Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day at Chennai Consulate for H1 VISA Interview

Hi friends, This information has been posted just to make life of an Individual easy while he is going for the H1 VISA Interview.
Congratulations on getting your H1B Approval notice. Please read below for understanding the process further.
After you get the Approval Notice, you need to schedule a Visa Interview appointment for which you will need to pay $131.00. This amount needs to be paid only at HDCF banks (Please follow the link to find the registered HDFC Banks) : receipt will take two working days for getting activated. Once HDFC Receipt gets activated, please follow the link for booking the interview slot
You can also check for estimated dates for your visa interview :-
Next, start filling the DS 160 form. Please make sure that you are using Internet Explorer browser to enter all the details on DS 160 form, as other browsers may not work properly. You also need to upload your passport size photograph scanned. Once you SUBMIT the forms you will be asked to select the Visa date, you will not be able to select the time of your interview. Once submitted, you will then be given 4 PDF files (DS 160, Interview Letter, and Class-H-L-O consulate letter with some info).
Remember that you will be allowed to re-schedule your interview date only twice, after which your HDCF receipt will not be valid.
Note: If you fill up the DS form but don’t want to take the interview (i.e. you don’t submit the form since you don’t have the right dates or if you have not received the documents from your employer), then you can SAVE the DS form but this will be accessible only for one week. If you do not book a date within one week, the form will expire and you will have to fill the DS form again.
Make sure the Photo you take is of the below specification:
Once you have printed the forms:

a)Collect all your personal & educational documents.

b)Send your Visa Interview appointment info to the employer and collect the Consulate Letters for your interview.
c)Collect the necessary documents from your employer.
d)Carefully review all of the documents you will carry.

BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW, take the time to carefully review and organize the documents you are going to carry to the interview.
Read through your H1B package (which contains your Approval Notice, Form I-129, Labor Condition Application: LCA, and Employer H1B Letter to USCIS).
Read Employer Letters (Containing Project Info, Job Duties, and Work Location)
D Day at Chennai Consulate:
When going for your visa interview, it is very important that you dress and behave professionally. From the moment you enter the Consulate to the moment you leave the Consulate, you need to act in a respectable and professional manner. Be prepared and organized, relax and listen carefully to the instructions given to you, and do not hesitate to ask questions if you do not understand the instructions or questions being asked of you.
Use common sense during the entire process, and be prepared to follow instructions and answer the Consulate Officer’s questions concisely.

Regardless of what you’ve heard or been told about other peoples’ experiences, do NOT assume that your visa interview will be easy or difficult. Go to the interview prepared and relaxed, follow the instructions given to you, concisely answer the questions asked of you, and do your best.


You can only enter the consulate 15 to 30 minutes before the interview. You will have three check points in total. Remember that you will not be allowed to carry any water, eatables, mobile phones, or sealed envelopes.

Check point 1

At the main entrance of the consulate, you need to show your visa interview appointment letter and your passport along with HDFC receipt. Keep them handy.

Check point 2:

There will be a thorough security check, during which you will need to open your file bag in front of the security officer. Make sure you arrange all the documents immediately and don’t misplace any documents.

Check Point 3:

Here an official will take your finger prints and ask for Visa Appointment letter, DS form, H1B Packet, Passport and HDFC Receipts. Official will do some data-entry and place all these documents in a file and give it back to you. The same file must be carried for the final visa interview.

Final Interview with the counselor

Now you must be having two files with you, FILE A the one arranged by the official which contains (Visa Appointment letter, DS form, H1B Packet, Passport and HDFC Receipts) please carry this file as it is, and FILE B which contains your experience and academic documents.

In my opinion if you follow the below list of segregation of documents things will be very easy for you. The reason for arranging the documents into folders and in the same particular order are in direct relevance to the possible sequence by which you will be asked for them.
Please arrange FILE B in the following format


Offer letter from your US Employer - Signed by you and your employer - Very important.
Company Pics in USA if Available.
Project & Job Duties Letter (provided by your employer).

Current company Offer letter

Last six months pay slips

ID card

Bank statement
Previous Employer Documents

Company A – Offer letter & Relieving letter

Company B- Offer letter & Relieving letterand so on…
Other Documents


Form 16All previous managers contacts

Post Graduate – Mark sheet & Degree Certificate

Under Graduate– Conciliated mark sheet, All mark sheets, Degree certificate

12th Std Mark sheet

10th Std Mark sheet (Not Mandatory)

Professional certificates

Face to Face with the Counselor
Provide FILE A to the counselor as it is. He/she will do some data entry and start asking you a few questions. Please see the other page on this blog for possible questions that he/she may ask.

Be confident in answering any questions asked by the counselor. Your answers should be to the point, never try to elaborate any answers. If you do not understand any questions, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Remember, you have got everything that’s required to get your VISA stamped. All you need to do is show the counselor that you are ready for the challenge of working in U.S.

So as said, you need to be very professional, organized, and concise. The keys to a successful interview are to be confident, carefully follow instructions, and answer questions concisely.

All the very BEST…

Possible Questions asked at Consulate

These questions are most common and most relevant as well when it comes to taking the visa interview at the appropriate consulate. Please read the questions below and get ready with the valid & correct answers.
1) How you came to know about this company?
2) Where are you working currently?
3) What is the company you are going to work in USA?
4) What is your current salary?
5) What is the salary you will get in USA?
6) How many rounds of interviews the USA Company conducted? What are they?
7) Who had taken interview for you?
8 ) Can you give me the dates of your interview?
9 ) Who are the clients for your USA Company?
10 ) What are the technologies you are working on?
11) Who is the President/CEO of US Company?
12) What kind of projects US Company is working on?
13) What is the annual turn over of the company?
14) How many employees in US Company?
15) Why are you changing your Job?
16) Why you want to work in US?
17) Have you applied for any other Country?
18) What is the living cost in US specific to the place where you are going?
19) When did you receive your offer letter?
20) What is the current project you are going to work?
21) What is your current role?
22) What is your role in US Company?
23) Where are you going to work in US?
24) What is your designation in US Company?
25) When did US company founded?
26) What is your current pay?
27) What is your pay in US Company?
28) When are you planned to travel?
29) How will you survive for the first month?
30) Have you been to any other country before?
31) Will you come back to India?
32) When you will be back to India?
33) Why you want to return back?

This is not the complete set but provides general guideline of what can be asked. And yes, also be ready for some technical questions - the visa officer may get into technicalities.

Complete H1B Process (H1B filing process)

H1B visa is for foreign nationals in specialty occupation with bachelor’s degree and meeting certain criterion. Full filling the criterion for getting the eligibility for filing the H1 makes this process more complex and cumbersome. To make sure that the whole process goes smoothly without any hurdles its important that we have ample time in hand.
Please follow the information below which gives a brief idea on the H1B visa process.
NOTE: This information is gathered from various sources and personal experience. It is not officially approved by any official/governing body of USA or any other country. However, It gives more closer/simpler view of the process.
For any further information its always better to follow USCIS official website.
Process unveiled
As mentioned earlier, an employer’s need to get professionals holding Specialty occupations triggers the H1 process. So for someone willing to go to USA on H1 visa needs to find a US employer who can sponsor for the visa.
Due to the cumbersome process, for filing of H1 it’s always better to start the process couple of months earlier to filing date (April 1st) so better start by FEB. After applying H1, it might take 4 to 8 weeks for receiving the approval and the approved candidate can attend for the visa interview immediately; however you can start working in USA only from 1st of October.

Employer then follows the steps below for filing of H1B.

Documents required from the candidate for filing of H1 is as follows:
Latest resume mentioning in detail about Experience and Skills.
Starting from Secondary school all Marks sheets (individual marks sheet preferred) and certificates in English language only.
Offer letter and pay-stubs from present employer & Offer letter, releasing letter, Experience letter, pay-stubs and any other documents of the past employer.
Professional License
Copies of any professional development course certificates available
Passport copy (Blank pages not necessary)
Personal information: Full name, date and place of birth
Present and permanent address.
Home and work telephone numbers
Address that you prefer to receive mail.
USA Consulate/Embassy you would like us to have USCIS send a wire approval to, if necessary
Education Evaluation Report.
These documents will give clear indication of skills of the person sponsored by the employer.

LCA (Labor condition application)
Employer has to abide by few laws described by DOL. Employer has to make sure that H1B employee is getting paid more than the existing prevailing wage in that particular State. Also make sure that H1B doesn’t have direct impact on the citizens of USA employed in similar occupation. Employer also has to give some more information regarding the company for applying for LCA.
EAT 9035- LCA has to be filled and posted for at least couple of weeks at two prominent (eye-catching) locations. Upon completion of this posting we can apply for LCA with DOL. Approved LCA will be received in approximately 1 to 2 weeks. A copy of the LCA has to be handed over to the prospective employee.

Education Evaluation
It is important to complete the education evaluation by Authorized body in USA. This body will evaluate and give the right correlation of the education attained by the employee in comparison with the US counterpart. As in education, the work experience also has to be evaluated by the concerned bodies. In general the whole Education evaluation process takes about 1 to 2 weeks.
Mailing of I-129 to USCIS
Completing the above mentioned steps in the systematic and timely manner will allow the most important phase of filing the petition easy. Utmost care should be taken while filling the filing form. Any small error or misplace of information or incomplete application will lead to a RFE, which will in turn delay the complete processing time.
Make sure all the documents supplementing this application are legible, in order and in English language only.
It takes approximately 1 to 2 months to receive the Notice of Action I-797A, which means that USCIS has received your application and has started processing it further. We can know the status of the application by checking your case number in USCIS official website.
Approximately in another couple of months, the original H1B Receipt is sent to the employer through mail. An employee can start attending the VISA interview after he gets the H1 packet to his hand, however he an start working in USA only from 1st of October.

In my next blow I will speak about the challenges involved in the VISA interview process.

Monday, June 8, 2009

H1 Transfer

The buzz word for everyone who lands in USA with a H1 visa is "VISA TRANSFER". Which simply means that if a candidate wants to change his employer, he can simply go for a visa transfer and start working for a new employer.
Frankly speaking there is nothing called VISA TRANSFER in books of USCIS.
It all started with American Competitiveness for the 21st Century Act (AC21). According to this, a candidate on legal H1B employment visa status may lookout for a change of job through another employer provided new employer has filed a petition on behalf of the foreign national. The cost of this new petition will be same as a new Filing, however there is no need for a person to move out of country for change of employer, He can start his association with the new employer once the receipt of the petition by USCIS, which take approximately 3 working days. The new employer can file for the extension of H1 period while filing of petition. However the maximum stay on H1 will remain 6 years irrespective of the number of employers the candidate shifts.
Now the question is what happens to the old petition, The answer is, old petition is still valid, unless the old employer chooses to revoke the Petition. All valid petitions are mutually exclusive, which means if the candidate is holding valid petition with company A and has transferred his employer to company B and started working with B, then company A petition will be automatically be void.
Please note the candidate can get back to his old employer any time start working with him if the old petition is still valid.
List of documents required for transfer of H1:

Latest resume;
Two to three latest pay slips
Copy of existing Complete H1B packet
Photocopy of your existing valid visa
Copy of valid passport
I-94 copy
Diploma/Degree certificate and transcripts
Copy of your social security card

New employer files the petition using the above documents and as said earlier, the cost of filing is same as filing a new application. Candidate can start working with the new employer once the receipt of application by USCIS.
If by any Chance the application request is denied, then the candidate looses his VISA as well and has to move out of the country immediately.

Friday, June 5, 2009

WHAT... WHO... WHEN about H1 or H1B VISA

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in USA under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. (Individuals cannot apply for H1b VISA on their own)
Here the specialty occupation is defined as someone who is highly specialized in a field of human endeavor including, but not limited to, IT / Computer professionals, University professors and teachers, Engineers, Healthcare workers, Accountants, Financial analysts, Management consultants, Lawyers, Architects, Nurses, Physicians, Surgeons, Dentists, Scientists, Systems analysts, Journalists and editors, Foreign Law advisors, Psychologists, Technical publications writers, Market research analysts, Teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be "of distinguished merit and ability".) Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer.
An Employer can apply H1 for a Non-Graduate by claiming the equivalent work experience which has be minimum of twelve years.
The current law limits to 65,000 the number of aliens who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status. (The numerical limitation was temporarily raised to 195,000 in FY2001, FY2002 and FY2003.) In addition, excluded from the ceiling are all H-1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities and non-profit research facilities. This means that contractors working at, but not directly employed by the institution may be exempt from the cap. Free Trade Agreements allow a carve out from the numerical limit of 1,400 for Chilean nationals and 5,400 for Singapore nationals. Laws also exempt up to 20,000 foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities from the cap on H-1B visas.
The Department of Homeland Security approved about 132,000 H-1B visas in 2004 and 117,000 in 2005.
Visa renewals do not count towards the annual limits. Transfers among employers only count when changing jobs from an employer exempt from the limits (academia or research) to one that is not exempt.
An Employer can start filing H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa. Since the beginning of the FY 2010 is October 1, 2009, employers can apply as soon as April 1, 2009 for the FY 2010 cap, but the beneficiary cannot start work until October 1st.
New H1B legislation requires certain employers, called 'H1B dependent employers' to advertise positions in the USA before petitioning to employ H1B workers for those positions. H1B dependent employers are defined as those having more than 15% of their employees in H1B status (for firms with over 50 employees – small firms are allowed a higher percentage of H1B employees before becoming 'dependent'). In addition all new H1B petitions and 1st extensions of H1B's now require a fee (in addition to the usual filing fees) of US$1,000 to be paid, which will be used to fund a training programme for resident US workers.

Employers must attest that wages offered are at least equal to the actual wage paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications for the job in question, or alternatively, pay the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment, whichever is greater. By signing the LCA (Labor Condition Application), the employer attests that: prevailing wage rate for area of employment will be paid; working conditions of position will not adversely affect conditions of similarly employed American workers; place of employment not experiencing labor dispute involving a strike or lockout.Prior to 2005, the law required H-1B workers to be paid the higher of the prevailing wage for the same occupation and geographic location or that which the employers pays to similarly situated employees. Other factors, such as age and skill were not permitted to be taken into account for the prevailing wage. Congress changed the program in 2004 to require the Department of Labor to provide four skill-based prevailing wage levels for employers to use. Employers using this system classify most workers at the lowest skill level. This is the only prevailing wage mechanism the law permits that incorporates factors other than occupation and location.The law specifically limits the approval process of LCAs to checking for "obvious errors and inaccuracies." The approval process for these employer attestations simply amounts to the checking the form is filled out correctly. The employer is, however, advised of their liability if they are replacing a US worker.
Generally H1 VISA is granted for 3 years and can be extended for another 3 years. However there have been cases where VISA was granted for 1 or 2 years initially and then renewed.
The employer company can also revoke the VISA with some additional charges for revocation and also making sure the employee is sent to his parent or resident country bearing all the charges.