Now that the weather is warming up and the school calendar is winding down, millions of people across the country are planning their summer excursions. For employees that work on a non-immigrant visa, that summer holiday might include a trip to the “Not-So-Happiest Place on Earth.” Navigating the practices and procedures of consulates and embassies can induce anxiety for employees and employers alike. Here are a few tips that can make obtaining a visa at the consulate or embassy easier than a day with your toes in the sand.
1. Plan Ahead
The summer months are some of the busiest for the consulates and embassies, and interview appointments can fill up fast. Unfortunately, you typically cannot get a Fast Pass that will send you to the front of the interview line, but applicants can complete the entire Non-Immigrant Visa Application online. Interviews can be scheduled months in advance—well before the applicant travels back to their home country. The extra time can put your mind at ease and allow a little cushion in case problems arise.
2. Pack Appropriately
Just like you would never leave your swimsuit at home when headed to the beach, there are some key items a non-immigrant visa applicant should bring to their interview. If a non-immigrant worker is applying for the first time, they should bring the entire visa petition submitted by their employer, including a copy of their USCIS approval notice. If renewing an expired visa, the worker should bring a letter from their employer confirming the continued employment as well as a couple recent paystubs and their most recent W-2 confirming employment with the employer. Employees should also bring their current and prior passports in case any questions about prior international travel arise.
3. Do Your Summer Reading in Advance
Admittedly, the non-immigrant worker petition is not exactly “light reading.” But it is important the applicant read and understand the contents of the petition submitted by the employer before the interview. The petition should be designed to demonstrate to USCIS that the worker meets the requirements of the visa-classification being sought, and the interviewer will be asking questions before adjudicating the petition. Preparing for the interview well means understanding the contents of the petition.
4. Prepare to Wait
When you go to the airport, chances are the majority of your time is going to be spent waiting in a line with dozens of your newest friends for a security clearance. The bad news is the wait for the consulate to perform security checks in order to issue a visa can be even longer. Usually though, consulates will not require you to wait in line. Applicants should, however, plan to be without their passport after their interview for at least three (3) working days while the consulate processes and issues their new visa. Applicants may also be subject to “Administrative Processing,” which entails extensive security and FBI background checks and can take sixty (60) days or longer.
5. Determine If You Qualify for Staycation
Sometimes, the best vacation is a week lying in a hammock in your own backyard. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a non-immigrant worker must have an unexpired visa in order to remain and work in the United States. In reality, the visa is simply to attempt entry into the United States. A non-immigrant worker can continue to remain in the United States even after the work visa expires as long as their non-immigrant status (typically evidenced by the I-94 document) remains valid. Thus, there is no reason to book a trip home just to have an unexpired visa in hand if the I-94 remains valid.