Non-Immigrant Visa Issues

1) Do tourists or business visitors have to leave the country and re-enter after a non-immigrant visa petition is approved?
This will depend on a variety of factors. In most cases it will be advisable for the visitor to return home to wait for the visa petition approval, then apply for the visa stamp at a local U.S. Consulate. If the individual entered on the "Visa Waiver Program" (indicated by a green-colored I-94 entry card), he or she MUST leave the U.S. and re-enter in the new non-immigrant work visa category. When foreign nationals visit the U.S. as tourists or on business trips, they have stated to the U.S. government that their intentions are to stay temporarily. Therefore, it is not advisable to request to change status shortly after arrival as it suggests that the statements made at the time of entry were not truthful.

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2) Visa Waiver entries.
Nationals of certain countries do not need to obtain visas for business visits to the U.S. for 90 days or less for purposes acceptable in the B-1 category. They may enter without a visa pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program. An individual who enters the U.S. through this program is NOT eligible for an extension of stay or change to a different status and MUST leave the U.S. within 90 days of entering.
The ability to visit the U.S. without a visa is currently available to citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

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3) How do I obtain a visa stamp in my passport?
An initial visa stamp for a given non-immigrant classification must be applied for at a U.S. consulate in your home country. Some U.S. consulates may accept non-immigrant visa applications by third-country nationals (individuals who are not citizens of the country in which the consulate is located) as a courtesy to visitors to those countries. U.S. Consulates are not required to accept applications by third-country nationals, and visa issuance is at the sole discretion of the consular officers at the post. You should contact the appropriate American Consulate or Embassy in advance to determine its application process and the current application fee. You may also check the Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/links.html. Most consulates have instructive web pages.

Requirements vary for each Consulate but typically include:

  • The original Notice of Action approving your employer's non-immigrant visa petition on your behalf
  • A copy of the petition filed with USCIS
  • Completed and signed Department of State form DS 156 (Non-immigrant Visa Application) which is available at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate or on its website.
  • Completed form DS-157 by male visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45. Some consulates require all applicants to complete this form.
  • Completed form DS-158 for all applicants for an F, M or J visa.
  • A valid passport
  • One passport-style photograph
  • Appropriate filing fees
Reciprocity agreements between the U.S. and your country of nationality will determine (1) the length of time your non-immigrant visa stamp will be valid, (2) the number of times you may enter the U.S. on the visa, and (3) the fees charged for issuance of the visa.
Note that your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the validity period of the non-immigrant visa petition. If it is valid for less than that amount of time, you may not be admitted for the full period indicated on the Notice of Action (Form I-797).

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4) What does my spouse or child need to apply for a dependent visa stamp?
Your spouse or unmarried child(ren) under the age of 21 years may accompany you in a dependent visa category (e.g., H-4 if you are in H-1B status, or L-2 if you are in L-1 status) by making their own visa applications at a U.S. Consulate. If your family members are applying with you, required documentation typically includes:
  • Marriage Certificate (to show relationship of you and your spouse)
  • Birth Certificate (for a dependent child)
  • Completed and signed Optional Form 156 (Non-immigrant Visa Application) which is available at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate
  • Valid passport
  • One passport-style photograph
  • Appropriate filing fees for the U.S. Consulate. (This fee differs for each consulate.)

If your family members are NOT applying with you, required documentation additionally includes:

  • A copy of the visa stamp in your passport; or other documentation of your valid non-immigrant status.

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5) If I wish to visit a U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico to obtain a U.S. visa in my passport, how can I schedule an interview appointment?
Call the following number to schedule an interview appointment with any U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico: 900-443-3131 (this is a toll call). Alternatively, you can schedule an appointment through the Internet by going to: http://www.nvars.com which also shows an updated list of necessary documents for the visa application. General information about applying for a visa in Canada or Mexico is available at http://travel.state.gov/tcn.html .
Please note that Canadian and Mexican consulates accept non-immigrant visa applications by third-country nationals (individuals who are not citizens of Canada or Mexico) as a courtesy. They are not required to accept or process applications by third-country nationals, and visa issuance is at the sole discretion of the consular officers at the post. In addition, note that as a third country national you may need a visa to enter Canada or Mexico.

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6) If I have a valid non-immigrant visa in my passport, what do I need in order to re-enter the U.S. after traveling internationally?
Your valid visa stamp in your passport should be sufficient, but you may wish to also carry a copy of the Notice of Action (Form I-797). The visa stamp shows that the U.S. State Department has determined that you may be admitted to the U.S. in a particular visa status, and the USCIS approval notice (Form I-797) is evidence of the maximum period for which you may be admitted.
All foreign nationals are issued a new I-94 card at each entry to the United States (with the exception of entries after visits to Canada or Mexico for periods of less than 30 days or for Canadian nationals entering the U.S.) The USCIS officer who admits you to the U.S. will stamp your I-94 card with entry and expiration dates. Please take a moment to check the dates on the I-94 card issued to you upon each readmission to the U.S. The expiration date on the I-94 card will govern your valid period of stay and employment authorization in the United States.

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7) How do I revalidate my multiple-entry visa in my passport if it is expired or about to expire?
You can revalidate your multiple-entry visa by traveling outside the U.S. Under rules in effect as a result of the events of September 11, 2001, you must apply for revalidation at an American Consulate or Embassy prior to your return (see application process discussed above).

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8) What happens if my non-immigrant status expires (as evidenced by my I-94 card)?
Unless a request for extension or change of your status is pending, you will be out of status and should leave the U.S.
If you are not eligible for further extensions of your current non-immigrant visa status, are not eligible for a different non-immigrant classification, and have not yet reached the final stage (Form I-485) of the green card process, then you will no longer be authorized to remain in the U.S.
If you overstay the period noted on your I-94 card by even one day, you could be subject to a requirement to return to your home country to obtain all future non-immigrant visas (i.e., you may not obtain any future non-immigrant visa in any U.S. consulate other than the one in your home country, and may not file for reissuance of a visa stamp by mail through the Department of State.) In addition, if you overstay your I-94 card by 180 days or more, then leave the U.S., you could be subject to a three-year bar to re-entering the U.S.; an overstay of more than one year could subject you to a ten-year bar to reentry. Thus, it is absolutely critical that you monitor the expiration date of the I-94 cards for yourself and your family members.

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9) My passport is about to expire. How do I get it extended?
You will need to contact the consulate of your home country to inquire about the extension process.

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10) What is Premium Processing and how do I use it?
Premium Processing Service allows U.S. businesses to pay a $1,000 fee in exchange for the 15-business day processing of their petitions and applications. USCIS guarantees that within 15 days USCIS will issue either an approval notice, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence or a notice of investigation for fraud or misrepresentation. If the USCIS fails to process the petition within 15 days, it will refund the $1,000 to the company and continue to process the petition as part of the Premium processing Service. In addition to expedited processing, companies who participate in the program may use a dedicated phone number and e-mail address to check on the status of their petition or ask any other questions they may have concerning their petition.
USCIS has designated various forms for Premium Processing. Classifications, including the Form I-129 and the Form I-140. The category of non-immigrant and immigrant visas eligible for premium processing include:
Non-immigrant Visas
  • E-1 Treaty Trader
  • E-2 Treaty Investor
  • H-1B Temporary Worker in Specialty Occupation
  • H-2A Agricultural Worker
  • H-2B Temporary Worker
  • H-3 Trainee
  • L-1 Intra-company Transferee
  • O-1 and O-2 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
  • P-1, P-2 and P-3 Athletes and Entertainers
  • Q-1 International Cultural Exchange Aliens
  • R-1 Temporary Worker in Religious Occupations
  • TN NAFTA Professional
Immigrant Visas
Employment-Based First, Second and Third preference categories.
USCIS will continue to review the program and assess its ability to incorporate other employment-based petitions and applications into the program.

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11) I just returned from the United States and discovered that I did not turn in my I-94W Departure Record (usually a green form stapled inside the passport) before departure. What should I do?
If you returned home with your Department of Homeland Security (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) departure record Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94W (green) in your passport, it means that your departure was not recorded properly. It is your responsibility to correct this record. You must provide the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sufficient information so we can record your timely departure from the United States. This will close out your earlier record of arrival to this country.
If you do not validate a timely departure from the United States, or if you cannot reasonably prove otherwise when you next apply for admission to the United States, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may conclude you remained in the United States beyond your authorized stay. If this happens, the next time you apply to enter the United States, your visa may be subject to cancellation or you may be returned immediately to your foreign point of origin.
In particular, visitors who remain beyond their permitted stay in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program cannot re-enter the United States in the future without obtaining a visa from a United States Consulate. If this occurs and you arrive at a United States port-of-entry seeking admission under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa, United States immigration officers may order your immediate return to a foreign point of origin.
To validate departure, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will consider a variety of information, including, but not limited to:
  • Original boarding passes you used to depart the United States
  • Photocopies of entry or departure stamps in your passport indicating entry to another country after you departed the United States (you should copy all passport pages that are not completely blank, and include the biographical page containing your photograph.), and
  • Photocopies of other supporting evidence, such as:
  • Dated pay slips or vouchers from your employer to indicate you worked in another country after you departed the United States
  • Dated bank records showing transactions to indicate you were in another country after you left the United States
  • School records showing attendance at a school outside the United States to indicate you were in another country after you left the United States
  • Dated credit card receipts, showing your name, but, the credit card number deleted, for purchases made after you left the United States to indicate you were in another country after leaving the United States
Your statement will not be acceptable without supporting evidence such as noted above.
You must mail legible copies or original materials where possible. If you send original materials, you should retain a copy. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot return original materials after processing. To help us understand the situation and correct your records quickly, please include an explanation letter in English. You must send your letter and enclosed information only to the following address:
ACS - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) SBU
P.O. Box 7125
London, KY 40742-7125
USA
Do not mail your departure Form I-94 or supporting information to any United States Consular Section or Embassy, to any other United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in the United States, or to any address other than the one above. Only at this location are we able to make the necessary corrections to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) records to prevent inconvenience to you in the future.

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