H-1B Travel Regulations
When leaving the U.S. temporarily during your period of employment at Columbia, you will need to have the necessary documents to both permit entry to another country as well as to permit re-entry to the U.S. in the appropriate status. For travel to a country other than the home country, travelers should check with the consulates of the country they wish to visit for specific entry requirements. A list of consulates in Manhattan can be found at http://www.citidex.com/252.htm. You should check the US Consulates abroad website before you go to determine the current procedures in place for obtaining a visa. Recent regulations have caused considerable changes to these procedures.
If you wish to travel outside the U.S. and return to the U. S. during your approved appointment period, you must:
To obtain an H-1B entry visa, you should first make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate. You can find the Consular posts at http://www.usembassy.gov. When you go to the Consulate to apply for the H-1B visa, you must bring the I-797 H-1B Notice of Approval, your valid passport and a recent letter from your department verifying your employment. Please look on the Consular website for other items, such as photographs, fees, etc., required by a particular Consulate. You should never give the original I-797 Notice of Approval to the Consulate when applying for a visa. Bring the original to present to the Consular Officer but leave only a copy with your application. Also bring the I-129 form and the Labor Condition Application in case the Consular Officer requests these documents. Both of these are part of the packet you were given along with the Notice of Approval.
There are a number of factors that may contribute to delays in having a visa issued to work in the United States. Heightened security measures instituted since September 11, 2001 have resulted in delays in visa issuance abroad. Security checks for those whose field of research or study is deemed to be "sensitive", interview requirements for almost all non-immigrant visa applicants. The links to individual consular posts at http://www.usembassy.gov may be good sources of current information. For more detailed information, refer to Potential Delays in Visa Issuance.
Dependents in H-4 Status - It may be difficult for H-4 dependents to obtain an entry visa if the H-1B holder has not yet obtained an H-1B entry visa. Check with your Consulate where the application will be made to determine whether the H-4 visa can be issued. If you are traveling with your dependents, be certain to carry all items listed above; your dependents must carry valid passports with valid H-4 visa stamps. If your dependents will be traveling alone, they must carry the original form I-797 and employment letter in addition to passports with a valid H-4 visa stamp. Please note that your dependents in H-4 status cannot be issued an H-4 visa if you do not have an H-1B visa in your passport. If you made a change of status application in the U.S. and have not traveled abroad to obtain the H-1B visa, your dependents are not eligible for H-4 visas at a U.S. consulate.
Travel to Canada or Mexico
Note: Nationals of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, or Libya do not qualify for this privilege. You are required to present all documents described under General Information, above, including a valid visa for your current immigration status.
If you are traveling only to Canada or Mexico for fewer than thirty days, you will not need to obtain a new visa stamp to return to the U.S. To qualify for this privilege, you must:
Other Travel Matters
Canadian visas: At present, persons from many countries are required to obtain a Canadian entry visa when entering Canada from the U. S. Visas may be obtained from the Canadian Consulate General at 1251 Avenue of the Americas (at 50th Street., tel. 596-1600). Consult the Canadian Consulate General for visa regulations concerning your country before making travel arrangements.
Mexican visas: Tourists cards or visas may be required for travel to Mexico. Information is available from the New York Consulate General of Mexico, 27 East 39 Street, telephone (212) 217-6400.
Travel Within the United States: In general, no special permission is needed to travel within the continental U. S. However, we recommend you carry your passport and I-94 card when you travel any distance from home.
Last Reviewed: 14 January 2011 Last modified: 14 January 2011
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office