Acquiring Initial H-1B Status
When the applicant is out of the United States
“Consular processing” is the visa application procedure utilized by H-1B applicants who are outside of the United States. If an H-1B candidate is outside of the United States, the Office of International Services must file an H-1B petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on his/her behalf and indicate on the petition the name of the U.S. consulate/embassy where the applicant will apply for the H-1B visa.
Once the petition is processed and approved, USCIS will mail an approval notice (Form I-797) to the OIS. Although consular personnel will be able to verify online that a petition has been approved, some consulates still require applicants to present the original Form I-797. To avoid potential problems at the consulate, the OIS routinely arranges for the applicant’s sponsoring department to mail him/her the original approval notice.
After the consulate verifies that the applicant has an approved H-1B petition, an H-1B visa stamp is affixed to a page of his/her passport. Upon arriving at a U.S. port of entry, the new H-1B employee presents the H-1B visa stamp and is admitted to the United States under an H-1B nonimmigrant classification.
When the applicant is in the United States
In order to obtain H-1B status, individuals who are already in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant classification (F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, etc.) must obtain UMMC sponsorship and request a change of status to H-1B.
The Office of International Services will follow the same basic filing procedure that is used for H-1B applicants who are outside of the United States, except that the appropriate box on the petition will be checked to indicate that the applicant is in the U.S. and will require a change of status. USCIS will also require documentation confirming that the applicant has consistently maintained lawful status.
After USCIS approves the petition and change of status, a Form I-797, Approval Notice will be mailed to the OIS. The H-1B employee will be notified so that he/she can pick up a copy of the approval notice and new Form I-94.