So you were approved for a work visa. But that’s not necessarily the end of the story. If you are outside the U.S., or plan on traveling outside the U.S., you will have to apply for the visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Because every U.S. embassy or consulate abroad has its own policies and procedures, it’s impossible to keep track of all of their individual requirements. For your convenience, I’ve outlined below some general guidelines and steps for obtaining a visa stamp abroad. Keep in mind that it is still advisable that you consult with me directly at least a month or so in advance of your trip.
STEP 1: Contact the embassy or consulate where you intend to pick up the visa in advance. Let them know that you have been approved for a visa. You want to ask them specifically (a) how long you would have to wait for an appointment, (b) what documents specifically you need to bring to the appointment, and (c) how to arrange the payment of the Embassy’s fee.
Please note that some embassies/consulates have an automated online or telephone system in which you need a credit card to make an appointment or to make inquiries about such appointments.
STEP 2: Make sure you have your original approval notice. You will probably also need a copy of your I-129 petition.
STEP 3: After making the appointment, fill out the DS-160 form online and send it. You can find the DS-160 form at this address: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
STEP 4: Gather any and all documents requested by the Embassy from Step 1.
The following is a list of documents and other requirements that U.S. embassies often request of applicants overseas:
- Original I-797 Approval Notice
- DS-160 application
- Fee (must be prepaid at a bank by the consulate)
- Photos (usually 5 cm x 5 cm, but check with consulate)
- Copy of I-129 nonimmigrant visa petition
The following is a list of documents that are sometimes requested, depending on the embassy where you are applying for the visa. Consult us if they ask for any of these:
- Letter from employer
- W-2 and recent pay-stubs from employer
- Labor Condition Application (if H-1B)
- Evidence of qualifications – e.g. college degrees/diplomas, experience letters, etc.
- Proof of ties to your home country – real estate, foreign bank accounts, letters from family members (though these should not be required for H or L cases)
My office can assist with this process.
Final Word of Advice: Unless you applied for an H or L visa, you are not permitted to have an intent to stay permanently in the United States when entering with your new visa. A consular officer may ask questions pertaining to your intent and your ties to your home country, so please keep that in mind. (Also note that H-1B and L-1 applicants are exceptions to that general rule.)