H1b visa stamping Chennai dropbox experience

When preparing for visa stamping, certain consulates waive personal appearances and allow them to use drop box facility instead. Of course, this is not allowed for all applicants. Dropbox facility can be availed by people with visa type including H1b visa. This is a post about a drop box experience in Chennai consulate for H1b visa. At Chennai, people with H1b stamping expired within the last year (of same visa type) is qualified for the drop box. Last stamping could be in a different consulate or through a different employer. Both are allowed.

Here are the steps,

  • Went to the drop box facility (Can walk in any time, with the drop box confirmation letter)

  • Security let me in directly without the queue. However, mobile phone was not allowed inside

  • Person at the counter were professional. They asked for Passports (mine and spouse) including expired ones

  • Copy of I797, DS160 confirmation page, 1 photograph each was asked

  • Everything was verfied and finally my drop box confirmation letter was stamped and returned back to me

  • I was told I will get our passports back in a week

  • Online status changed to “issued” in a week

  • I collected the passports a week later from Blue Dart facility. Needed to show the original photo id of both myself and my spouse. Also, carried the stamped confirmation page

The whole process was less stressful than actual visa stamping experiences. Hopefully, this process is continued for long time.


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New H1b visa petition lottery process milestone and timelines

Every year the US allocates 85,000 (65,000 + 20,000 US Masters) new H1b visas for employers who want to bring temporary skilled workers to the US. The visas are in so high demand that USCIS uses random lottery to allocate the visas in the last 2 years. This is only for cap-limited H1b visas. There is a similar category of H1b visas available for non-profit organizations which are not subject to the cap and hence not bound to this time line.

If your employer is planning to file a cap-subjected H1b petition on your behalf and you are new to this whole process, it may be an intimidating process. Fret not, this post is a is a gentle introduction to people like you on what really to expect.

Following are the important milestones (rough timelines) to keep in mind,

January

  • Employers start preparing for the years H1b season. Details like job positions, titles, sponsorship etc are finalized. Make sure you are in the roaster

February

  • Gather necessary documents, File Labor Condition Approvals (LCA)

March

  • Employer prepares and finalize the H1b petition package. Review and make sure your details are accurate

April

  • (1st week) Completed petitions are delivered to USCIS
  • Almost always cap reaches at the end of the first week. Looks for USCIS announcement on cap
  • USCIS conducts computer aided random lottery to pick the petitions
  • Selected petitioners start receiving notifications
  • Selected petitions processing begins (starting with premium processing petitions)

May

  • Approval notices and Request for evidence (RFE) start arriving for selected petitions

June

  • Returned not-selected petitions start arriving

September

  • (1st week) Returning of not-selected petitions completed
  • Processing of selected petition is close to completion with majority of the selected petitions having a decision

October

  • H1b period begins. Those in the US with approved petitions can start working on H1b
  • People outside the country, prepare for Visa stamping

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Job change H1b visa transfer safer process

A while ago, a friend of mine took up a new job and the new employer filed for a H1b transfer. Upon insistence of the recruiter he served a 2 weeks notice to his employer as soon as he accepted the Offer. He was hoping the new employer would start the visa transfer immediately. But the new employer filed the transfer and got the receipt notice on the day of joining. Meanwhile, my friend moved places and showed up at new work. Unfortunately, the transfer which was filed in premium, went into a RFE and eventually denied.

At this point he cannot continue to work and the recruiter stopped communicating with him. He was stranded. But luckily, he contacted the old recruiter and they still held his visa and were ok to take him back but not before hard balling him on the offer etc. But, this whole bad experience would have been totally avoided had my friend been little bit more vigilant and be aware of cardinal rules of H1b transfers. While my friends case ended more amicable there are situations described in forums where the previous employer refused to take them back. Why would they?

So, if you are looking to transfer your visa, better to be risk averse. Only serve notice to your current employer after the new employer transfer goes through. Insist upon filing it in premium processing, even if that means paying the premium fee from your pocket. I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind it brings. Recruiters mount pressure on you to serve a notice as soon as you accept the offer. They may even belittle you if you insist on serving the notice only after the approval. I have been in the same situation. I just stood my ground and they eventually filed for premium processing albeit grudgingly. Hiring people with good fit is hard. And in the long run it doesn’t matter. If things take a wrong turn, you have more to loose than them. But if you still have to join, atleast don’t send the notice to your current employer unless you get the transfer receipt from the new employer.

Be safe than sorry!


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