One of the key steps to having your H1B non-immigrant work visa validated is submitting Form DS-160. This completed form is required to schedule an interview at the consulate in your own country, but cannot be filled out until the H1B petition is approved by the USCIS. It is really one of the last steps to getting your visa, but must be approached very carefully to avoid any denials or inconsistencies with the petition.
The Path to an H1B Visa
There are multiple stages to obtaining an H1B visa, and they have to be approached in the right order and according to the annual H1B visa calendar (for petitions subject to the cap).
Here are the steps:
- Locate US sponsor/employer and apply for position in your specialty occupation
- If a position is offered, the sponsor will submit the H1B petition, Form I-129
- The USCIS must approve the petition, and if the job is subject to the annual cap then you must also make it through the lottery in April
- If you are selected in the lottery (or seeking a cap-exempt position) then the USCIS will review and hopefully approve the petition
- The USCIS will send your prospective employer a Notice of Action Form 1-797
- Now, you will need to go online to the website for the Department of State to fill out Form DS-160 https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
- After the form is successfully submitted, you will be able to use the barcode from the form to schedule a consulate interview (the process varies in each country, so consult the website for the US consulate in your own country)
Guidelines for Filling Out Form DS-160
Form DS-160 must be filled out online, and paper forms are not accepted. This is more convenient for most people who have internet access, and considering the majority of H1B visa applicants are in the IT industry it makes sense to use an online system.
However, the online application has some challenges for applicants, and it will ‘time you out’ if you spend too much time between responses (supposedly 20 minutes but some users report the time out window is actually shorter). This can be frustrating, but all information entered is saved so you can pick up where you left off, but you have to have your application number so be sure to keep it.
For this reason, it is recommended that you have all the information and documentation in hand before beginning application. Even if you are prepared, the application can take as long as two hours to fill out with no interruptions.
The basic documents to have and info required is:
- Travel Itinerary to the US
- Dates of Last Five Visits to the US
- Copy of I-129 Petition
- Employer Information and Address
Other guidelines and requirements for the form include:
- All answers must be in English or the application will be denied (many of the questions are translated into other languages however)
- You can return to an uncompleted DS-160, but you have to have your application ID number to access it
- You have 30 days to return to a partially completed form
- You must have a digital photo to submit with the form
- The form must be signed by you
- Third parties can assist you in completing the form, but cannot sign it for you
- Once you schedule your interview, you will need to print out and bring the confirmation page with you to the consulate
If you do it right, then you can prepare for the interview and start packing your bags to begin work in the US with your valid H1B visa. Please contact us if you have any questions about the process for obtaining this non-immigrant work visa
- May 18th, 2017