FAQ » Returning to the U.S. in H or L status

Returning to the U.S. in H or L status

 

 

A: To return to the U.S. in H-1B or L-1 status, you need the following documents:

  1. Valid passport;
  2. Valid H-1B or L-1 visa (except Canadian citizens);
  3. Valid I-797 (Approval Notice) issued to your current employer on your behalf; and
  4. Your most recent pay-stub to prove you are still employed by the sponsoring employer.

To return to the U.S. in H-4 or L-2 status, you need the following documents:

  1. Valid passport;
  2. Valid H-4 or L-2 Visa (except Canadian citizens);
  3. Valid I-797 (Approval Notice) issued to your spouse's employer;
  4. Your spouse's most recent pay-stub; and
  5. Documentation proving your relationship with the principal alien (e.g., marriage certificate).

To return to the U.S. if you are a Canadian Citizen, you need the following documents:

  1. Valid passport;
  2. Canadian citizens are visa exempt, and therefore are not required to obtain a visa from the U.S. consulate to enter the U.S.  Canadian citizens, therefore are not required to carry or present their passports to enter the U.S.  A Canadian citizen must, however, show proof of Canadian citizenship, which happened to be most easily done with a passport.  A birth certificate will also suffice as proof of Canadian citizenship.
  3. Valid I-797 (Approval Notice) issued to your current employer on your behalf; and
  4. Your most recent pay-stub to prove you are still employed by the sponsoring employer.

USCIS should grant you entry through the validity date of the H or L approval notice, and not through the validity date of your H or L visa, which can be different. If they do not do so, please bring this to their attention at the time you enter the U.S. to have it corrected immediately.

If you are a Canadian citizen, you may not receive an I-94 card (white card stapled in your passport), but may receive a stamp in your passport with your H or L status and the expiration date from your H or L approval notice.  If you are entering the U.S. at a land crossing, you might not get an I-94 card or a stamp in your passport.

It is important and mandatory that you monitor your non-immigrant status each and every time you return to the U.S. after traveling internationally. Pay particular attention to your Form I-94 (white entry card) each and every time you enter the U.S. and note the expiration date, as extensions of the I-94s must be made prior to the expiration date. We cannot overstate the importance of monitoring your authorized period of stay as your employer and attorney are not aware of all your trips abroad and would not be aware of an expiring I-94 if the validity date was changed upon your return to the U.S. Consequences for failing to maintain your status for more than 6 months include being barred from returning to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years. In order to help you monitor your authorized period of stay, please provide your attorney and your employer with a copy of your new I-94 upon returning to the U.S. from an international trip.

Prior to April 1, 2002, non-immigrant aliens who left the U.S. for less than thirty days to a "contiguous territory" (Canada and Mexico, plus adjacent islands for students or exchange visitors) may re-enter the U.S. with an unexpired I-94 card, and valid passport. Such aliens were allowed readmission in the same classification as their previous visa classification or in a new classification authorized by the USCIS prior to their departure. This provision was commonly referred to as the "Contiguous Territory" rule.

Due to the need for greater security screening, effective April 1, 2002, this rule will change significantly in two ways. First, if any foreign national, regardless of nationality, goes to a U.S. consulate in Mexico or Canada and applies for a visa and the visa is not issued for any reason, the applicant will not be allowed re-entry into the U.S. without a valid visa.

Secondly, citizens of countries identified as "state sponsors of terrorism" will no longer benefit from the Contiguous Territory rule. The Department periodically publishes a report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, updating designations of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. Currently, the designated countries are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.

Lastly, for your information, we have attached the following memo from the USCIS:

July 8, 1997

InfoNet Title: USCIS on Validity of Business NIVs
Keyword: NONIMMIGRANT VISAS H-1B H L O P STATE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYER VALIDITY
Abstract: The following memo from Immigration and Naturalization Service (USCIS) Assistant Commissioner Michael L. Aytes clarifies USCIS 's policy on the continued validity of certain nonimmigrant business visas (i.e., H, L, O and P visas) when a beneficiary changes employers. According to this directive, a visa remains valid during its validity period regardless of whether a beneficiary changes employer.

Validity of Certain Nonimmigrant Visas July 8, 1997
All District Directors
All Officers-in-Charge
Office of Benefits
Service Center Directors (HQBEN)
All Port Directors

This office has received a number of inquiries from the public and Service officers concerning the validity of certain nonimmigrant visas where the beneficiary changes employers but remains in the same nonimmigrant classification. This issue has generated a substantial amount of correspondence between the Service and the Department of State (DOS). The purpose of this memorandum is to provide you with the current policy of the Service and the DOS with respect to this issue.

The issue arises where, for example, an alien enters the United States as an H-1B nonimmigrant on the basis of a petition filed by "Company A." After commencing employment, the alien receives a more attractive job offer from "Company B." Company B files a new H-1B petition in the alien's behalf which is approved by the USCIS. The alien then begins employment with Company B. The alien subsequently leaves the United States and then applies for admission as an H-1B nonimmigrant alien to work for Company B presenting the H-1B visa issued to him based on Company A's petition.

Be advised that the current Service and DOS policy is that, in the case of an H, L, O, or P nonimmigrant visa, the visa remains valid during its validity period regardless of a change in the beneficiary's employer. As long as the alien remains in the same nonimmigrant classification, the visa is considered to be valid up until the date of its expiration. An H, L, O, or P nonimmigrant alien who changes employers in the United States, but remains in the same nonimmigrant classification, may use the previously issued visa to apply for admission to the United States if it is still valid.

The policy will continue until further notice. This memorandum relates only to the H, L, O and P nonimmigrant classifications. In addition, service officers are again reminded that H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant aliens should be admitted for the validity period of the supporting petition, if otherwise admissible. Officers should not arbitrarily limit the admission period of an H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant alien.

Michael L. Aytes
Assistant Commissioner