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First-time H1B visa stamping COS: Canada or Mexico? Home Country ?

With the ever changing H1B visa petition rules, 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.

This article was written in the past and some info may NOT be accurate. Please check the respective websites of US consulates for current information.

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.

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

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: 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/


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  1. HI –

    I am currently on L1 Visa and visiting to Bahamas .My L1 Visa expires b Dec 2011 but I 94 exipiration date is Jan 2013.

    Is it possible that my I 94 exipiration date can change while entering back to US.


  2. I got my H1 visa renewed on September 2010. I don’t have the Visa Stamping on my passort. My wife and kids got their H4 visa stamped in December 2010. I am working in US and my family is in India. Now, I am planning to switch my employer. I mean, I am going to move from Company A to Company B. The new Company B is going to apply for H1 visa transfer. Assume that H1 transfer is successful and I get the visa transferred documents in the coming weeks. My question is should my family apply for H4 visa once again or can they use the existing H4 visa that they got in December 2010 to enter USA?

    • They can use existing visa to enter US as long as that visa stamp has not expired. They should carry copy of your new 797 and information about your new employer, place of work, designation, profile etc (in case asked at PoE).

  3. Hi,

    when taking a appointment in India for H1B stamping, there is a question “Are you applying for same visa class that expired in the last 12 months?” . Considering my previous H1B visa expired in May 2009,and since then I am working on I797, what should be my answer? Do I still qualify as visa renewed?there seems to be difference in the available dates based on the selection we make. Please can some one help me.


    • Are you working on I797-EAD after your H1B visa got expired ? and you wanna go for visa stamping for H1B which has expired in May 2009 ?

      • I am into 6th year of my H1. I am working on I129 which was extended through 2012. My previous H1B stamped visa expired in 2009.


  4. i am in first time H1B and my spouse is in H4 ( Changed from F1 to F4). We are planning to go to Canada for stamping. Do we need to have visa to travel to Canada?

    • AFAIK, Yes you need to stamp a Canadian visa in your passport in order to travel to CA. You can check more on Canada’s site on international travelers.

  5. Hi all:

    My H1B appln has been applied for March 1 2012 start date in 2011 category. What kind of 797 will I get? Will it be a 797A or 797B? 797A comes with I94 and there is no need to go and get visa stamped to work. 797B does not have I94 and will require a person to go and get visa stamped. Is my understanding right?

    Now in my case, what kind of 797 will I be getting? Can some one throw light on this? Thanks.

    • As you currently in US? If your H-1 was filed w/ COS and USCIS approves it w/ COS then you will get 797A w/ a new I-94.

      If your H-1 was filed w/o COS or was filed w/ COS and USCIS doesn’t approve the COS, then you will get 797B w/ no new I-94.

  6. dear mr. kumar,

    my wife is in philippines to get her 1st visa stamping, now i just recently been approved for f1 and already in the u.s with tourist visa, should i apply for my wife to be my dependent so she can go here as f2 and get her visa stamping for h1b here or will there be problems encountered by doing this? is my f1 status going to affect her h1b visa stamping?


    • Your F-1 shouldn’t impact her H-1 stamping. If she goes for her F-2 stamping, and enters US on that visa stamp, she will have to file COS (change of status) from F-2 to H-1. Once approved, she will be on H-1 and can start working for her H-1 employer. However, she shouldn’t immediately file for COS as that may raise questions about her intent (F-2 is non-immigrant visa while H-1 is dual intent).

      A safer way is for her to enter on H-1 and work on H-1, while you can study on F-1. However, I don’t know if her job and your school are located in same city or not – that may also impact your decision whether she needs to be on H-1 or F-2.

      Remember, there is no benching policy on H-1. Your wife needs to keep getting paid regularly when on H-1. Staying in US w/o pay puts her in out of status.

  7. Hi,

    I had a question while filling my DS 160, where they ask “Where I intend to work?”. I am working for client A through my company. Both of them are located in the same city. Should I give my client address or my company address? should it match with whats in my LCA? .

    Another question I have is regarding “If anyone has filled for my immigration”. My previous company had filed for my labor, but it was rejected. Should I mention all these details? will it affect my H1 stamping?

    Also, What documents I need to carry for my visa interview in chennai if I am working on E-C model.

    Any information would be very helpful.


    • Mention the address that’s on your LCA. BTW, is that your client address or employer address?

      I am not sure about immigration question, but I think it should be no as there is no longer an immigration petition filed for you. It shouldn’t impact your stamping as H-1 is a dual intent visa.

      Client/project details, job description, client contact information, employer specific documents. Kumar has written a post on the documents required for stamping. You can go through it.

  8. What if the OPT is getting expired in Jan 2012 and I have the H1B approval starting Oct 1st 2011, will I need to get the stamping done before my OPT expires (i.e. in JAN 2012) or can I postpone it until say May 2012 when I plan to travel to my home country?

    • Depends whether H-1 is approved w/ COS or not. If approved w/ COS, you will have to start working on H-1 from the approval date (i.e. 1st Oct in your example). If approved w/o COS, you will have to continue working on OPT until you get COS to H-1 approved, or travel outside US, get H-1 stamped and then enter US on H-1 visa stamp to work on H-1.

  9. Hi,

    I am applying for H1B visa via a agency. Now i am working at Telecommunication Field under Optical Transmission system in Bangladesh. Can i get job in telecom sector in US?

    Could you some suggestion about this?


    • First of all, you will already have a job in US. Your employer will be the company that will be filing H-1 for you. It doesn’t matter whether its an agency or a consulting company or Google itself. The company that is filing the H-1 is the employer, and a person is supposed to work and get paid through that company.

      If its an agency or consulting company, then they typically don’t have enough resources/funds to pay you unless you are on a project. So they would first place you in a project, so that you become a billable asset, and then pay you the salary. Legally, this is wrong and you need to get paid all the time, irrespective of whether you are on a bench or not.

      What you may need to think about is:
      – whether your employer will have a project to place you
      – whether your employer will pay you when you are in US and maybe not on a project
      – whether you/employer can find projects in US considering your work profile, job market and employer’s reputation/network

  10. Hi,
    I am working for an big MNC and into A project in ABC end client. I got my H1B approved and stamped last week.

    My Problem is, in my H1 B the address is Piscataway, NJ for A Project but i have got B project in Middletown, NJ with the same ABC end client and same MNC.

    I need to travel very soon to Middletown, NJ for the B Project with the same ABC end client and same MNC.

    Do i need to go for H1B ammendment or only LAC change would be fine?

    Appericate your help.


  11. Hi,

    I am going on H4 which will be processed in July. How long do have to wait before i can apply for H1B if i get a suitable opportunity. Should there be a 6 month gap before you can apply to H1 after h4 is processed?

  12. Do you know how long it usually takes to get the H1-B stamping done if I am doing it for the first time after the COS and that too somewhere in Canada?

    • Earliest you can receive the stamped passport is within a week. However, if you run into 221g issues, then it may take weeks or months.

      • Thanks for the quick response Saurabh. I do have another question though. I have got the COS from F1-H1 now i am planning to go to Mexico to visit a friend. Since i haven’t got the stamping done i have to go to Canada first to get the stamping. And heres’ the another situation, I have changed employer too recently and my H1 transfer is still under processing. SO my question is can I still apply for Canadian and Mexican visa while i m waiting for my H1 based on I797C (I guess thats the receipt they give).

        • Are you working for the new employer w/ whom you have filed the transfer or your old employer?

          If you are working for the old employer, it would be ok to go to CA/MX and get H-1 stamped through them and return on their 797 to work for them on H-1.

          If you are working for the new employer, then you need to get H-1 stamped through the new employer. This may be little tricky, as there is not much clarification from USCIS on this. I don’t know if you can get H-1 stamped on the basis of 797C or you need an actual approved petition for the stamping. Also when returning it may be ok to enter w/ 797C or you may be asked for an approved petition – I don’t know. A lawyer once told me that it should be fine to enter on 797C, but it’s best to check w/ a lawyer yourself to cover all bases.

          • Hey Saurabh I think I mislead you with my question. Well my actual question was can i apply(just the application part) for the Canadian visa and Mexican visa while i m waiting for my h1 transfer and then once i get the H1 approval i can go get the stamping. I was just thinking of saving some time so that as soon as i get my H1 transfer i can travel to Canada for stamping next day. By the way thanks again dude. I really appreciate the efforts you are putting here to answer everybody. really cool.

          • I am not much informed about CA/MX visas, but I would assume it would be ok to apply for their visa.

  13. i am on h1B visa which is expiring on oct 2012 and my visa is expiring on september 2011. i went to india last year but but due to some reason i missed visa stamping ,although i had changed my company before going to india.Because of this I94 on passport and on I797 are having different numbers. what are its consequences? and will that creat any problem in h1b extension next year ?

    • There are no negative consequences.

      Your current I-94 is the one you received when entering US last year. The one in your 797 is no longer applicable. It’s number should be same as the one you must have submitted at the airport when leaving US last year. So the entry-exit record against that I-94 is closed now.

  14. Hi Saurabh,
    I entered US on L1 visa in May 2010, for employer A. I found another B , who filed H1B for me and it got approved, starting 16th October 2011.
    I informed my employer A about my decision and resigned but I couldn’t serve the notice period (1 month). I joined employer B on H1b visa. So the employer A didn’t relieve me officially and I didn’t get any relieving letter from employer A.

    Now I am planning to go back to India on vacation sometime September end 2011. I am also planning to get the visa stamped in Delhi. I am just curious if not having the relieving letter from previous employer can make a difference in H1B stamping. I current employer is an american company with 300+ employees. My old employer was one of the top 5 Indian software companies.

    Thanks and Appreciate your help.

    • You don’t need relieving letter for H-1 stamping. What you would need is payslips and W2s for the period spent in US on L-1 especially the last few months.

      BTW, you mentioned that your H-1 is starting on 16th Oct 2011. Then how did you join B on H-1?

  15. Hi,

    A friend of mine has an H4 status in the US, after sometime an employer sponsored his H1B visa so he was able to work in the US after the approval of H1B. He went to his home country for vacation and to get H1B visa stamped. Now, the consulate in his home country has a very slow administrative processing, 3 months had passed but still his passport was not stamped. Can he use his passport during re-entry in the US without the H1B visa stamped? remember that he has already the H4 visa stamped on the passport. If he can, can he resume his work in the US? Thanks!

    • Your friend can not enter with H4 visa now. As you mention that his H1B has been approved so his status has been changed from H4 to H1B. He can exit his country as they people might have no system to check his COS(change of status). However, he will try to enter in the United States he will be refused as his status is H1B and he is trying to take entery on H4.

      It takes time as mine H1B stamping took 7 months. But finally am back to my work.

      • Thank you so much for your reply. Is it possible to waived his H1B status? Meaning when he come back to the US he will not work anymore, he will stay on dependent visa H4.

        • YES That is possible what he have to do, He can come back on H1b after entering to the USA he can file again his COS as H4 so that he will be on dependent. There is nothing you can waived when ever you want to change the status you have to file COS application to USCIS. But again he can only enter on his Current Status either H4 or H1B.

          I hope this is the answer of your question.


      • That’s not true.

        A person’s status is determined from the latest I-94 record. When a person leaves US, that I-94 entry is closed and the person no longer has an applicable visa status. When a person’s COS is approved, the existing I-94 is closed and a new one opened in new visa status. The visa status will be re-instated as soon as the person re-enters the country (which in turn will open a new I-94 record for the person). The person can re-enter on any eligible visa stamp.

        In this case, your friend can re-enter the country on H-4 visa stamp provided his spouse is still maintaining her valid H-1 status. Once here, he can file for COS from H-4 to H-1. Once approved he can start working on H-1. Prior to that, he will be on H-4 and cannot work during that time.

        • Now, I’m confused. His H1B petition was already approved while he was in the US. He even started work last year, early this year he went to a vacation in his native country and in order for him to re-enter US he needs an H1B stamping. His H1B visa was not stamped yet because his documents is still under administrative processing, 3 months already had passed that’s why he is thinking to get his passport back from the consulate even without the stamp and go back to the US using his H4 visa. The question then is, can he still work without the H1B visa stamped on his passport? and can he enter US with H4 visa? or it is better to just wait for his H1B stamping, which may take a few more months?

          • What he can do is enter US on H-4 visa stamp and then file COS from H-4 to H-1. Once the COS is approved, he can start working on H-1 w/o requiring the visa stamp. However, if COS is denied then he needs to get H-1 stamped from his home country (like what he did this time) and then enter US on that visa stamp and work on H-1.

            Even if he enters US on H-4, he cannot work until COS to H-1 is approved which can take 2-3 months. If he really needs to be in US before that then entering on H-4 is a better option. Otherwise he can continue to wait for H-1 stamping to complete as COS approval is no guarantee and USCIS can raise questions similar to those raised by the consulate.

          • If COS has been approved i have doubt people can enter with Old Visa than what is COS for ?

            I would suggest you to contact lawyer so they can tell you about it. as far i know he can not enter with old visa after COS Approval. and if you said it is in administrative processing so I don’t think he would have his passport with him. Because after interview embassy hold the passport until visa stamped.

            That’s what i know.

          • Your comment regarding getting passport from embassy is correct. That is why said unless it’s really necessary to enter US ASAP, he should wait for H-1 approval.

            Regarding COS, it is used when a person wants to change his/her status in US w/o having the necessity of going out of country for visa stamping. However, a person can still enter US on any valid visa stamp as long as the person is able to maintain legal status in US on that visa.

            You can check other prominent lawyer websites where this question has been answered several times.

  16. Hello friends,
    I will go to my home country to stamp my H-1 visa to my passport. Right now I am in US.
    I have a question about filling DS-160 form? Please help

    1) There is a question about previous US visits?
    I came US in 2007 for the first time and in last 4 years I visited my home country 2 times for 20 days. Can I just write my previous US visit was in 2007 and I stayed for 4 years.
    Or do I have write like, first visit 2007 June-2008 July then 2008 July to 2009 March etc. I mean do two 15 days my home country visits interrupted my residence in US and considered as individual US travels.


  17. Hi Guys,

    I also thought that we can get it done from Bahamas.
    But i went through this site http://nassau.usembassy.gov/faqnon-resident.html
    They strongly recommend us to go to home country for first time stamping.
    Also they did not mention that we can get L1B to H1B Stamping(They explicitly mentioned about F1 to H1 case).So i think better to go to home country.Even if we are struck we can stay at home.If we are lucky enough,we will get it done anywhere 🙂


    • Prommy,

      Some of them went to Bahamas and got their visa stamped recently..I don’t know how true is that.Any idea …?

  18. Hi,
    I am an Indian citizen.. but i have lived in Dubai for 24 years (so did all of my education there). I am not a legal resident of Dubai. My dad sponsored resident visa for me in Dubai. I got my F1 stamping done in Dubai for coming to USA to do my Masters. Now, I got a fulltime job and need to go to get my H-1B stamped. Should I go to India(as technically it is my home country) to get it stamped or can I go to Dubai ?

    • I would suggest calling up the US consulate in Dubai and asking them about it. Each consulate has different norms for TCNs (third country nationals).

  19. Hello Kumar,
    Thank you for the valuable information you have provided above. I have few doubts. This is my situation:
    I did my Masters in Computer Science from 2008 Jan to 2008 Dec. Since then, I’m working through consultancy on OPT which expires on July 2011.
    My company filed my H1-B which is in processing and expecting it to recieve by mid – April 2011.
    Since Jan 2008, I haven’t been to India even once. My questions are:
    1. How soon can I visit India after getting H1-B? Can I visit India in May/June if I receive H1 in April?
    2. Can I go to Bahamas for stamping and then visit India?
    3. What is the success rate for stamping in Bahamas for F1 to H1-B?

    • 1. Yes, however you need to keep in mind (and probably keep your employer in loop) about possible delays. At times, when one goes too close to petition approval, their petition is not updated in PIMS system, and can cause delay during visa stamping.
      2. Yes, but check w/ the consulate there if they are accepting TCNs (third country nationals).
      3. Success rates are not published, and not enough people report back their stories in blogs etc to have a substantial sample data. Besides, each case is different and once’s success doesn’t imply success of another.

      • Neelima,,,,Any update on the bahama visa stamping for the first timers.?.I’m pretty much in the same situation as u r I need togo to india but imnt sure abt the success rate of the H1B stampings…SO iam planning to visiti bahamas first get my visa stamped and then fly to india peacefully..please keep me updated if you have any information..

        thanks !!

  20. Hi ,

    I am with L1 Visa valid until 2012 sep, my wife got a job and her employer started processing the H1 visa(changing from L2 to H1) for her. She planned to go for an vacation while processing her H1 during june 2011 and planning to come back without going for stmping in Indiafor H1.

    Is it fine to come back to US with L2 visa even though hse is in the process of H1 or (incase ) if she is having an valid H1 approved petition..
    Will it create any problem in the port of entry for not stamping H1.

    • Yes, she can do that. Her COS will be considered as abandoned if she leaves US while it’s still in progress. Once she is here on L-2, she can file for COS from L-2 to H-1 and then start working on H-1 again.

      • Hi Saurabh,
        I am currently working on L1 visa for employer A.have got an employer B , who is willing to file H1B for me for the 2012, which starts on April 2011.
        Once my H1B is approved , will my L1 visa become invalid by default.Or it will be invalid only after Oct1st of 2011?

        Also while filing for H1 b , will there be an option where my new employer B could change the status to H1 at a desired date (not on Oct1st by default), so that till that point i could work for my employer 1 on L1.
        Also , if i travel outside and reenter US , will i have an option to chose either L1 or H1

        Thanks &Appreciate your help to have these queries clarified.

        • If filed w/ COS, you will be on H-1 and not L-1 from the date mentioned in the approval notice. Typically it’s 1st Oct, but it can be later (either by request or the process itself extends post 1st Oct).

          Yes, you can request a date different from 1st Oct. However, that date can be maximum 6 months in future, and cannot be prior to 1st Oct. So if it is filed on 1st May,start date can be any date b/w 1st Oct and 1st Nov.

          The other option is to file H-1 w/o COS. Later when you really want to make the move, apply for COS and then start working for the H-1 employer.

          • thanks for the prompt response Saurabh! As you mentioned above , if H1 is filed without COS , can the change of status be done within US itself? or do i need to travel outside US and get the H1 stamped?

            I have completed almost 3 years on my L1 in US.Does the maximum tenure of stay in US of 6 years on H1,includes the total stay on any kind of work permit(in my case L1 3+h1 3).Or will it be again 6 years for me on my H1 with the new employer.


          • If filed w/o COS you can move to H-1 using either of below ways:
            1. File COS from L-1 to H-1. No need to leave country and you will be on H-1 from the approval date.
            2. Go out of country, get H-1 stamped and enter US to work on H-1.

            The 6 year clock includes time spent on L-1 and H-1. So if you have already spent 3 years on L-1, you will get 3 more years on H-1.

          • One more thing, 6 year clock only includes the time spent in US. So if you traveled outside of US during those 3 years on L-1, you can claim that during your H-1 period. Maximum period approved by USCIS is 3 years, but extensions can be filed later (to max out 6 year clock).

  21. Hi,
    I’m in US on B1 visa and i found an employer for sponsorship. Plz let me know the document check list for applying for H1 b and do i need to go to my home country for visa stamping my home country india.


    • Here you go:

  22. Thanks for the clear information for first time stamping.

    I was on F1 in USA from Jan 2007 to Dec 2008. From Feb 2009 to sep 2009 I was on OPT and from Oct 2009 to till date I am on H1B working through the same employer. Have each and every months payrolls W2s for 2009 2010. Currenly on a project and can get all the letters, client vendor employers etc.

    How challenging do you think I should have the first time stamping in canada toronto? Whats the success ratio for F1 to H1 candidates like me?


    • It is still less challenging to go for first stamping to MX or CA when you have completed your Masters from US. However, that’s just an opinion and not a rule of thumb. You can call up the US consulate in Toronto and ask them if they are willing to interview TCN (third country nationals) especially when they have completed their Masters in US.

  23. Hi All,

    I am from India and my H1b got approved last week.
    Next month iam travelling on H4 visa.
    Can i apply for change of status from H4 to H1B and start working
    with out going for a visa stamping ?
    Please advice me how to proceed.

    • You can enter US on H-4 visa. Once you are in US, your employer can file for COS from H-4 to H-1 (form I-539). Once approved, you will be on H-1 and required to maintain status on that visa.

  24. Hi Kumar,

    I am British citizen and was born and educated in India. I was in US on H4 which was stamped in London. Now my status has changed to H1B and have been working for the past 3 months. I am planning to go India and was wondering if I can get H1B stamping done in New Delhi as my parents live there. I know its confusing as the best way to do is to go UK(home country) but in my case my education was in India but worked for 10 yrs in UK and I am UK citizen. Please advise. Thanks

    • You will be considered a TCN (Third country national) in India as you are not an Indian citizen but a British citizen.

      I cannot accurately comment what consulate policy is in India. It’s better to call them up and clarify.

  25. Hi there!
    This whole process is a little confusing and different for me. Although I am an Indian national, I was born and lived my whole life in Kuwait. I came to the US on an F-1 visa in 2006 that was also obtained in Kuwait. Now, I’m working for a company in the U.S. and I have my H1-B approval form. I want to get the visa stamp but, I’m concerned about going to India as they probably won’t understand my high school grades anyway and I can’t prove too many ties to India. I was wondering if Canada would be a viable option for me since I finished my undergrad here and all of my limited work experience (internship + part-time college jobs + full-time) has been in the U.S. Has anyone in a similar situation been successful at getting their visa stamp in Canada or the Bahamas?

    Any information would be helpful.

    Thank, in advance.

  26. Hi.

    As you say that I cannot get my first time h1b stamping in Mexico, I’m planning a trip to my home country, France I’m February.

    But as I am working right now in the us, I will have to take some vacation to go there and was wondering how long it would take for the embassy to stamp my passport.
    Do you know if the embassies can do it in one day ?

    Or if not, do you have an idea of the average amount of time it takes for them to send back the passport ?

    Thanks a lot for your website ! It’s really full of helpful informations !

    • Timelines vary from country to country. You can get the most appropriate answer from someone who has got his/her visa stamped from France. But I wouldn’t expect it to take more than 3 days for them to process this. If the consulate doesn’t provide the option to collect the passport personally, then you can add postal delays to the same.

      • Wow thanks for such a quick answer !

        And do you know if the possible delays depend on the country I am from or if they are just random ? (security checks, background check…).

        I have a bachelor in electrical engineering and do not work for the government/army/…

        • Usually there are 3 kinds of delays:
          1. Workload: When there are just too many visa applications to process at the consulate.
          2. Administrative: When they are waiting for information from USCIS about your petition. No action is required on your part.
          3. Job related: When they want additional information from you related to your profile, employer and/or job.

          I don’t think (1) is applicable for France, but can’t comment on (2) and (3) as they are case specific. Are you working for a consulting company?

          • In that case you may not encounter delay from reason 3 as well. That typically happens for consulting companies. Still carry a recent employment letter, your payslips, tax forms for 2010 etc. If your employer has successfully filed H-1s in the past, then their name shouldn’t bring up any red flags as well in the consulate.

            The only concern could be reason 2. I think you recently filed from F-1 to H-1. If that has happened recently (I don’t know what’s the timeframe for something to be termed recent by USCIS), then the information may not have been updated in all the systems they look up. How long ago was your H-1 approved?

          • I filed exactly 2 weeks ago, and got the answer on
            I planned my appointment on february 14th, so 3 weeks from now.
            (I was on a j1 not f1 right now)

            I did not book my plane ticket yet, worried about the possible delays that could happen at the embassy.

            But does that take them so long to update the database ?

          • Situation was pathetic couple of years ago when they rolled out PIMS (it’s this system that causes administrative delay). Since then they have become more regular with system updates.

            I can’t say for sure if 3 weeks is good enough or not. I would expect it to be enough, but I can’t say that for sure.

            I didn’t do any online search recently, but you can see if people are still getting delayed because of PIMS.

  27. Hi Kumar,
    I have gone through almost all blogs, but mine is little different.
    I came to US on F1 in 2006 and after doing masters in physical therapy i converted my status to H1B in 2008. I haven’t been to India yet for stamping. My 1st H1B is getting expired and i need to apply for renewal of H1B in 2011.
    My question is: Can i renew my H1B without stamping even in the first time?


  28. Hello Folks,

    First of all Wish you all a Very Happy New Year 2011.
    I need some help on H1-B stamping in Mexico. I am based out in Texas and planning to go for Visa Stamping in Mexico. My current H1-b is expired and I have approved petition till Jan 2013. My previous Stamping was done from New Delhi. I am with the same employer from Day 1.

    My question is:

    – With my expired Visa, am I eligible to go for stamping in Mexico? Please share your experience with similar case.
    – Do I need to get a Mexico Visa if I am driving?
    – Any Agent information who deal with all this till closure?

    Guys I really appreciate your time for helping me out.

    Thank you,

    • Sagar,
      They keep changing rules…Double check with Mexico embassy folks.

      Yes, you need Mexico visa. There are some agents who do the whole process for a fee. Just google, you should be able to find it.

  29. Hi Kumar,

    First of all, very informative blog!!!!

    This would be my third H1B, which was just approved as I am under the backlog for permanent residency.

    I graduated from a US university and have been working for the same employer for almost 7 years now.

    I was planning to go to Canada for the visa stamping instead of my native country, India. My previous two stampings were from India.

    What would you suggest?

    Thank you.

    Raj Shah

    • It is still ok to go to Canada for visa stampings in same visa category as old visa stamp (in this case H1). However, to be on the safer side, I would strongly recommend checking the consulate website to see if they are outright rejecting interviews for non-Canadians. You can also call the consulate and sought their opinion.

  30. Hi Kumar,
    I got my H4 visa extension approval and my husband got his H1b Extension approval from the USCIS in dec 2010. I’m visiting India in Jan 2011. While in India, I’m planning to get my H4 stamping done from Chennai consulate. My husband would not be accompanying me during my India trip.
    Want to know if this could create some problem for my stamping since my husband wouldn’t be getting his stamping done and only I would be going for stamping?


    • You should be fine. Remember to carry copy of his 797, his recent payslips, and wedding album and/or marriage certificate amongst other necessary documents.

  31. Kumar,
    I have been working in US for last 4 years on L1B, and now I got my H1B approved. I want to get my H1B stamped. and as you know, it is easier to get it stamped in Canada than my home country India. What do you suggest? Is it safe to go to Canada OR should I opt for home country India?


    • For fist time stamping (like yours), it is always recommended to go to the home country. You can try to schedule interview in Canada, but you always carry the risk of being sent back from the consulate. Remember, if that happens then you may have to go to the home country in order to get this stamping done.

      CA is a much safer option when you are going for your subsequent stampings in the same visa category.

  32. Hello,

    My H1b was approved this year in october. I have graduated from a US university and working in US right now. I want to get my H1b stamped now and it seems Mexico would be a risly choice so my only choice is Canada. Do I need to get canadian visa first in order to enter Toronto or any other canadian city and get my visa stamped there.


  33. My H1-B visa stamp on the passport is valid until 30Sep2011 with my old Employer.

    I moved to new employer in 2009 and my petition was approved until Feb2012. I have not travelled in between. Now I am planning to visit India and comeback to US in April2011.

    Do I need to go for visa stamping during my India visit OR
    I can just use the old employer’s visa stamp & new employer’s petition[I797 form] and safely enter into US without any issues at POE?
    That is irrespective old employer notified/revoked/cancelled to USCIS I shud be ok right ?
    I mean I can still use old employer visa stamp and new petition right to reenter USA?

  34. Hello Kumar,

    Great blog. Thank you so much for doing all this research and reading and bringing us knowledge at one place. Can you please suggest in my case? The case is this : I am currently working in the US since Sep 2009 on EAD. I applied and got my H1B approved in Oct. But the approval came with the limitation that I should get it stamped before starting to work on H1B status. Will this be considered a COS? Is it okay to go to Canada or Bahamas for the stamping as I have 1+ years of experience in the US? I will definitely call the embassies and question them – but your thoughts on this would be very much appreciated. Thanks again.


    • Shaily,
      I am wondering if it explicitly says that you have to get stamped before working on H1B ? If you have a I-94 attached to your I-797 approval notice( bottom of the approval notice), then it is a change of status, if not then it is not COS.
      Things change, so I think you should call them before you apply.

      The decision to go to home country vs Canada is controversial…it is recommended to go to home country because, your education and other credentials can be verified easily (also Consular officers are used to seeing similar certificates)…also, some fear rejections due to high volume in home country….Honestly, if you have H1B full time job from a good company(NOT consulting) , it is very safe to go to home country for stamping and recommended option. I have seen many of my friends get visa stamping in home country without any issues.

  35. Thanks for keeping all the needed info at one place! thanks a ton!!

    I came to usa on L1b – then got my h1b in 2009 oct – started working – I am thinking of goping to bahamas for My H1B stamping ( which is COS – change of Status). And i called the 800 763 6812 numberUS Embassy Bahamas Visa information service- bought the 14$ PIN ..To talk to the Service professional – Then the Lady Told me She can NOT give me appointment as my case is Cahnge of status ..and she said the new is been in implementation since 2009:-) ..I know from forums..people are ggeting appointments and stampings:-)….can any one let me know should i try another number:-)

    • Venkat, Things keep changing and your best source of information is Embassy, if you have talked to someone from US embassy it is the right information. You do not just go by others saying or forums….speak to the source for right info and take a decision.

      • Kumar

        Thanks for the reply…yah you are right..but when i see many ppl are gng for stamping..not sure any one got COS in (l1 to h1B) in recent days….Thank you all!!!

  36. kumar i am currently in L1 blanket for more than a year and i am interested in getting a H1 visa. i have seen in one of the websites to register in online american database for h1 jobs. i am not sure if i can start with that. i havent found an employer who offers me a h1 visa. can you let me know what is the sequence i should follow to get a h1b visa.

  37. Kumar,

    i have graduated in oct 2006 and my h1b got approved and started in oct 1 2007. My renewal also got approved. I did not go to stamping till date. Because of the change of status, i have heard i need to go to home country, Is there any chance to go mexico, bahamas, canada? Please provide me the options other than home country.


  38. hi kumar
    mohan again
    another question:

    also: how early can one plan for the appointment? what is the recommended time

    shantanmohan reddy

      • hello Kumar

        was reading the link you have sent above regarding the timing of applying for the visa stamping.

        the article however does not clearly talk about the case of people already in usa.

        two questions
        1. i am in usa now and have not made any plans as yet to go back to India.
        However i am planning to visit India around Dec/Jan 2010
        By H1 work period starts from Oct 2010
        Could you advise on when i can plan to take the visa appointment etc?

        2. the article mentions one should plan for the stamping atleast 90 days before start date of working. but i am already working in the USA. so does this 90 day thing apply to me as well

        thanks for your time


  39. hello Kumar

    After reading this blog, i realise going back to my home country (India) would be the best and safest option. could you apprise me of the stamping process itself?

    1.What documents do i need to carry apart from the change of status document, passport and all the usual stuff?
    2.Also what is the procedure: take a visa appointment, get it stamped..thats it?
    3. how can i plan for my visa appointment from here (USA). i believe you have to pay some fees (HDFC) etc…isnt there an online process?
    4. what visa centers do you recommend. i am from Hyderabad, but i got my F1 visa from the Chennai center. Would it help to go back to the same center?

    Happy to hear some thoughts around this.


  40. Hi Mr.Kumar,

    I got my H1B approval, and this is my 3rd stamping past 2 stamping i have done in India, but this time i feel bit unsafe to get it stamped in india since my friends are wating for months time to get it stamped,so i am planning to go to Mexico .since i am staying in Arizona,also my wife she got her H1B and she is working for a bank in AZ for the past 6 months and has all the valid paystubs and bank details and she is applied for GC too .

    So can you please advise where we can go for stamping? in india or in Canada? please also advise about the required docs too.

    Thanks in advance Kumar.

  41. Hi Kumar,

    As mentioned in my earlier mail i’m planning to go for extension, last h1 visa was outside of US and India. now my visa and i-94 valid till Oct. Applied for extension but will have to wait till october due the processing times. now as my visa and i-94 will be expired can i go to Bahamas,Mexico,Canada for the visa or go to Sweden like the old visa. In India the h1 extension is taking long time itseems. My friend is stuck there for 6months @ Delhi consulate for some admin processing

  42. Hey There

    I have changed my Status from F1 to H1 for FY 2011. I have received the approval notice. This is a first time H1b, please suggest me where should i go for stamping.


    • Aly, they recommend to go to home country for stamping when you are changing status…the logic is being that they can verify your education credentials….having said that, some people go to Canada and Bahamas…Check the consulate websites and see if they still do the change of status…

      • I have done my MBA here and working with the direct employer. In pakistan it takes too long for Stamping as my F1 took me around 9 months to get my passport with F1 stamping. Any Good Suggestion with any current experiences?

  43. Hi Kumar,

    I am from Turkey. I applied for a change of status form F1 to H1b, waiting for the approval. I had H1B before my F1, so this will be my second H1B. I also have an MBA in US (graduating in September).

    I was thinking to got o Canada for my H1B stamp. Since I already have work and education history from US, i am hoping that it will be easy to get my stamp in Canada. What do you think?

    Also, do you think it is safer to go to Canada for the stamp after working at the company for couple of months? So i will have pay checks and some history with the company? Or does it not make any difference?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Pinar, I think it would be fine to go to Canada, the logic is because you have a US degree. I would think so, it would be good to go after working for couple months so that you have some history….but practically, it does not make much difference….

  44. HI
    i came to the united states on visitor visa since november/2004 and after that i change my status to h1b starting october/2005 then i change employer in april/2007 then one more time in november/2008 and my h1 expire in october/2011..im working in a big company..
    since november/2004 i never left the states..
    is it safe for me to get the visa stamp from my origin country(egypt)
    or do you think from your experience has some risk
    i have all the documents with me
    thanks for yr time

    • Sam, Logically, it is preferred to get stamping in home country because they can verify your education certificates and other stuff as needed. Having said that, there are some risks too involved. It is your judgement call. As long as you have everything right, you should be fine, it does not matter..you will be fine anywhere.

  45. Hi Kumar
    thank you very much for great post, your blog has cleared my all doubts regarding COS stamping,now i need ur suggestion for my case, i have h1b, i came to usa on F1 then i got H1b in dec 2009, i have indian Degree, i have to go india for some personal issue, can u please suggest me where should i go for stamping? As u know lot of people stuck in in india on h1b stamping and i dont want to take chance, now i am thinking to go Bahamas for stamping…..so can you tell me whether Bahamas consulate do new h1b stamping or not?? thank u in advance..waiting for ur reply

    • Jay, I do not know the current information about Bahamas. Why dont you call their consulate they should be able to help you out. I know few friends who got visa stamping there early last year. If you have H1B from an American Company, rather than desi consulting , you might be fine even going for stamping in India.

  46. H1b approval states that form I-824 needs to be filed for the government to notify the consulate and port of entry. The lawyer says that the government automatically informs all the embassies of H1b approved cases, and nothing needs to be done from our side. Then, what is this I-824 form, and who should file it, where? To whom this form applies? Appreciate your reply. Thanks.

  47. Dear Mr. Kumar,

    I have extended my H1b and recaptured those days that I spent outside the US. My H1b has been already approved until February 2011. I am traveling to Australia in September and I don’t know whether it would be better to have the visa stamp on my passport there during my visit (aprox 2 weeks), or if I should go to Canada or Bahamas before that. I am originally from Spain, but I was not planning to go to Madrid unless it is really necessary.
    What would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance

    • Well, I assume your visa is expired on passport and you need stamping for re-entry to US. I do not think it makes much difference going for stamping in Australia vs Bahamas or Canada. The simple reason is, if it is not your home country, it is probably the same thing wherever you go for stamping. If you can fit in your schedule in Australia to get visa stamped, it would be good idea. Just so that you know, as you are attend visa stamping in other country(not your home country), you have to prepared with few things as backup options, not to be pessimistic, like if at all you have to stay in Aus sometimes they take more time to process as consulates ask for more info, so just be prepared. If you plan to do visa stamping in Australia, I would schedule something very early in your trip so that you if the consulate takes time, still you will be on time for your return. Few things to consider are, as Australia is far, you need to have a way to communicate with your employer (if needed). Not trying to confuse or scare you, just telling you the possibilities so that you are prepared ahead of time.

  48. Hello Kumar,

    MY situation is right now i have my H1B approved and my employment begins from Oct 1st only. i’m planning to go Canada to stamp my 1st H1B. i did my undergraduate from US university. Right now i am working as OPT. i am planning to go Canada 2 months after my work starts, that is Dec 1st week. do we need visa to go to canada? how do we apply? please help me out.

    • Yes, you need visa. Check the Canadian consulate website that is close to your location in US or call them for details. You may have to go to the Canadian embassy in US for your visa.

  49. Dear Mr. Kumar

    My son now in the U.S. is waiting for his H1B approval.
    1. Once he gets it, ideally when he should travel for H1B stamping? He plans to travel during xmas time. OK?
    2. I am an Indian expat in Indonesia and my son did almost all his schooling in Indonesia. His Indian passport has also been renewed here only. It should be OK for him to obtain his visa stamping in Indonesia, right, though holding an Indian Passport?
    3. Sorry to ask you one more question. What documents he should normally carry from the U.S. for visa stamping as also re-entry into the U.S.?
    Thanks very much

    • 1. I think thats a good time to travel because market is slow in December here and he can get vacation too. It is just preference and getting vacation from employer.
      2. I think so… because, logically speaking, as all his education is from Indonesia, the best way for consulate to verify his credentials would be in Indonesia.
      3. Check this article: List of documents for H1B visa stamping Personally, I would check the consulate website that your son will plan on visa stamping for any specific documents. For re-entry, just carry same list as he takes for visa stamping.


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