International Travel

Travel



U.S Consulate

  • Visa Consular Processing

    Obtaining Visa Stamp

    Before traveling you should review the specific instructions and procedures of the US Consulate or Embassy where you will be applying for your visa stamp. See the following website for links to all US Consulates and Embassies worldwide: https://www.usembassy.gov/.

    To obtain H-1B/H-4 visa(s) stamps the following documents should be submitted to a U.S. Consulate/Embassy, preferably in your home country:

    • Valid unexpired passport.
    • Original Form I-797 approval notice (This is kept by IS in the individual’s file and must be returned after traveling abroad).
    • Copy of Form I-129 petition with certified LCA, which was submitted to USCIS and approved.
    • Employment letter stating dates of employment, annual salary, and other job related information. Please see the Immigration Services Manager.
    • Non-immigrant visa application (obtained at the U.S. embassy/consulate or online at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html).
    • Application fee (the fee is based on reciprocal agreements between each government and the U.S. Check with the U.S. embassy/consulate for the exact amount and how it should be paid).
    • Two passport-sized photographs.
    • If you have ever been on a J visa and were subject to 212(e) you will need proof that a waiver was obtained or you resided in your home country for 2 years. Please note that you must have the actual Form I-797 approval notice from USCIS for the waiver as the "No Objection Letter" from the Department of State is no longer sufficient.
    • Other documents may be required (such as original education documents), check the website for the US consulate where you will be applying for your visa.
    • An H-1B or H-4 visa is no longer renewable in the US. Additionally, applying for a visa as a 3rd country national (i.e. in a country other than your country of citizenship) may be risky or not possible. Please contact IS regarding your specific situation if you have any questions.

    When renewing your visa, anticipate delays, especially if you will be traveling during holiday or peak travel seasons. Security checks can delay visa issuance by several weeks.

    PIMS

    The US government has instituted a new system known as the Petition Information Management System or PIMS.  This is a system/database in which Consular Posts may view the details of approved nonimmigrant petitions.  This will now serve as the primary source of evidence to be used in determining visa approvals.  An H-1B/H-4 visa will not be issued until this information is available in the PIMS database.  If the Consulate is unable to access the necessary information regarding your H-1B/H-4 they must send a request for the information to the appropriate USCIS office. USCIS will then provide the necessary information to them.

    The Department of State (DOS) has indicated, without giving precise details that certain visa applications will receive greater scrutiny.  This may result from your field of study being listed on the Technological Alert List.  It may also occur for males between the ages of 16 and 45 from the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Please note that you may be subject to this lengthy procedure at the discretion of the DOS for these reasons or others.  This may take one month or more, so make your travel plans accordingly. 

    Third Country Nationals

    Please note that applying for an H-1B or H-4 visa stamp in a third country (i.e., not your own) or, an H-4 visa for dependents without the H-1B visa holder being present, is risky and not recommended by IS.

    If you are applying for a new visa as a Third Country National and are required to wait in Mexico for its issuance, do NOT under any circumstances return to the U.S. in B status to work while you wait for the visa approval.

    Additionally, if you are traveling to a country other than your home country you may need a visa for entry purposes. Even if you are flying through another country you may need a transit visa. 

    Please check with the embassy/consulate for the countries you will visit for information about entry/transit visas.

    Please note that you may be subject to either lengthy procedure at the discretion of the DOS for these reasons or others. This may take one month or more, so make your travel plans accordingly.

    Getting a New Passport, Valid Visa in Old Passport

    If you have to get a new passport but still have a valid visa in the old one, retain the old passport and travel with both the new and old passports together. You can to continue to use your valid visa in your expired passport in combination with your updated passport, as long as:

    • They are both in the same category (e.g. both ‘regular’ both ‘diplomatic’, etc), and
    • There are no significant changes (e.g. name/biographical changes). 

    Usually, the consular officer will glue or staple your old and new passport together, so you can continue to use your unexpired visa stamp and use your new passport. If your visa has expired or is in a different type, you will need to apply for a new visa.

    NOTE: Canadian citizens do not need to apply for a visa.



U.S Port of Entry 

  • Documents Required for Reentry

    To re-enter the U.S. to continue your program/employment after a short break outside of the country, it is necessary to have proper documentation. Prepare these documents in the U.S. before leaving and keep all documents handy during your travels.

    Visitors traveling to the U.S. are required to be in possession of passports that are valid for six months beyond the period of their intended stay in the U.S.  For a list of countries exempt from the six month rule, see Six Month Club. (Six Month Club validity on your passport does not apply to U.S. Citizens returning to the United States.)

    H-1B

    • Valid passport* 
      *Please note: If your passport expires before the H-1B approval date on your I-797 approval notice, your status end date will be reduced accordingly on your physical or electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure record. In that case, you must notify the Immigration Services Office so that we can apply for an extension to recapture your original approval period
    • Valid H-1B visa stamp in your passport
    • Current I-797 form (H-1B Approval Notice)
    • Copy of (I-129 and ETA9035) petition
    • Letter from UTRGV certifying continuing employment
    • Earning Statements for previous two months and W2.

    O-1

    • Valid passport*
      *Please note: If your passport expires before the H-1B approval date on your I-797 approval notice, your status end date will be reduced accordingly on your physical or electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure record. In that case, you must notify the Immigration Services Office so that we can apply for an extension to recapture your original approval period
    • Valid O-1 visa stamp in your passport
    • Current I-797 form (O-1 Approval Notice)
    • Copy of (I-129) petition
    • Letter from UTRGV certifying continuing employment.
    • Earning Statements for previous two months and W2.

    TN

    • Valid passport
    • Original physical or electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure record indicating prior entry in TN status and annotated with UTRGV name
    • Valid TN visa stamp in your passport (Canadians citizens are not required to have visa stamps for entry to the U.S.)
    • Letter from UTRGV certifying continuing employment
    • Canadian citizens are eligible for expedited reentry through the NEXUS program.

    Dependents

    Family members in derivative status (H-4, O-3, and TD) will need to have valid documents respective to their immigration status listed from items #1 through #3 as well. Non-citizen Canadian spouse/dependents will need TD visa stamps.

  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

    Effective April 26, 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began automating the admission process. With the new automated Form I-94 process, the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) Officer will create an electronic automated arrival Form I-94 record during the admissions process for nonimmigrants entering the United States at an air or sea port. A paper Form I-94 may still be issued at the land border ports of entry. Upon entry, please retrieve your admission (I-94) number and print a copy of the I-94 for your record from the Form I-94 website. If an employer, local, state or federal agency requests admission information, present your admission (I-94) number along with any additional required documents requested by that employer or agency. If your record is NOT FOUND, please contact the Immigration Services Office and go to the CBP Deferred Inspections office in Hidalgo County or Cameron County.

    We recommend faculty and scholars obtain a paper I-94 at land borders to show proof of legal entry/admission into the U.S. You may either apply for one online within the seven days prior to reentering or you may be required to go to Secondary Inspection with U.S. Customs at time of reentry ($6 fee will apply for either).

    Sometimes, the U.S. Customs officer will add an additional 10 day grace period to your H-1B expiration date. 

    For more information regarding the Form I-94 automation please review the list of resources below:

    CBP's travel website

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Alert, "CBP Announces Automation of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record"

    Form I-94 Fact Sheet 

    Form I-94 Quick Reference Guide 

    If your I-94 is paper (and not issued electronically), upon leaving, surrender the I-94 to the U.S. government official or airline representative. 

    Exception: keep I-94 when traveling on Automatic Visa Revalidation

    If for some reason your physical I-94 is not collected, you may submit it upon your return to the U.S.; see: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/752/~/how-to-record-departure-from-the-united-states-after-the-fact.

    If you were issued an I-94 electronically, you do not need to surrender an I-94 upon departing the U.S. The federal government will record your departure based on the carrier's flight manifest.



Automatic Visa Revalidation

  • Overview

    Definition: Your expired U.S. entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of reentry provided that the visa has not been canceled, and that you have not applied for a new visa.  To take advantage of AVR your travel must be to contiguous/adjacent entities for less than 30 days.  Rules governing AVR are found in the United States Code of Federal Regulations.

    • Contiguous countries are: Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Lee Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and the British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea. Cuba is excluded.
    • H-1B workers are allowed to take advantage of AVR for travel to Canada and Mexico ONLY.
    • AVR is not available to individuals from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
    • If you were issued a physical I-94 card (as opposed to automated, electronic version) DO NOT surrender your I-94 card when departing the U.S.; you must keep it for reentry and automatic revalidation of your visa stamp.  If you were issued an automated, electronic I-94, your I-94 will be verified electronically and you will be eligible for AVR if you meet all other requirements (as listed here).
    • If you have a physical I-94 card that you will be using for automatic visa revalidation, and the flight attendant or officer asks for your I-94 card, politely inform them that you are taking advantage of the AVR provision.
    • AVR is only for business/leisure travel for fewer than 30 days.
    • AVR is not valid for people who travel from a contiguous/adjacent entity, such as Canada, to a non-contiguous country, such as Germany, and then return to the U.S. via a contiguous/adjacent entity.
    • If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and hold a visa for the previous status, you may still take advantage of AVR, as long as you bring the supporting documents for your new status.  For example, if you changed your status from F-1 to H-1B, but still only have an expired F-1 visa, you may still use AVR.

    For more information regarding AVR, please visit the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol websites.

    Please note: you may require a visa to enter Canada/Mexico or Caribbean countries. 



Visa vs Non-Immigrant Status 

  • Visa Stamp

    What is a Visa?

    When Immigration Services uses the word “Visa”, we mean the multi-colored visa stamp laminated into the individual’s passport.

    Visa stamps are issued by U.S. Consulates abroad.  They take in the application, determine if the person qualifies, and issue the visa stamp.

    The visa stamp allows the person to request entry to the United States in the “status” noted on the stamp.  Note that the visa only allows the person to request entry; an officer at the border, usually a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, will inspect the person and grant the entry request.

  • Non-Immigrant Status

    What is a Visa?

    When an international traveler requests entry to the U.S., the CBP officer will determine what “status” to grant the person.   Status roughly equates to the person’s “reason” or “purpose” for being in the United States.  

    For example, a person admitted in H-1B status has the objective of working as a specialized professional.  An F-1 student has the objective of studying, etc.

    A person can be admitted in one status, and change to another status as their situation changes, without leaving the United States and obtaining another visa stamp.  This is common with F-1 students who change status to H-1B.



Visa Validity and Arrest Record 

  • General Information

    The U.S. Department of State has implemented a policy which requires consular officers to revoke non-immigrant visas of individuals arrested for, or convicted of, driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, or similar arrests/convictions that occurred within the previous five years.  This requirement does not apply when the arrest/conviction occurred prior to the date of the visa application and has already been assessed within the context of a visa application. Such a revocation also does not necessarily mean that the individual cannot get a new visa to come to the U.S.

    What does this mean for you?

    If you have had an arrest/conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or driving while intoxicated in the U.S., and if this arrest/conviction occurred after you obtained a visa stamp to come to the U.S., it is possible that your visa stamp has been revoked without you being aware of it.  Some individuals across the U.S. have been contacted by the visa post that issued their visa to inform them that their visa had been revoked.  Others have learned of the revocation of their visa when they attempted to return to the U.S. from a trip abroad.  If you had such an arrest/conviction and if you plan to leave the U.S. intending to return, we suggest that you contact the visa post that issued your visa to inquire whether your visa is still valid.  You should do so well in advance of your trip, e.g. before purchasing a plane ticket and when you still have time to make changes in your plans. We also recommend that you do not leave the U.S. until you have taken steps to address the matter. If the individual whose visa has been revoked has dependents in the U.S. in H4, O3 or TD status, the dependents’ visas will also be revoked.

    It is important to understand that this requirement does not affect your status in the U.S., only your visa. Remember that your visa is needed to enter the U.S. but once you have entered, your visa does not have to remain valid.  You must, however, have a valid I-94. If you are not planning a trip abroad in the near future, this requirement does not affect you, even if you have been arrested/convicted, until you do seek to reenter the U.S. after a trip abroad.

    If you find that your visa has been revoked, please consult with your Immigration Services Manager to discuss your options.