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Steps after H1B Visa Approval – Visa Stamping, COS ?

Many of the lucky ones, selected in H1B Visa Lottery and have approved H1B Visa petition notice, might be wondering what are the next steps.. Our previous article covered the typical Steps After H1B Visa Lottery. Now the next questions are like what to do with the H1B approval notice, when can I apply for visa stamping, when can I work in the US, etc. We will look at the typical steps after the H1B petition is approved by USCIS.

Background : H1B Registration, Petition Filing, Approval

Typically, once the H1B registration was selected in the H1B registration lottery process, most of the applicants would file the H1B petition with USCIS. After they file the H1B petition with USCIS, they would receive the petition receipt number along with the receipt notice from their employer either email copy or scan copy of the physical receipt notice from USCIS. You would have used that receipt number to check the status on the USCIS website and got to know that your H1B petition was approved by USCIS. 

Now, once you see that approval status, as described in H1B Case Status info and meaning on USCIS site, it tells you that they will send the approval notice copy to the petitioner or employer/ attorney.  Once the employer receives the approval notice, they would typically send the actual copy of the approval notice from USCIS to the applicant. Let’s look at the next steps.

Next Steps after H1B Approval from USCIS

The steps after receiving H1B Approval notice fall into two scenarios based on the H1B petition filing, either Consular Processing or Change of Status(COS). Let’s look at each of these in detail

Steps for H1B Petition filed as Change of Status (COS)

If the H1B petition was filed as a Change of Status(COS), it means that the applicant is already in the US and trying to move from one status to another status. It could be situations like someone on an H4 visa, F1 Visa, or any other visa type trying to move to H1B status. Below are the typical steps

Step 1 – Verify COS Approval & I-94 : The H1B applicant needs to verify if the change of status was approved or not along with the H1B petition approval. If the COS was approved, the H1B approval notice comes with I-94 attached to it. The validity date on the I-94 arrival-departure portion of the approval notice would also be same as the H1B approval notice.

Sometimes, the H1B approval does not come with Change of Status approval. It could be for reasons like not maintaining proper status in the US in the past. In such cases, the COS portion of the H1B would not be approved. If COS was not approved, there would not be an I-94 attached with the H1B approval notice. In such cases, the applicant would have to leave the country and get H1B visa stamping at a US consulate to work on H1B.

Step 2: Wait for October 1st to Start working: If your H1B was approved with COS approved, there is nothing you need to do. All you need to do is wait for October 1st and then join the company that you plan to work on H1B. If you are already working for that company on F1 OPT or something else, you can inform them to switch your status to H1B for their tracking and update I-9 form accordingly.

One important thing to note is that you do not need apply for H1B visa stamping as you are already in the US and maintaining proper status.

Now, let’s look at the steps for second scenario, where H1B was applied as Consualr Processing.

Steps for H1B Petition filed in Consular Processing

If the H1B petition was filed in Consular processing, it usually means that you need to get H1B Visa stamping done in order to start working. Usually, most of the applicants, who apply for Consular processing are based outside of the US, when they applied for H1B visa petition. Below are the steps

Step 1 : Gather all Documents for US Visa Application : If you are applying for H1B visa stamping, you will need a lot more documents in addition to your H1B visa approval notice. You need to have all documents and information related to your passport, your family personal information, your education certificates info, your US travel itinerary, your recent passport photo, etc.

Step 2: Complete DS-160 Form, Pay Visa Fee, Schedule Biometrics, Interview Appointments : After you have all documents, you need to first complete DS-160 Form that is nothing but US Visa Online Application form. You will use all the details from the previous step to fill the form.

Once you complete the DS-160 form, you need to pay the required US Visa fee of $190 USD either online or at a bank. Using that, you need to book appointments for giving Biometrics and In-person visa interview. You can check the Step by Step Guide to apply for US Visa to know more

Step 3: Attend Biometrics, in-person Visa Interview: You need to carry all relevant documents required for Biometrics appointment and in-person H1B Visa interview. Below are key documents that you need to carry :

  • Passport
  • H1B Approval notice ( I-797A Notice of Action )
  • Employment Offer Letter
  • H1B LCA Copy
  • Education Certificates – Bachelors, Masters degree ( as applicable)
  • Pay stubs ( if already working for the company)

You can check H1B Visa Stamping Document Checklist for complete details on the documents.

Step 4 : Wait for Decision, Collect Passport – Approve Visa : After the visa interview, you need to wait for the decision from the US consualte. If everything went well, your H1B Visa stamping would be completed and you get your Passport with H1B Visa foil glued in the passport. Sometimes, there may be additional processing required and consulate may issue 221g form for Administrative processing.

Step 5 : Travel to US Port of Entry, Enter US, Start Working : After you get your visa approved, your next step is to travel to US. Getting US visa stamping does not guarantee entry to US. The H1B applicant need to go through US Port of Entry Procedures and convince the CBP officer. Usually CBP officer would ask questions related to entry, do a quick security check, take fingerprints and let the H1B applicant into US, if no issues. Once you clear CBP at Port of entry, you are all set to start working at your company in the US office location.

Those are the steps after getting H1B Approval notice. Now, let’s now look at some common questions and situations.

H1B Sponsor Not giving the Approval Notice to Applicant

Sometimes, some employers from IT bodyshop consulting companies, withhold the actual copy of approval notice for some time so that they can send the same when they need the candidate to travel to US or have the leverage to bargain or terms, etc…again, it depends… Important thing to know is that, it is employer’s petition approval and you cannot really get it from anywhere else, only your employer can share that. They are not obligated to share that approval notice with you.

When can you apply for H1B Visa Stamping ? How many days Before ?

As per the US Dept. of State Consular processing website, for H1B work visa, you can apply for US Visa Stamping up to 90 days before the petition start date. If you went through H1B registration lottery, we can assume you are new cap-subject petition and your start date would be October 1st. So, if your start date is Oct 1, then you can plan and apply for H1B Visa Stamping anytime on or after July 1st

As background on why October 1st is the start date for new H1Bs, you need to know that as per rule, one cannot file for an H1B petition before 6 months from the requested start date to work in US. So, as the new Fiscal Year starts from October 1st of that year, you can only file on or after April 1st, which is when USCIS accepts petitions after H1B registration.

Now, the visa slots at US consulates can be tricky with demand, I suggest you plan early and apply for your H1B visa stamping at US consulates as early as you can to avoid last-minute delays.  Also, not all H1B stamping appointments result in successful stamping, some may get 221(g) query from the Visa Consular officer (blue, white, yellow) asking to submit documents, so plan accordingly, so that you get time to submit these documents and are ready to start working from October 1st. We have put up these steps in the below chart for your reference.

When can you enter US on H1B after Visa Stamping ?

As per US Department of State, You can enter US on H1B only 10 days prior to your H1B start date on your approval notice (I-797 form).  Technically, what it means is that, if your H1B start date is October 1st, then you can enter America on or after September 20th on H1B Visa.  These 10 days rule to enter US and 90 days rule for applying for H1B stamping has been same for the past few years, you can check our previous article indicating the H1B stamping details and US entering criteria to get some perspective.

It is always good to put it in a picture to understand easily. Below are the steps as a flow chart.

After H1B Approval Notice – Process Next Steps

Pre-departure checklist for H1B Visa holders

If you are flying to America for the first time on H1B visa, there are quite a few things that you can do in your home country to make your life easy in USA and maybe save some money too…We have written an article covering booking tickets, health checkup, driving license, list of things to carry, etc. You should read the article Pre-departure checklist and Things to do before you enter US on H1B

What are your experiences ? Add your thoughts in comments below

Reference : US Dept of State official – US Travel Docs H1B Stamping FAQs 

   

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609 Comments

  1. Hi ,

    I got selected in 2018 H1B CAP and then my petition was also approved and received the I-797 approval notice and then i scheduled the interview in Saudia Arabia because I am working in Saudia Arabia , i went Saudia Arabia Consulate with family but they didn’t stampted the Visa at that time and requested me to submit family detail document then i submitted immediately within next 2-3 days…

    Its been 3 Years now and its in administrative processing and i am still waiting Consulate reply , My i-797 is also expiring in next week . When i talked to lawyer he said you need to change employer and apply new petition in same 2014 CAP which is also possible after I-707 expired .

    Any suggestion would be appreciated in my case .

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. After h1 approval, how long can I postpone to apply for visa stamping? What is the validity period of the approval? Is it obligatory to get the stamping done in the same year as the approval?

    Reply
  3. Hi Kumar,
    Thanks for this article.
    My H1-B(I-129 petition) is approved, as COS, in this cycle and will be valid from 01-Oct-2021.My F1-visa & EAD is valid till next year (May-2023 & Jul-2022 respectively).

    In this scenario, can I travel around July-August and return before 30 Sep 2021? I am planning to travel on F1-visa and not planning to get H1B stamped

    Do you see any challenge in this and can the CBP officer deny entry and ask to enter on H1 after stamping ?

    Thanks again

    Reply
  4. Hi Kumar, my daughter is in USA and got her F1 OPT converted to H1B on Oct 1, 2020. She could not come back in India due to covid. And, now her passport is expiring in 4 months. She is applying for renewal of passport in USA. Do you think a new passport will be a problem when she goes for stamping?

    Reply
  5. I am currently in US and my L1B VISA is valid till Feb 2021 and my H1 is approved through consular processing. As I do not want to travel out of USA due to COVID situation for VISA stamping and ban proclamation. Can I change from consular processing to change of status?
    If yes, how long will USCIS takes to grant change of status from L1 to H1 so that I can retain my work status and continue working in US without any issues.

    Reply
    • Kalpa,
      Yes, you can. You can go with premium processing, if they refile the application as change of status. In that way you can get decision in 15 days.

      Reply
      • Hello Kumar,

        Thank you and appreciate for your quick response.
        Is there any eligibility criteria for this amendment to apply for change of status and are there any chances of USCIS denying the amendment?

        Reply
        • Kalpa,
          There is nothing as such, usually your attorney would take care of it. They would assess the application as if it was new. So, work with them.

          Reply
  6. Hi Kumar,

    My future employer filed my H1B petition (cap-exempt and consular processing) which got approved few days ago. The start date is January 4th, 2021 but I would definitely not be able to enter the US before the start date as the consulates are not having regular visa interviews. And looking at the current scenario I feel that it might take me 2 months to get the visa interview done. Is it okay to enter the US and start the job after 2 months of the actual start date (my employer is fine with it)?

    Thanks,
    Vishal

    Reply
  7. My attorney had filed for a petition for H1B Visa in Apr 2020 and it got approved in Aug and I got the I-797B Notice of Action as well.

    But I haven’t taken ay next step considering the COVID situation. Is the embassy open and is the next step to fill DS160? Also, please suggest if people are getting their H1B approved?

    Reply
  8. My H1 expired in December 2019. Came to India while the i140 and H1 extension are under process in the US. Both i140 and H1 are approved but the start date is from January 2021 in i797. Under the exception, could my start date be preponed by the US Embassy? or Do I have to request USCIS for an earlier start date?

    Reply
  9. Dear Mr.Kumar

    My son is in the US on an OPT status. His employer applied for H1b and was picked up in the lottery. Thereafter his employer filed the H1b, petition which was approved. He continues to work with his Employer. What are the next steps that he or his Employer needs to take to see that the H1b status is formalised. Kindly advise.

    Sudev Rao

    Reply
  10. HI
    My H1B has been recently approved and my Attorney will send approval notice to my address this week.Can i make appointment with Embassy for visa stamping?
    Or its suspended till the end of this year as per President trump order?

    Reply
  11. Hi Kumar. May the universe bless you for sharing this platform. Quick question; I am taking a vacation trip to Europe and my home country in November but wondering what countries are best for Visa Stamping? Can I travel to my home country to get Visa Stamping? Do I just hold off on my trip? Your expert guidance will be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Kiiki,
      Well, if you can hold off your trip, it is better. The simple reason is that anything can change with the COVID-19 situation. If something does not work out with visa stamping, then you are stuck in other country or your home country. Unless it is emergency, I would not suggest travel…

      Reply
      • Hello Kumar,
        Thanks for providing such in-depth details. I have a query. I am currently in Poland on dependent visa and waiting for the approval notice. In case if I receive it, would it be possible for me to go for stamping here or do I need to travel back to india for getting it stamped.

        Reply
        • Dilip,
          Usually they recommend to go to home country, but if US consulate allows there you can give it a try there. Ask them in email or call them.

          Reply
  12. Hi Kumar

    My son is in US & working. His employer applied for H1b and it is COS. Now I-129 approved by USCIS.

    1- what he is supposed to do now?
    2- whether he would be able to travel India in late Oct’20

    Reply
    • Saurabh,
      1. If it is COS, nothing to do. He will automatically go to H1B status from October 1st and work for that employer.
      2. No, if he comes to India, he needs stamping. Now no stamping due to Trump Executive Order until Dec 31, 2020. He will be stuck in India, if he comes.

      Reply
  13. I have my H1B petition and its valid till August 2020. But I wont be able to travel till November 2020. What happens to my petiton?. If expired, any extension possible?.

    Thanks

    Reply
  14. Hello,

    My H1B was picked in this lottery. I am very confused whether I should go with COS or Consular. I am on a F1-CPT visa valid until Dec 2020. I have the below questions:
    1. After the H1B petition is approved for either COS or Consular option, is there any difference in terms of stamping & interview when one goes to India? Is it like on COS you have an approved H1B and the interview is just a verification process while on Consular H1B petition your visa is approved after your interview at the US embassy similar to a F1 Visa.
    2. Can I get RFE on Maintenance of status in both the COS and Consular petition options?
    3. Can I change my petition to Consular once I get a RFE on COS and if so, does it increase my chances of rejection in the interview by notifying the system that my COS was rejected?

    Reply
    • Vishal,
      1. Well, usually, you need to fill out your previous F1 details and Consular officer may ask for details of CPT…So, you need to be prepared for it. Talk to your attorney.
      2. Usually for Consular processing, you may be asked for details under Administrative processing, there is no RFE for Consulate.
      3. Well, maybe possible, discuss with attorney…But, it maybe be too late..

      In general, you should avoid Day 1 CPT, it is a big scam…Many try to do this based on their situation…but, should be avoided at all times. Talk to your attorney and take an informed decision.
      There are no black and white answers for your questions, they all are subjective…

      Reply
  15. Hi Kumar,
    Today got the mail saying i have been picked in Lottery. Before applying for Visa I need to renew my passport as it will get expire next year. Is it valid and there wont be any problem if I try with new passport during visa stamping process?

    Reply
  16. Hi Kumar,
    My self is Meenu. I have two questions about approved perm through L1B , moved on L1A and H1B.

    Right now I am on L1A after completed 5 years on L1B . Last month I got approved PERM on L1B.
    If I apply I140 now on L1 A in E1B category ,What will be priority date ? The Perm Filled date still remained as priority date or will it change on L1A?

    And if I apply H1B this year how approved perm help me and how many years I will get on H1B if selected in lottery and approved.

    Please reply ASAP.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Meenu,
      Your priority date would be the date when your I-140 was approved, it will have on it. As you have moved around in different L1A and B, I suggest you talk to your attorney on this. In general, if you are on H1B, then you may continue to renew using approved I-140 for as long as you are maintaining status. Your case is slightly different, as you have moved statuses, so I am not sure how it will work. Talk to your attorney. Also, do update here for community benefit.

      Reply
  17. Hi Kumar,
    My friend who is in US on H4 visa recently got her H1-B petition approved. Does she have couple of months before she can actually join her employer or initiate a transfer to a new employer? Will it create a problem for her if she doesn’t join her employer immediately after approval?

    Reply
  18. Hi Kumar, My H1b petition got approved and validity period is till Dec 31st 2019. i have only 3 months time, now i am eligible to for VISA stamping? or possible to travel US. please guide me.

    validity period: 1st Oct 2019 to Dec 31st 2019

    Reply

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