NoteThis article was written in 2010 and some info may NOT be accurate. Please check the respective websites of US consulates for current information.
With the Latest New H1B visa petition rules of 2011 quota, getting H1B approval notice from USCIS is one hurdle and then getting H1B visa stamping is another big hurdle. This article explains few scenarios and helps you throw some information about visa stamping in Canada, Mexico, Bahamas or your Home country. This article assumes you are in US on a visa and did a change of status to H1B visa and worked in US or plan to work in US after re-entering US.
Info on Change of Status(COS) from F1 to H1B , H4 to H1B, L1 to H1B, etc.
If you are in US on F1 visa, L1 Visa, H4 visa or any other visa and apply for H1B visa through a H1B visa sponsoring employer and get H1B approval notice and if you start working or you intend to start working after you leave US and re-enter US, you will need to get your H1B visa stamping done. The sentence seems confusing; bottom-line if you leave USA without any H1B visa stamping and re-enter US on H1B status then you need to have H1B visa stamped to work in US. You can keep working in US and do a Change of status without getting visa stamping done as long as you do not leave the country and try to re-enter. If you are in US you have few options either get visa stamping in a neighboring country like Canada or Bahamas.
Why Cannot you go for First time H1B visa stamping to Mexico ?
You cannot go to Mexico for first time H1B visa stamping or any kind of Change of Status. You can only go to Mexico for renewals only. People used to be able to get change of visa stamped before( I got my first H1B in Mexico too), but NOT now. The Mexican Immigration website of Tijuana and Matamoros clearly says that Third Country nationals(TCNs) cannot apply for change of status visa stamping.
Here is exactly what it says in immigration website of Tijuana
“ Who Can Apply in Mexico
- TCN Applicants residing in the United States, seeking to renew their visa in any category except B1/2 (tourist/business) or H-2 (temporary or seasonal workers). A spouse or dependent children may apply with the principal visa holder if the principal meets the criteria above. A renewal is a case where an applicant for the same type of visa is made and does not include persons who seek to change from one visa category to another or who are seeking any other type of “change of status” even if that change has been authorized by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Please read “Who can Apply in Mexico” Section in the immigration websites below.
- US immigration website Tijuana Visa Services
- Non Immigrant visas for TCNs US Matamoros Consulate website
Can you go to First time H1B visa stamping in Canada ?
This is a very confusing question for everyone, can we go to Canada then for first time H1B visa stamping. The reality is, there is no rule or any condition written anywhere just like on US Mexico Consulate website on US Canadian Consulate general website. The consulate general website mentions that H1B visa holder required documents and puts in a clause at the end : “Consular officers in Canada may refuse to issue a visa to H-1B applicants if their education and /or work experience is solely or predominantly from a country other than the U.S. or Canada”
What they are trying to say is it can create issues if you have full education or experience in your Home country. This is a typical case for L1 to H1B conversion or H4 to H1B visa conversion people. It is a caution to someone who did not study in US or work in US to avoid if you can.
Please read the below
- US Canadian Consular Embassy website H1B visa required docs
- Visa Appointment registration System in Canada
Can you go to First time H1B Visa stamping in Bahamas ?
Yes you can. There is no rules as of now like Mexico. I know few of my friends who went to Bahamas for Visa stamping last year. One went for F1 to H1B visa and other for L1 to H1B visa. They had to get Bahamas visa to go there too. You should call the Bahamas Embassy under the new rules they mention on their site before you book an appointment. You can read the details below
Summary: Where to go Canada, Mexico, Bahamas or Home Country for first time H1B visa stamping or Change of status?
As you cannot go to Mexico, it is out of picture. Next option is for Canada, see it is risky in Canada if you do not have US education or experience in US as they clearly mention on consulate site of Canada. Personally, Bahamas seems promising as I have not heard any issues. Bahamas is something to consider. You will have to defend your visa interview though with full documentation and any questions though. What my understanding after reading many blogs and other info in many forums is : it is recommended to go to Home country for change of status or First time H1B visa stamping. The reason is, it is much easy to verify your education certificates, work related certificates etc if you have from your home country.
Important: These are all my personal thoughts based on readings on blogs, Forums and US Consulate website. You need to contact the US consulate for up to date information or to find any changes in rules.
Image Credit :http://www.flickr.com/photos/naystin/392302587/