FAQ's on Consular Processing
U.S. consulates are set up around the world to assist and protect U.S. citizens and facilitate trade and friendship between the people of the United States and foreign country. There are more than 20 nonimmigrant visa types for people traveling to the U.S., and many more immigrant visa types for those coming to permanently stay in the U.S.
In order for a foreign national to enter the U.S., they must first qualify and be issued a U.S. visa by a consulate in their home country.
Q: What is consular processing?
A: Consular processing means that you apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country instead of filing an application with USCIS. If you are outside the U.S., your default option to enter the United States is to apply for a visa through consular processing.
Q: You received your I-797 approval notice without an I-94 attached, now what?
A: If you have an approval notice without an attached I-94 that means you were not granted the status of the visa classification you requested. You must schedule an appointment with a U.S. consulate to go for visa stamping in order to obtain and enter the U.S. on the requested visa.
Q: Do I have to go to the consulate listed on the I-797B approval notice?
A: No. The consulate listed on the approval notice is a recommendation based on the provided consulate on the Form I-129. You are free to schedule an appointment at any U.S. consulate while abroad. For a listed of U.S. consulates, go to https://www.usembassy.gov/.
Q: How long is it taking for the U.S. consulate to take an appointment?
A: Visa appointment wait times vary with each U.S. consulate. To check the wait time of your U.S. consulate, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.
Q: What do I need to bring to my visa interview?
A: Each U.S. consulate’s website provides a list of documents that should be presented during the interview specific to the visa category you are seeking to qualify for. The documentation required can vary depending on the consulate, but generally includes:
- Appointment email confirmation from the consulate;
- Copy of the completed DS-160 form;
- Digital color passport-size photo with white background;
- Proof of application fees payment;
- Original I-797 Approval Notice;
- Valid passport;
- Copy of nonimmigrant petition and supporting documents filed by your employer;
- Common additional documents such as recent pay statements, employment verification letter, education documents, experience letters, to name a few. Family members applying for dependent visas such as H-4 or L-2 must present an original or certified copy of the birth and marriage certificates at the time of the interview.
Q: My H-1B cap-subject petition was approved. Do I need to go to my home country for my initial H-1B visa stamping?
A: Generally, we recommend beneficiaries to go to a U.S. consulate in their home country for their initial H-1B visa stamp for reasons that the consulate in the home country understands the foreign education system and is better suited to evaluate the beneficiary’s education documents.
Q: What if I have a U.S. Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, can I go to Canada or Mexico for my initial H-1B visa stamp?
A: If you have a U.S. Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, you can try to go to Canada for your initial H-1B visa stamp. However, Mexico does not allow any third-country nationals (a citizen of a country other than Mexico) to apply for their initial visa category in any of the U.S. consulates in Mexico. Third-country nationals residing in the United States can only apply for renewal of visas in Mexico.
By: Vy Hoang
Vy is the Managing Attorney for Reddy & Neumann, P.C.'s H-1B department. Her focus is on H-1B specialty occupation and covers all phases of the nonimmigrant visa process.