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Step by Step H1B Dropbox Process: Eligibility, Documents, Change of Employer

When you apply for US Visa renewal and you meet certain criteria, you can get it stamped in passport without attending in-person visa interview. This kind of visa stamping process is called ‘Interview Waiver’ option and popularly called as ‘US Visa Dropbox Stamping’.  The same interview waiver option applies to H1B Visa renewal as well. In this article, we will cover step by step process for H1B visa stamping using dropbox or interview waiver option. It will cover all criteria, booking appointment, documents checklist, how it works with employer change or H1B Visa Transfer situations and status changes.

The first step to apply for H1B stamping using interview waiver or dropbox option is to ensure you meet all the general required criteria for typical interview waiver or dropbox. Let’s look at them first in context of H1B visa.

H1B Visa Dropbox Eligibility Requirements

Below are the general eligibility criteria for getting H1B Visa stamping using dropbox or interview waiver option. You need to meet all of the below requirements to be eligible for dropbox stamping.

  • You should have H1B Visa Stamping done before and have US Visa foil in your passport of type H1B.  Dropbox or interview waiver is only possible for H1B Visa Renewal.
  • Your most recent H1B visa stamp should have been issued in the same country where you are planning for dropbox now.  For instance, if you are applying for dropbox stamping in India, then your previous H1B visa stamp must have been issued in India as well.
  • Your H1B Visa was stamped in your passport after Jan 1, 2008
  • Your H1B visa stamp in passport should not have annotations like “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”
  • You H1B visa stamping in passport should be issued after your 14th birthday
  • Your H1B visa stamp in passport was not lost, stolen or cancelled.
  • There were no US visa refusals in any other visa class, since your recent H1B visa issuance.
  • Your H1B Visa should be valid or expired within last 12 months.  There are some exceptions to 12 months sometimes like during current pandemic, where the dropbox eligibility was extended to 48 months from expiry until Dec 31st, 2021.  

Also, if you are over 80 years of age and applying for H1B Visa renewal, then you need to only meet one condition, which is your most recent US Visa application was not refused.

H1B Dropbox Eligibility for Change of Employer

Many H1B applicants, who have done change of employer or transferred to new employer assume that they are not eligible for dropbox submission. They are misguided by the fact that their previous H1B visa foil glued in their passport has previous employer’s name and they may not be eligible for dropbox.

To give you context, when you get H1B Visa stamping done, the H1B Visa foil that is glued in your passport would have H1B Sponsoring Company name and the petition number details on it under the annotation section as you can see in below screenshot. Having this company name is the cause for confusion that you may not be eligible for H1B Visa using dropbox option.

H1B Visa Sample with Sponsor Name
H1B Visa Sample with Sponsor Name

The reality is that the employer name on US Visa is only an annotation for reference of the CBP officer. It has nothing to do with dropbox stamping eligibility. As long as you satisfy all the general eligibility criteria for H1B Visa Dropbox, as listed in above section, you are eligible for visa stamping using dropbox option.  

Also, to confirm the above, when you fill out the visa details and answer questionnaire on US Visa CGI Federal Website , you will not be asked for employer information or what your visa stamp annotation says. All they ask for is questions around your visa expiration date and general criteria. That’s another confirmation that you are eligible for dropbox stamping, even if you have done change of employer or H1B transfer.  Also, to add, we have many users on our blog and social media channels, who have got stamping done after H1B transfer. So, it is confirmed based on experiences as well.  

Now that you understand the general requirements for H1B stamping using dropbox, let’s look at the step by step process.  

Step by Step Guide to Apply for H1B Visa Dropbox Appointment

The process to apply for H1B Visa stamping using dropbox or interview waiver option is not very different from the general visa renewal for other types of visas. It is mostly the documents you submit and your eligibility criteria that matter. For background, you can read How to apply for US Visa for general guidance on US Visa stamping process.  Let’s look each of the steps now.

Step 1 – Complete Non-immigrant US Visa Application (DS-160) Form online

You need to complete Online Non-Immigrant US Visa Application and complete all the details related to your current H1B sponsor and previous employment information.  You will be asked to select a location for the visa stamping or interview when you start the DS-160 form. Select the best city that you can think of where you would go for stamping. See below screenshot. The city you select here does not really matter. It can be different from the city where you actually go for stamping or submit documents.

DS-160 form on CEAC Website Screenshot
DS-160 form on CEAC Website Screenshot

DS-160 form is a very lengthy form and asks for a lot of information. It can take time to complete this form.  Also,  when you submit DS-160 form, you will get a confirmation number. The DS-160 confirmation number is also same as the Application ID. You will enter the DS-160 confirmation number or Application ID in next step during appointment booking for dropbox.  

Step 2 – Create Profile on CGI Federal Website

After you complete the DS-160 form, you need to create a new user profile on CGI Federal Website and complete basic information about you.

One thing to note during creating profile is that, you need to select the country where you plan to get visa renewal during creation of account. Alternatively, if you go to www.USTravelDocs.com website related to the country, where you plan to get stamping, they will have relevant parameters at the end of the URL that set the country and language automatically. For instance, the URLs would look like below for India & Germany.  

Step 3 – Complete Visa Type, Personal details, H1B Petition Details

On CGI Federal Website, once you add your basic information, you will need to select “New Appointment / Schedule Appointment” from the menu in left hand side. You will be asked a set of questions in a guided wizard format, you need to complete them by selecting the relevant ones for H1B visa, it will look like below

CGI Federal Visa Appointment Booking - Create New Application
CGI Federal Visa Appointment Booking – Create New Application

After that you will need to complete personal data like passport, address info, etc. Also, you need to enter the H1B visa petition details including H1B Case Receipt Number on the same page. It looks like in below screenshot.

Personal Info and Petitioner Details on CGI Federal Website Form
Personal Info and Petitioner Details on CGI Federal Website Form

Once you go past this screen, you will get a chance to add your dependents. This option to add your dependents is applicable, if you are taking your H4 Dependents (spouse and children) for visa stamping along with you. You can add the spouse and child related DS-160 and all their personal details here. You need to click on button “Add By Name”. It looks like in below screenshot.

Add Dependents Info - H1B Dropbox Form CGI Federal Website
Add Dependents Info – H1B Dropbox Form CGI Federal Website

Step 4 – H1B Dropbox Eligibility Check Wizard

In the next step, you will be asked few questions related to H1B Visa Stamping status to check, if you are eligible for dropbox or not. You need to answer them correctly based on your situation.  Below are each of the questions and answers that most of the H1B Visa renewal applicants answer.

Question 1 : “Do you have a previous H-1B visa (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee)?”

Response: If it is your renewal stamping, you would answer ‘Yes’. See below screenshot how it looks on CGI Federal website.

Do you have previous H1B Visa - Dropbox Question
Do you have previous H1B Visa – Dropbox Question

Question 2 :Was your prior H1B visa (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee) annotated ‘Clearance Received’ or ‘Department Authorization’?“. 

Response: If you do not have any complications with annotations in visa stamp, you would answer ‘No’. See below screenshot.

Was Your prior H1B Visa annotated Clearance Received or Department Authorization
Was Your prior H1B Visa annotated Clearance Received or Department Authorization

Question 3 : “Was your most recent visa (in the same class for which you are applying) lost or stolen or cancelled?”. 

Response : If you did not lose your H1B visa from past, you would answer ‘No’. See below screenshot.

Was your most recent visa lost or stolen - question in CGI Federal website
Was your most recent visa lost or stolen – question in CGI Federal website

Question 4 : “Have you ever been refused a H-1B (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee) visa before?”.

Response : If you did not get H1B visa refusal at a consulate before, you would answer ‘No’. It does not matter, if your H1B petition was denied at USCIS before. This question is regarding the Visa stamping at Consulate. See below screenshot.

Have you ever been refused a H1B Visa before CGI Federal Visa question
Have you ever been refused a H1B Visa before CGI Federal Visa question

Question 5 : “Is your previous H-1B visa (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee) still valid?“. 

Response : You should answer ‘Yes’ only if your visa is still valid. In general, most of the cases, for many this would be “No” See below screenshot.

If you answered No to the above question 5, you would get the below question 6. If you answered “yes”, you will be skipped directly to next question 7 below.

Is your previous H1B Visa still valid - CGI Federal Visa appointment Booking question
Is your previous H1B Visa still valid – CGI Federal Visa appointment Booking question

Question 6 : “Did your previous H-1B visa (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee) expire within the last 48 months? Note: Please be sure to select an interview waiver submission date at least 7 calendar days before your visa has been expired 48 months.”

Response : You would answer ‘Yes’ in most of the cases for dropbox eligibility, unless your visa has expired before 48 months. See below screenshot.

Did your previous H1B Visa expire within the last 48 months question on CGI Federal website
Did your previous H1B Visa expire within the last 48 months question on CGI Federal website

Question 7 : “Was your most recent H-1B visa (temporary occupation, temporary worker or trainee) issued in <country name> after January 1, 2008? “. 

The <country name> would be the actual name of the country where you are applying visa from. For example, India, if you are applying from any consulate in India.

Response:  For this, most of them would answer ‘Yes’, unless your visa was issued before Jan 1st, 2008 and in the same country as you are applying. See below screenshot.

Was your most recent h1B Visa issued in India CGI Federal website question
Was your most recent h1B Visa issued in India CGI Federal website question

Confirmation on H1B Dropbox Eligibility

If you have answered the wizard questions as mentioned above and you are eligible, you will get a confirmation saying that you are eligible for Interview Wavier or Dropbox.

Congratulations! You qualify for the Interview Waiver . You will need to schedule an appointment to visit the Document Drop-Off locations to submit your documents but do not need to schedule a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.…”

Depending on the country you are submitting the documents, you will see the cities and consulates information related to the same. It looks like in below screenshot. Below is for India, so you see Indian cities in there.

Congratulations You qualify for the Interview waiver confirmation on CGI Federal website Dropbox H1B
Congratulations You qualify for the Interview waiver confirmation on CGI Federal website Dropbox H1B

You need to click “Continue” to proceed with your application.

Step 5 : Document Delivery Location, MRV Fee Payment Receipt Number

In the next couple of steps, you need to select the document delivery or pick up location and then need to enter the Machine Readable Visa(MRV) Fee payment receipt. The amount shown will vary by country in local currency. It looks like in below screenshot for India.

US Visa Appointment Fee Payment Option for Dropbox Stamping CGI Federal Website
US Visa Appointment Fee Payment Option for Dropbox Stamping CGI Federal Website

Below are the payment options for Dropbox Stamping in India. For Dropbox stamping in India, you can either use NEFT or IMPS option as listed on the website. If you pay fee at a bank over the counter at CitiBank, Axis Bank or DRUK PNB Bank, then you will enter the receipt number in the box. 

  • MRV Fee Online Payment : Depending on the CountryYou cannot pay using your overseas accounts. You need an India Rupee account for this. 
  • MRV Fee Pay at Bank – Cash Payment Advice Slip : You will need to print a cash payment advice slip and that need to be used at the Axis or Citi bank as it has a CGI reference number.  It takes about a day after the fee was paid in bank for it to get activated.

Step 6 : Book Appointment for Documents Drop-Off  

Once you pay the fee and MRV fee receipt is activated, when you try to navigate to the visa tab on home, you will get a popup on the payment screens saying a receipt matches and would you like to use that. You can say use existing receipts, then it takes you to the screen to book appointment

Schedule OFC Appointment Screen

This screen is one of the most confusing parts for many. The reason is it says “Schedule OFC Appointment” and many think it is for giving Biometrics.  In general, Dropbox stamping does not need Biometrics. So, the appointment you book on this screen is for dropping off your H1B Dropbox Stamping Document and not Biometrics.  

Even though the text says “Schedule OFC Appointment”, what they mean is appointment for Dropbox to drop-off your documents. One way to easily distinguish is you would see letters “IW” at the end of the city name in dropdown above dates, which means “Interview Waiver”.   See below screenshot

Schedule OFC Appointment - Dropbox Stamping IW
Schedule OFC Appointment – Dropbox Stamping IW

If the screen is for Biometrics appointment, you would see the letters “VAC” at the end of the city name, which stand for “Visa Application Center”. See below screenshot to understand the difference.

Schedule OFC Appointment with VAC at end of City name Dropdown
Schedule OFC Appointment with VAC at end of City name Dropdown

Step 7: Print H1B Dropbox Appointment Confirmation Letter  

After you book the dates, you will be navigated further to print the H1B Dropbox Appointment Confirmation Letter. It will usually be 6 pages. The first page would have your details, Appointment details, Document delivery or pickup info, fee information and DS-160 details.  Second page would have the details of the Dropbox Location and instructions. See below screenshots.  The list of documents to be carried will be given in rest of the pages by Visa type. Look for the one relevant for H and L Applicants. You can check more at Sample US Visa Dropbox Confirmation Letter India

H1B Dropbox Document Checklist

Below are the list of documents that need to be submitted for H1B Dropbox Submission during the appointment :

  • Dropbox Appointment Confirmation Letter
  • I-797 Approval Notice Copies (Current & Previous)
  • DS-160 Confirmation Page
  • Original Passport
  • Passport Photo as per US Visa Photo specifications
  • Employment Verification Letter (They may only take copy, so carry copy of the letter)
  • (Optional) Client Letter. Usually, they do not take client letters as it is not required. But if you insist, they take it. Some users said that they explained 221g situations without client letter and submitted it as part of dropbox.
  • (Optional) Additional I-797 approval notices, if you had any in the middle for transfers. They may or may not take them. You can request and submit to be safe.

H1B Dropbox Document Submission Process

The process to submit documents is pretty straightforward as listed below.

  • You need to go to the relevant address of the documents drop-off location that is on the Dropbox Confirmation Letter.
  • You need to go only during the appointment time to the dropbox location in appointment confirmation letter.  This can vary by location, check the letter.
  • They will verify all the documents and then take the listed documents in above checklist. 
  • There is no requirement for the actual applicant to submit the documents. The documents can be submitted by a representative on the appointment date and time. The representative need to carry photo id to submit documents. The appointment letter would have all the details related to the representative submission process.
  • Additional instructions like parking, and other location specific info would be listed on the confirmation letter.
  • Due to pandemic, there maybe additional checks in place and health checks, so be prepared.

US Visa Status on CEAC Website after Documents Submission

After you submit the documents, you can check US Visa Status Online on CEAC website.  Below is the typical sequence for change of statuses.

  1. ‘Application Received’ Status : You would see the “Application Received” status on the same day or by next day after submitting documents.
  2. ‘Administrative Processing’ or ‘Refused’ Status: You may see the status change from ‘Application Received’ to “Administrative Processing” or “Refused” status. Do not panic, if you see these statuses.  It does not necessarily mean your visa is refused or going through 221g. They are very common to appear in the middle during visa processing time. You may see these statuses for 3 to 4 days. For some users, they have seen this for a week or 10 days. So, do not panic. Read Why CEAC website shows Refused Status for US Visa ?
  3. “Issued” Status : You will see the status change to “Issued”, if your US visa was approved by US Consulate.
  4. After your passport is in ‘Issued’ status, you can track your passport status on CGI Federal Website. It will show status, if passport is ready for pickup and once you collected passport.  You can collect your passport or it will be delivered to your address, if you have picked that option.

H1B Dropbox Stamping Not Approved Situation

If your visa was not approved by Consulate for some reason with the Dropbox Option, then you will be notified that your visa was not approved. The visa status on CEAC website will continue show status as “Administrative Processing” or “Refused”.

When you go to collect your documents and passport, they will return everything and also issue a 221(g) Administrative Processing slip that gives instructions on next steps. Usually, the Consulate would ask you to appear in person on any day by visiting the consulate in certain time. This can vary due to the COVID situation and they may ask to visit after the regular operations are started for consulate.

Below is a sample 221g issued by the Consulate for dropbox stamping that was not successful during pandemic.

221g Slip for H1B Visa Dropbox after Documents Submission
221g Slip for H1B Visa Dropbox after Documents Submission

Below is sample 221g given at Consulate for H1B Dropbox before pandemic asking to attend the consulate for interview on any day.

221g Green Slip given for H1B Visa Dropbox
221g Green Slip given for H1B Visa Dropbox

Conclusion

Overall, the process to renew H1B visa using interview waiver or dropbox option is very straightforward and should not have any complications. Sometimes, even if your application is all good, they may call you for random interview, so do not panic and handle it with confidence.

   

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26 Comments

  1. My L1A petition was approved on 29th Apr 2021 and figured that I’m eligible for IW, but no appointments were available as per the latest news release. Given the current backlog for IW appointments, do you know an estimated date when the earliest available date will be?

    Reply
  2. Hi,

    This is the very detailed article I have ever seen. Thanks for doing this.

    I have a quick question. I came to the united states as a student and applied for H1B before my student visa expires. It did got approve and my H1B visa expires on August 2022. So, I am planning to travel to India this November 2021 to get the Stamping done. This is the first time ever I am planning to travel to India after I came to the United States. My questions are:
    1. Am I still eligible for dropbox?
    2. Do you think it will be an issue since I did not come back to India during these years?

    Reply
    • MC,
      Cheers.
      You can only get dropbox for renewals. If you never had H1B stamped, you cannot get H1b in dropbox.
      No, it does not matter.

      Reply
  3. Hi

    We are eligible for dropbox(h1b renewal) and was planning to come to India in May. But currently there are no appointment dates in chennai IW for May. Is it already filled? Also, can we make our representative drop the documents at the drop box location?

    Reply
    • Ashman,
      Currently, there are no appointments until May 15th. They have cancelled all appointments. Check https://redbus2us.com/covid-19-news-updates-us-consulates/
      Yes, your rep can drop off documents.

      Reply
  4. I left the company for which I had approved H1B- I797A. My employer revoked the approval for that I797A.I ha visa stamped for that petition. In this situation, what should I answer for question “Your H1B visa stamp in passport was not lost, stolen or cancelled”?
    i.e. when I797A approval is revoked, visa stamp in the passport for that I797A is cancelled?

    Reply
    • AT,
      Employer cannot revoke, they can only withdraw. The question is related to actual visa stamp in your passport, not the USCIS I-129 form. Even then, employer cannot revoke anything. Only USCIS can do that. No, in short, your employer did not and cannot.

      Reply
  5. Hello,

    I submitted my documents for dropbox yesterday . The VAC officer asked me for the employment verification letter which i didnt have. I was not aware of the document to be submitted nor my employee asked me to take one. I said i did not have it. They said ok. I asked them if it is a mandatory document for submission and they mentioned recently they are asking it. But they said it should be fine and took the other documents ( passport, i797 – old and new and photographs,ds 160 confirmation ). Are there any chances of 221G for this case.

    Reply
    • Vicky,
      It is hard to say based on general info. I did see few get 221g for it and submit the same. You never know, stay positive, not much you can do now.

      Reply
  6. Hi Kumar,
    I am eligible for Dropbox and had scheduled an appointment for me and my family (wife and 2 children). Is my family required to be at the Dropbox location when they verify documents on the appointment date?
    Thanks!
    Babu

    Reply
      • Thanks, Kumar. One more question I would like to ask. My children are turning 18yrs and 15yrs this year. Are they still eligible for Dropbox? We all had an in-person VISA interview last time in 2017.
        Thanks,
        Babu

        Reply
  7. Hi Kumar,
    I am eligible for Dropbox and had scheduled an appointment for me and my family (wife and 2 children). Is my family required to be at the Dropbox location when they verify documents on the appointment date?

    Reply
    • Hello,
      I am in the same situation, I am renewing my H1B visa along with my family, and planning to do it through Dropbox. My younger daughter was 12 years old when she got her previous H4 Visa stamping. The rest of us myself, my wife, and my elder daughter have no issues. Can we add my younger daughter together with us?

      Reply
  8. Do you know how much time it is taking for people to receive their stamped passports after following this method for visa renewal?

    Reply
  9. Myself, my wife and kids renewed the passport.
    The Visa stamping is in old passport.
    Our visa expiry date in old passport is Sep,16, 2017.
    I am currently in USA and I have plan to go to India in July 2021.
    Am I eligible for drop box based on 48 months period. I meet all other criteria.
    When is the US consulate expected to open walk in Interview.

    Reply
    • Biju,
      Yes, you should be eligible. You would probably be asked to submit old and new passports during dropbox.
      No one knows, when the consulate will open for regular operations.

      Reply
  10. We booked an appointment for H1B dropbox in India last year which got cancelled due to Covid 19. We are booking the appointment again this year and we are still eligible for dropbox with the 48 month extension policy. Do we need to create new DS 160 OR we can use the old DS 160?
    If we link new new DS 160, previously paid MRV receipt would be invalid, but if we use old DS 160, the information is not up-to-date. Can anyone recommend what should we do?

    Reply
    • Sudhir,
      Technically, there is no validity for it. But, the information in it needs to be valid. Now, if you have done last year, your photo and other things need to be updated. So, you may need to check all of that and make a call.

      Reply
  11. I got an early interview n biometric date as i selected one wrong option of clearance by mistake even though i was eligible for dropbox. What should i do now?

    Reply
  12. My dependants H4 extension is filed and still waiting for biometric. My H1 extension is approved.
    Can I go to India and get my stamping done along with my wife?
    Does she need the extension approval for her dropbox stamping ?
    Will the extension get abandoned once she leaves the country?

    Reply
    • Smruti,
      She needs only your approval notice to get stamping. No, she does not need the approval notice of her H4 extension. It may or may not get abandoned as it is not COS.

      Reply
  13. Very nice article.
    I am eligible for H1B Dropbox appointment however my spouse’s visa was issued in Canada. During my renewal process, can I add her as H4 dependent? All the questions asked by the wizard seems to be concerned only about the primary applicant.

    Reply

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