H-1B: Travel Procedures

Entry/Re-Entry into the U.S.

For entry or re-entry into the United States from another country individuals in H-1B status need to present the following documents to the Immigration Inspection Officer at the U.S. port of entry.

  • Valid unexpired passport
  • Valid unexpired H-1B visa stamp in passport*
  • I-94 departure record (obtained on the airplane or at the port of entry)

    *If an individual is traveling to Canada or Mexico (this does not apply to the Caribbean islands) for 30 days or less there is provision within the law for him/her to re-enter the U.S. without a valid H-1B visa stamp provided that you have a valid passport with an expired visa stamp (an expired F or J visa is applicable), original Form I-797 and a valid Form I-94 departure record card. It is important that the I-94 card is not relinquished when leaving the U.S. in this case. In lieu of the form, a photocopy should be presented if the original is requested. H-1B visa holders cannot be re-admitted to the U.S. using this provision without the original I-94 card.

If you are subject to USCIS (formerly INS) special registration requirements you need to follow the instructions given by USCIS concerning departure from the US.

Obtaining Initial H-1B/H-4 Visas

Before traveling you should review the specific instructions and precedures of the US Consulate or Embassy where you will be applying for your visa. See the following website for links to all US Consulates and Embassies worldwide: http://usembassy.state.gov.

To obtain H-1B/H-4 visa(s) the following documents should be submitted to a U.S. Consulate/Embassy, preferably in your home country:

·        Valid unexpired passport.

·        Original Form I-797 approval notice (This is kept by ISS in the individual’s file and must be returned after traveling abroad).

·        Copy of Form I-129 petition with certified LCA, which was submitted to USCIS and approved.

·        Letter from employing department stating dates of employment, annual salary, and other job related information. Please see your ISS Department Liaison for this letter.

·        Non-immigrant visa application (obtained at the U.S. embassy/consulate or online at www.travel.state.gov).

·        Application fee (the fee is based on reciprocal agreements between each government and the U.S. Check with the U.S. embassy/consulate for the exact amount and how it should be paid).

·        Two passport-sized photographs.

·        If you have ever been on a J visa and were subject to 212(e) you will need proof that a waiver was obtained or you resided in your home country for 2 years. Please note that you must have the actual Form I-797 approval notice from USCIS for the waiver as the "No Objection Letter" from the Department of State is no longer sufficient.

·        Other documents may be required (such as original education documents), check the website for the US consulate where you will be applying for your visa.

An H-1B or H-4 visa is no longer renewable in the US. Additionally, applying for a visa as a 3rd country national (i.e. in a country other than your country of citizenship) may be risky. Please contact ISS regarding your specific situation if you have questions.


The US government has instituted a new system known as the Petition Information Management System or PIMS.  This is a system/database in which Consular Posts may view the details of approved nonimmigrant petitions.  This will now serve as the primary source of evidence to be used in determining visa approvals.  An H-1B/H-4 visa will not be issued until this information is available in the PIMS database.  If the Consulate is unable to access the necessary information regarding your H-1B/H-4 they must send a request for the information to the appropriate USCIS office. USCIS will then provide the necessary information to them.

The Department of State (DOS) has indicated, without giving precise details, that certain visa applications will receive greater scrutiny.  This may result from your field of study being listed on the Technological Alert List.  It may also occur for males between the ages of 16 and 45 from the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Please note that you may be subject to this lengthy procedure at the discretion of the DOS for these reasons or others.  This may take one month or more, so make your travel plans accordingly. 

Please note that applying for an H-1B or H-4 visa stamp in a third country (i.e., not your own) or, an H-4 visa for dependents without the H-1B visa holder being present, is risky and not recommended by ISS.

Additionally, if you are traveling to a country other than your home country you may need a visa for entry purposes. Even if you are flying through another country you may need a transit visa.  Please check with the embassy/consulate for the countries you will visit for information about entry/transit visas.

**Please note that you may be subject to either lengthy procedure at the discretion of the DOS for these reasons or others. This may take one month or more, so make your travel plans accordingly.

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