If an extension, amendment, transfer, or change of status petition was filed on your behalf and it was approved, you don't have to worry about getting a new US visa stamp until you have international travel plans. If you’re currently outside the US and a consular processing petition was filed on your behalf, you’ll have to apply for a US visa stamp before entering the US. A consular processing petition is commonly filed for an individual who is already outside the US or for an individual who needs to travel outside the US while their case is pending.
The US visa stamp is a large sticker that is placed in your passport after you have an interview at a US Consulate/Embassy. This is different from your I-797 approval notice and I-94. Think of the US visa stamp as a ticket to the US. You are able to travel outside the US and re-enter so long as your US visa stamp is valid. If you are in the US and your US visa stamp expires, you’re still fine as the US visa stamp doesn’t authorize how long you are able to stay in the US. You’ll need to look at your I-797 approval notice and I-94 for your status expiration date.
You can apply for your US visa stamp up to 90 days in advance of the employment start date as shown on your I-797 approval notice.
Here is the general visa stamp process for all types of US nonimmigrant visas:
1. Complete the DS-160 Application
This is an online application where you will be asked to answer some questions about your immigration history, education and work history, and family. You’ll also be asked to upload a passport-size photo of yourself. Please make sure you answer all questions on the DS-160 accurately and completely; otherwise, you may have to correct your application and reschedule your visa interview appointment. Once you’ve finished completing and reviewing the application, you’ll electronically submit the application and print out the confirmation page. You’ll need to bring this page to your interview. If you have family members who will be applying for a dependent visa, each member will need to complete their own DS-160 application and print out the confirmation page.
2. Schedule Your Visa Appointment & Pay the Fees
If you are applying for your first US visa, it’s recommended that you schedule your visa appointment at a US Consulate/Embassy located in your home country. To find a US Consulate/Embassy, please visit the Department of State website: US Consulates/Embassies. Some US Consulates/Embassies will allow you to schedule your visa appointment online. In some cases, you may need to call the US Consulate/Embassy to schedule an appointment. Please review the instructions listed on the specific US Consulate/Embassy website. You’ll also be asked to pay the necessary fee(s) for the visa service. The application fee for most nonimmigrant visas is $190 USD. Please visit the Department of State website: Visa service fees for more information. If you have family members who will be applying for a dependent visa, only one visa appointment is needed unless they will be applying at a later date.
3. Attend the Visa Appointment
It’s the big day! Before your interview, please make sure to practice and review what documents you will need to bring with you by checking the US Consulate/Embassy website. The officer will ask you questions from your DS-160 application. They'll also ask you questions from your petition or application such as "What will you be doing in the US?", "How long will you stay in the US?", "Who will you be visiting?", "Tell me about your employer", etc. Depending on the officer interviewing you, you may have a very short interview or an extensive one, so be prepared!
4. Visa Stamp Issuance
If deemed admissible, the US Consulate/Embassy will take your passport and let you know that they'll be placing a US visa stamp (which looks like a large sticker) and you'll receive it within a few days. Some US Consulates/Embassies will allow you to pick your passport up at a later date.
5. Pack up Your Stuff & Happy Travels!
Make sure you have everything before traveling to the US! Always keep your I-797 approval notice (if applicable) with you and a copy of your petition or application.
If you have any additional questions about completing the DS-160 application, scheduling your interview, or have questions about the interview process, don't hesitate to reach out to us!