immigration-related documents in your carry-on luggage.

The CBP officer will enter information about your arrival into your I-94 record.  It’s very important that you and your family check your I-94 records on the CBP website every time you enter the US.  You should check that the I-94 has the right class of visa (H-1B) and make a note of the I-94 end date.  Your I-94 end date is the last date you are eligible to stay in the US in H-1B status.  If your I-94 is not correct or you cannot find your I-94 online, please contact a Center for Global Education (CGE) advisor for next steps as soon as possible.

Important information about visas vs. duration of stay

You must have a valid, unexpired H-1B visa to enter and re-enter the US in H-1B status.  However, the expiration date of your visa does not determine how long you can remain in the US.  Your I-94 determines how long you are eligible to remain in the US.   For more information please review the US State Department’s website on visa expiration.

Travel while your change of H-1B status is pending

The Center for Global Education (CGE) does not recommend travel outside the US when you have an application to change to H-1B status.  Please consult with a CGE advisor if you have upcoming travel plans outside the US.

Travel while your H-1B extension is pending

In all cases, please consult a Center for Global Education (CGE) advisor before traveling outside the US.  CGE may recommend against traveling, depending on the timing of your travel and your H-1B extension application.  Travel should be straightforward if you have a valid H-1B visa and re-enter the US before your current H-1B status expires.

We do not recommend international travel if your H-1B status has expired and your extension is pending with USCIS.  Depending on the circumstances, premium processing may be necessary.  You will not be able to return to the US until after your extension petition is approved.  It is important to let CGE know about travel plans as soon as possible, and preferably before we submit your H-1B petition to USCIS.

You must re-apply for your H-1B visa stamp if you travel outside the US after your H-1B extension is approved.  You cannot apply for an H-1B visa stamp from inside the US.  Canadians do not need to apply for an H-1B visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.