As we look forward to the holiday season, EIG wants to ensure that you have the documentation and information you need for international travel. Here are the most frequently asked questions (along with answers). If you have a question about your specific situation that is not answered here, contact your EIG attorney.
- Is there a limit on how long an H-1B visa holder can be abroad for vacation legally?
No. There is no requirement that an H-1B visa holder is in the US for a certain period of time. Of course, please check with your company to ensure that your vacation is approved per company policy.
- Is it ok to travel while PERM is being processed?
Yes. You may travel while your PERM is being processed. CBP officers will not usually ask about your PERM process.
- How long should I plan to stay abroad for my visa stamping?
You should plan to stay for at least two weeks. We recommend buying a flexible ticket that you can change if needed since processing times vary from country to country. We also recommend checking the State Department’s Visa Processing Wait times page.
Please note that due to increased travel during this time of year and the high volume of traffic at the Consulates/Embassies, administrative processing is more common than usual. Please be advised that the notification of “administrative processing” for a specific period is not a cause for concern. Typically, administrative processing has nothing to do with the merits of the petition but rather is mostly procedural. You should purchase a flexible return ticket in case there are any delays.
- Do I need to take my I-140 approval notice to the visa stamping interview?
No. You will need to answer YES to the question regarding immigrant petitions on the DS-160, but you will not need to bring the I-140 approval notice to your visa appointment.
- If my visa is under administrative processing, what should I do?
Contact your EIG attorney. Administrative processing can last from a few days to two months. We can try to work with the consulate to understand the delay in your case, and if necessary, escalate the matter.
Preparing for Arrival
- Do you recommend using an H-1B visa stamp or AP to enter?
It is advised that you maintain your underlying status until your adjustment of status petition is approved, but you should be consistent. If you entered once on your AP, you should continue to use it to travel in the future. Our advice is to continue using your H-1B visa stamp unless you have already entered once on your AP.
- What do you do if your valid visa is in an expiring passport and you have a second, renewed passport?
Carry both. You should bring the passport with your valid visa, as well as the renewed passport when re-entering the US.
- Is there any requirement that my visa be valid for a certain amount of time when I return to the US?
No. The visa on your passport has to be valid when you travel back to the US, but there is no requirement it is valid beyond that date. However, if you enter the US and your visa is close to expiring, you may face additional questions from the CBP officer upon entering the US.
What documents should I carry when I travel back to the US.?
In general, you should carry:
- Your passport with visa,
- Your approval notice,
- An employment letter or offer letter,
- Most recent paystubs (if already employed), and
- Educational documentation.
- You should also bring your marriage certificate (if traveling with spouse) and/or birth certificates (if traveling with children).
Note that Canadian nationals do not require a visa stamp to travel to the US in H, L or O status.
What to Carry When You Travel – Documentation Specific to Certain Visa Categories & Situations
- What documents do Canadian TNs need?
Canadian TN visa holders should bring an employment letter or offer letter, their most recent paystubs (if already employed), and educational documentation. If you have an approval notice, you should also bring the same.
- What documents do O-1s need?
O-1 visa holders should bring the original O-1 Approval Notice, O-1 visa stamp (in passport if non-Canadian), a recent employment verification letter, and their three most recent paystubs (if already employed).
- What documents do E-3s need, since if don’t have an approval notice pursuant to a consular approval?
E-3 visa holders should bring their original signed and certified LCA, E-3 visa stamp (in passport), a recent employment verification letter, three most recent paystubs (if already employed), and their educational documentation. If you have an E-3 approval notice from USCIS, you should also carry this.
- Does an H-4 spouse with an EAD need to bring additional documents?
An H-4 visa holder needs to bring their marriage certificate, H-4 visa, a copy of the biographic information page of the principal visa holder’s passport, a copy of the H-1B approval notice and I-94, an employment letter from the H-1B holder, and the H-1B holder’s most recent paystubs. You do not need to present any documentation specific to the H-4 EAD.
Entering the US
- If my passport expires before the end of my approval notice, will the I-94 always be shortened or is it up to the officer?
Your I-94 will usually be shortened to your passport expiration date. You should always check your I-94 after you enter the US, as that is what controls your period of authorized stay. In addition, you should also send your I-94 to your EIG attorney so that we can ensure to correct any errors and update our records.
- Do I need to track my I-94 expiration date now that I have an approved I-140?
Yes. Your I-94 is still the controlling document on your authorized stay in the US. Your I-140 petition does not affect your status. Please make sure to send it to your EIG attorney upon your return.
Note: Remember, it is important for business travelers to inform their Global Mobility and Immigration departments well in advance of any planned trip. We can only help if we know your plans.