Immigration Requirements for Entry to the US for H-1B Scholars
The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) has prepared this handout for individuals for whom Boston University has obtained H-1B approval. It will describe how to apply for an H-1B visa and how to use that visa to enter the U.S. lawfully. This information is provided for employees who will obtain an H-1B visa for the first time and for continuing employees who will apply for an H-1B visa for the second or subsequent time.
Step 1: Review the H-1B Approval Notice (Form I-797)
Please review the information on the H-1B Approval Notice (Form I-797) provided by Boston University. Check that your name, date of birth, country of citizenship and all other information is correct. If any of this information is incorrect, please alert the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) immediately.
You should also review the copy of the H-1B petition submitted by the ISSO on your behalf to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a copy of which petition was included with the Form I-797 we provided to you. In particular, you should become familiar with the support letter and the appointment letter included in the packet to understand how your job has been described to the U.S. government. This information may be useful when you apply for the H-1B visa and also when you request admission to the U.s. at a port of entry.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Passport is Valid
In order to avoid possible problems applying for a visa or entering the U.S., we recommend that your passport be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the date you plan to remain in the U.S.
Step 3: Obtain a valid H-1B visa
Please apply for an H-1B visa well in advance of your planned travel to, or return to, the U.S. as it can take a few months to obtain a nonimmigrant visa at some U.S. Embassies and Consulates. To find the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you, go to www.travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_embassies.html. Citizens of all countries (except Canada) are required to be in possession of an H-1B visa to enter the U.S.
To apply for an H-1B visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:
- Form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which is available online at http://evisaforms.state.gov/
- Application fee (check with the consulate for the fee amount and how it must be paid)
- One passport photograph (2 inches square [50 x 50mm], showing full face, without head covering, against a light background).
- Form I-797 H-1B Approval Notice
- Copy of the H-1B petition, including a copy of the Labor Condition Application, submitted by Boston University to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The primary form in this packet is the I-129. You may see “I-129 Petition” listed as a required document for the visa application on some consulate web sites.
- Any other documents required by the particular U.S. Embassy or Consulate at which you will apply for your visa. Read the consulate or embassy’s web site, or call, to find out if that particular post requires additional items beyond the documents listed above. These may include copies of your diplomas and/or information about your professional qualifications and experience in the field. It may also include copies all previous U.S. immigration-related documents.
- Boston University employees who obtained H-1B status by applying for change of status in the U.S. should also be prepared to present documentation of previous immigration status.
- Employees applying for a visa abroad after beginning H-1B employment in the U.S. should also be prepared to present copies of their three (3) most recent paystubs to document active paid employment as required for lawful H-1B status.
All visa applicants are now required to schedule a personal appointment for an interview. Please keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment. You should initiate your visa application as early as possible. Before your interview, practice answering questions in English about your application and your plans in the U.S. During your interview, make a good impression, be positive and respond to questions with clear, concise answers.
In order to evaluate your eligibility for the H-1B visa, the consular official will review your documentation and will verify the validity of your H-1B approval notice through the Petition Information Management System (PIMS). The consular official may also decide to subject your application to a special “security clearance” before granting the visa. Security clearances may take a few weeks or as long as a few months, so it is very important that you apply for your H-1B visa as early as possible. Most consular officials request a security clearance based on the country of national origin of the applicant or on a determined level of sensitivity of your prospective field of research, teaching or work. Once the application has been sent for security clearance, the applicant must simply wait until the consulate approves the visa.
If your visa application is denied, it is difficult to get the consulate to change its decision. For this reason, it is important that you arrive at your appointment with all the required documentation and information. If your visa is denied, please contact our office and we will try to provide you with suggestions that may strengthen your next visa application.
Step 4: Travel to the U.S.
Once you have obtained your H-1B visa, you are ready to travel to the U.S. When entering in H-1B status for the first time, immigration regulations allow you to enter the U.S.no earlier than 10 days prior to the start date indicated on Form I-797. In addition to your valid passport and valid H-1B visa, you must present Form I-797 at the port of entry to the U.S. During your trip to, or upon arrival in, the United States, you will be given a form called an Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94). Using a pen, print the information requested on this form, making certain to spell your name exactly as it appears on your passport.
Step 5: Apply for “admission” to the U.S.
When you arrive in the U.S., you will “apply for admission.” This occurs when a Customs and Border Protection official from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security examines your documents to determine if you qualify to enter the U.S. in H-1B immigration status. You will need to present the following to the inspector:
- The Form I-94 you filled out on the plane (or as you arrived at the port of entry)
- Passport with valid H-1B visa, and
- Form I-797 Approval Notice
You should have the following documents ready to present if the immigration inspector asks for them:
- Copy of the H-1B petition submitted by Boston University including the Form I-129 and all supporting documents.
The immigration inspector may ask you one or more questions. Answer them completely and honestly. In addition, you may be fingerprinted and photographed at the point of entry. Please be advised that nationals or citizens of certain countries are subject to a “Special Registration” through the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) when entering the U.S. If the immigration inspector indicates that this procedure is warranted, you should calmly provide all information requested by the immigration officer.
Once the immigration officer is satisfied that you are “admissible,” he/she will stamp the I-94 card to show admission in H-1B immigration category and to indicate your date of entry, The notation on your I-94 also indicates the date by which you will be required to leave the U.S. This date should match the end date on your Form I-797. Before you leave the officer’s desk, take a close look to be certain that you have been admitted in H-1B status for the proper duration of time. If the date written on the I-94 card by the immigration officer does not match the end date of your I-797 Approval Notice, please ask the inspector – politely – why she/he chose this date and to correct it, if possible. If the officer cannot correct it, or if you notice this discrepancy too late to speak with the officer, please bring it the attention of the ISSO as soon as you arrive at Boston University.
Please note that the inspector is permitted to admit you for an additional 10 days beyond the end date of the Form I-797, though inspectors rarely choose to do so. If you are admitted for the extra 10 days, you may stay in the U.S. up to the last day indicated on your I-94 card. However, you must end your employment with Boston University on the end date of your Form I-797 Approval Notice.
Step 6: Check in at the ISSO
You are required to complete a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verfication) at the ISSO no later than the end of your third day of employment. Employees in H-1B status must arrange an appointment to complete the I-9. Please contact Andrea Popa at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment time. Please bring your passport and all other immigration-related documents with you.
Step 7: Begin your employment at Boston University
Immigration regulations require you to begin your employment at Boston University no later than thirty days after you enter the U.S. in H-1B status. Be certain to check in with your Boston University department soon after your arrival in the U.S. to begin work. Your department will arrange for you to attend an orientation program at the Office of Human Resources at which you will receive your Boston University I.D. card and learn about employee benefits. It is important that you attend this orientation.
The staff of the ISSO is pleased to provide you with information, advice, and assistance on any visa or immigration matter that relates to your activities at Boston University. For more information on U.S. Embassies and Consulates and on the visa application process, visit the U.S. Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov or our website www.bu.edu/isso.