Travel and Re-entry

Required Documents for Travel and Re-entry in H-1B status

If you are entering the United States in H-1B status for the first time, you may enter the country as early as ten days prior to the approved start date as indicated on your H-1B approval notice. 

Important: Before you travel please refer to U.S. Department of State (DOS) website for the current travel alerts and warnings.

To enter or re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status and start or resume employment, have the following documents:

  • Passport valid for six months beyond the duration of your H-1B status (refer to dates on I-797A Notice of Action)
  • Form I-797A Notice of Action or H-1B approval notice
  • Valid H-1B visa stamp (except Canadian citizens)
  • Employment verification letter from your supervisor confirming employment, job title, annual salary, and dates of employment.
  • Two to three recent pay statements or paystubs

Important: check your new I-94 record after entering the U.S. to make sure that your H-1B end date on the I-94 matches the end date on your H-1B approval notice. If it is different, please contact IFSS immediately! If your passport expiration date is earlier than your approved H-1B end date, the port of entry officer will likely shorten your H-1B end date to your passport expiration date. Please contact IFSS for additional advising if this happens.

Applying for H-1B Visa

If you don’t have a valid H-1B visa in your passport, you will need to obtain one before entering the U.S. (except Canadian citizens). To apply for your H-1B visa to enter the US, you will need to make an appointment with a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Please refer to the website of the U.S. embassy where you intend to apply for more information on the required documents. The exact visa application procedures and wait times vary from country to country and even from consulate to consulate. (Note that the wait times are estimates, are not guaranteed, and do not include the time necessary for additional processes, such as background checks).

For a list of all consulates and embassies, please refer to

Individuals traveling to Canada and/or Mexico only may be eligible for the Automatic Visa Revalidation Process, if they have an expired H-1B visa. People who are eligible for this process do not need to apply for a new visa if their visa has expired.

An H-1B worker who has changed employers may use the previously issued H-1B visa to re-enter the United States. The visa remains valid if you have a valid H-1B visa issued with a prior employer’s name.

Required Documents

If The following documents are commonly required of visa applicants. Please confirm with the U.S. consulate where you intend to apply whether there are any additional required documents.

  • Passport: It is strongly recommended that your passport is valid for the whole period covered by your H-1B Approval plus an additional 6 months.
  • Photograph: Uploaded with your DS-160.
  • DS-160 Confirmation Page: Form DS-160, a web-based non-immigrant application, required at all U.S. posts.
  • Application Fee: Each applicant must pay a nonrefundable application fee, so be sure to bring the barcoded receipt to your interview. There may be additional reciprocity fees for certain countries. To find out if your country of citizenship merits additional reciprocity fees, refer to the official Department of State Reciprocity Table
  • I-797 Approval Notice for your H-1B
  • Copy of your H-1B petition
  • Copy of your LCA (Labor Condition Application)
  • Form I-797 Approval Notice for I-612 Waiver of 2-year foreign residency requirement – if you were subject to the 2-year requirement and are applying for an H-1B visa. Eligibility for an H-1B visa requires presentation of actual waiver from USCIS, not the recommendation letter from the U.S. Dept. of State.
  • Additional documents: Your CV, proof of employment at UCSC (e.g., copies of latest paystubs for employees who are renewing their H-1B visa or official UCSC Appointment Letter for initial H-1B visa applications). Please refer to the website of the consulate where you intend to apply for a complete overview of additional documents

Background Checks

Please note that you may be selected for “administrative processing” (also called “background check”) by the consular official when you apply for your visa. Background checks can be imposed for a variety of reasons, including your personal background or the scientific or technical field in which you work. The government issues a new Technology Alert List (TAL) every year, which lists professions identified by the U.S. State Department as being a higher risk to national security. Working in a field included in this list does not necessarily mean that your visa application will be delayed, but you should be prepared for the possibility. The TAL is a classified document and not available to the public. Some fields on the TAL include nuclear technology, chemical, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, advanced computer/ microelectronic technology, materials technology, information technology, robotics, and urban planning.

Unfortunately, UCSC cannot exert any control over the background check process. Because a background check is always an option, it is recommended you apply for your visa well in advance.

Finally, if you are applying for your visa in a 3rd country (not your home country), check to make sure that the consulate where you plan to apply accepts visa applications from the 3rd country nationals. You will also need to check if you need a visa to enter that country (and if so, what you need to do to obtain the visa).

Travel while H-1B Petition is Pending

  1. If IFSS filed a change of status petition for you:
    You must not travel outside of the U.S. while the petition is pending. Leaving the country while USCIS is reviewing your petition will cause USCIS to consider your petition for a change of status to be abandoned. Your underlying H-1B petition may still be approved, but you would have to depart the U.S. and apply for an H-1B visa abroad to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status before you could start your H-1B employment. If you have to travel outside the U.S. while your change of status is pending, please make an appointment with an IFSS Scholar Advisor before your trip.

    Once USCIS approves your change of status petition, you may travel internationally. Your H-1B status will take effect on the date that was requested.
    While travel, as outlined above, is permissible, you may encounter difficulties when re-entering the U.S. or when applying for a visa for your current status. Therefore, we recommend that you do not travel internationally from the moment your department starts the H-1B process with our office until your H-1B status takes effect.
  2. If IFSS filed an H-1B extension petition for you:
    You must be in the U.S. when the H-1B extension petition is filed with USCIS. You are allowed to travel while your H-1B extension petition is pending. However, there is a logistical challenge of travel while an H-1B extension petition is pending. If you depart while the H-1B extension application is pending, it is not considered abandoned, but you will need both a valid H-1B visa (unless exempt) and valid I-797A approval notice to re-enter the U.S. You can use the prior approval notice but only if the period of employment has not yet expired. Travel during the 240-day automatic extension of work authorization after the current H-1B period has expired is not allowed. Please contact if you have questions.
  3. If IFSS filed a change of employer H-1B petition for you:
    If you are no longer working for the original employer, you may be admitted at a U.S. port-of-entry, pursuant to portability provisions, if you have the following documents:
    • A valid passport, 
    • Valid H-1B visa, I-797A approval notice showing petition validity dates 
    • Documentation showing that a new H-1B petition was filed on your behalf before the current H-1B expiration date. This can be done by carrying the new I-797C receipt notice. 
    • If the original H-1B petition has expired you will not be admitted unless you provide evidence the new H-1B petition has been approved. 
      If your previous employer has withdrawn its H-1B petition (which is likely), you cannot use your previous H-1B approval. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you do not travel internationally during this period as you may not be able to return until your UCSC H-1B petition has been approved.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding travel and your H-1B status, please contact IFSS by emailing or making an appointment with an IFSS Scholar Advisor.

Last modified: Jan 25, 2024