Which documents are required for re-entering the US?
For nonimmigrant employees (e.g., H, L, O, E, TN):
- Passport: visitors to the US must have a passport that is valid for six-months beyond the period of their intended stay. Citizens of some countries are only required to have a passport valid for their intended period of stay (Exempt Countries);
- Visa (not required for Canadian citizens): if your visa stamp has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa at a US embassy/consulate abroad before you may return to the US (unless the “Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule” applies – see below);
- Original I-797 approval notice from USCIS;
- Blanket L-1 beneficiaries need to bring their original stamped form I-129S instead; and
- Employment verification letter and pay-stubs from the past 2 months to prove the principal alien is employed.
For F-1s and spouses:
- Valid passport and visa (see above);
- I-20 endorsed by the Designated School Official containing:
- Current employer information on the employment page,
- A travel signature (page 2) which for those in OPT will be valid for 6 months.
- If your current travel signature will expire before you return to the US, you must request an updated travel signature.
- OPT EAD card, employment verification letter and pay-stubs from the past 2 months (if F-1 is working with OPT).
For Adjustment of Status applicants (I-485 applicants):
If you travel outside of the U.S. while your I-485 (AOS) application is pending, your I-485 application will be deemed abandoned and be denied unless:
- You receive an approved Advance Parole (AP) document prior to leaving the U.S. and return to the U.S. within the validity of the AP document; OR
- You are an H, L, V or K3/K4 nonimmigrant who is maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status and you return to the U.S. with a valid H, L, V or K3/K4 visa (except Canadian citizens who are visa exempt), valid I-797 approval notice and employment verification letter and pay-stubs from the past 2 months to prove continued employment.
When should I apply for a US Visa?
There is usually a wait for visa interview appointments, sometimes of several weeks. During popular travel periods such as the summer and winter holidays, wait times for visa appointments can be much longer than usual. Additionally, post-interview administrative processing, which is a background check, may take 1.5 months or more. Therefore, we encourage all visa applicants to book well in advance of their anticipated travel plans.
Interview waiver program (drop box option)
The interview of the visa application process may be waived if the following conditions are met:
- You are applying for the same type of visa as your most recent visa;
- Your most recent visa was issued after January 1, 2008;
- For those applying in India, your most recent visa must have been issued by a U.S. consulate in India;
- Your most recent visa does not have a “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization” annotation;
- Your most recent visa was issued on or after your 14th birthday;
- You have not been refused a visa of any type since your most recent visa issuance;
- If you are applying for an H1B or L-1 visa, your prior visa in the same class must not have expired for more than 12 months;
- Note: Blanket L1 visa applicants do not qualify for the Interview Waiver Program, but Blanket L2 spouses are eligible.
- If you are applying for an F visa, you must be a student at the same school for which your previous visa was issued;
- If you are applying for a J visa, your current DS-2019 was issued by the same institution as the institution listed on your previous visa; and
- If you are applying for any other class of visa, the prior visa in the same class must not have expired within the last 48 months.
Note: waiver of the interview is discretionary and you may still be required to appear for a visa interview despite meeting all criteria.
Third-Country National (TCN) Visa Processing
Any TCN present in the U.S. and visits Canada or Mexico may apply for a nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Canada or Mexico.
This option is particularly helpful for nonimmigrants who need to apply for a valid U.S. visa for travel to a country that does not include his/her home country, and as such, having to travel to his or her home country just to apply for a visa would be too burdensome.
Note: TCNs who apply in Canada or Mexico but are denied must return to his/her home country to reapply. Also, TCNs who are nationals of a country designated as state sponsors of terrorism are not eligible for TCN visa processing. See: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm
Photos for U.S. Visas
As of November 1, 2016, eye glasses will no longer be allowed in visa photos. For all photo specifications/requirements, see: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/photos.html