Consular Processing Notes

Via Department of State

Applicants for temporary work visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. To make an appointment for interview you will need to provide the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.

Required Documentation

For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees.

  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic “e-form application.”   Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the DS-156. Important Notice: At certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, nonimmigrant visa applicants are now required to apply visa using the new DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, instead of the nonimmigrant application forms DS-156, 157, 158, and other related forms. Learn more and find out which Embassies have converted to the DS-160 Online process. 
  • A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, without exception. Four countries are now designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran. Select Special Processing Procedures to learn more. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form. Here is Form DS-157.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
  • As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. Thewaiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
  • One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements .

Other Documentation

To schedule the interview appointment, you will need the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. NOTE: During your interview, the consular officer will use the receipt number to verify the Form I-129 petition approval. Therefore, Form I-797 is no longer used to verify petition approval, and is no longer necessary for your visa interview. With the exception of the H-1 and L-1, applicants may also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

Legal Rights and Protections for Employment (H1-B, H2-A and H2-B) or Education-based Nonimmigrants

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study here. Review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet, Online version or Printer double-sided version.

Entering the U.S. – Port of Entry

A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.  If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the United States, it is very important to keep in your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information aboutAdmissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing foodagricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program.

Additional Information

Family Members

With the exception of “Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors,” the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under any of the above classifications may also be classified as nonimmigrants in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker (a petition-based NIV), may not accept employment in the United States (with the exception of spouses of L-1 visa holders – L-2 spouses may engage in employment with an “employment authorized” endorsement or appropriate work permit.) The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the United States.

Time Limits

All of the above classifications have fixed time limits in which the alien may perform services in the United States. In some cases those time limits may be extended by USCIS in order to permit the completion of the services. Thereafter, the alien must remain abroad for a fixed period of time before being readmitted as a temporary worker under any classification. USCIS will notify the petitioner on Form I-797 whenever a visa petition, an extension of a visa petition, or an extension of stay is approved under any of the above classifications. The beneficiary may use a copy of Form I-797 to make an appointment to apply for a new or revalidated visa during the validity period of the petition. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien under the H-1 or L classifications shall not be a basis for denying a visa.

Further Inquiries

Questions about filing a petition, qualifications for various classifications, or conditions and limitations on employment should be made by the prospective employer or agent in the United States to the nearest USCIS office. Questions about filing a visa application at a consular section abroad should be addressed to the appropriate consular office abroad. Inquiries about visa cases in progress overseas should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate  handling your case.

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