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What happens after your petition is approved by USCIS?

Congratulations! Your petition has been approved by USCIS. What happens now? Check out the below for a summary of actions you may need to take after the approval.

I. Visa Interview and Visa Stamping

If you are currently outside the U.S., you will need to obtain a visa stamp from the U.S. Consulate/Embassy before you can enter the U.S. (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement).

If you are in the U.S. and your petition was approved as “change of status”, this means that your status will automatically change. No further action required to activate the status. However, the next time you travel internationally, after the “change of status” effective date, you will need to apply for a visa stamp before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement).

Complete DS-160

To apply for the visa stamp, the first step is to fill out the DS-160 form for you and each dependent. You can find tips to complete the DS-160 here.

Your spouse and children applying for visa stamps will need DS-160s. You can add DS-160 forms by selecting the option to create a family or group application when you reach the “Thank You” page on your DS-160. You will need to upload a photo of yourself that meets these requirements. Once you’re finished, be sure to print out the DS-160 confirmation page –you’ll need it for your interview.

Schedule Visa Appointment and Pay Visa Fees

You can schedule one visa appointment for the entire family. Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for country-specific instructions.

When scheduling the visa appointment, the preference is to apply for the visa stamp at the U.S. Consulate in your home country. This is because, if the visa is denied or subject to administrative process (meaning additional review), you may have to wait outside the U.S. for several weeks to several months.

If you chose not to apply in your home country, please check the Consulate’s website to see if there are any special instructions or restrictions on third-party nationals. Be aware that appointments for third-party nationals can be extremely limited with extended wait times.

Attend the Visa Interview

You can then attend the visa interview at the U.S. consulate with all required documents. Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for country-specific instructions. Tips on the visa interview are available here.

For your visa, you will need to present:

  • Interview appointment letter
  • Copy of the approval notice (I-797)
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Application fee payment receipt
  • Valid passport
  • Two color, passport-style photographs
  • Copy of your petition

For dependent visas, your spouse and children will need to present:

Visa Approval

About 3-5 days after your interview, you will receive your passport back with your visa stamp inside. Your dependents will each have their own visa stamp. Please contact us if you are issued administrative processing (meaning that the Consulate needs additional time to review your application before visa issuance).

The validity of your visa stamp may be different than the validity period on your approval notice (I-797). This is because the U.S. government has visa reciprocity requirements for certain visa categories. Based on the applicant’s country of birth, the visa can be cut short. For example, the O-1 visa for a citizen of China is only valid for 3 months, even though the O-1 approval notice is valid for 3 years.

The visa is just an entry document, and it is not your status in the U.S. If your visa stamp was cut short because of visa reciprocity and you need to travel internationally, you can use your existing, valid O-1 approval notice (I-797) to request a new visa stamp. On the other hand, if you do not have international travel, you can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa stamp – no action required!

II. Arrival in U.S.

Documents to Carry for Entry

You will need to carry your approval notice, valid passport, and valid visa stamp to enter the U.S. Your spouse and children entering the U.S. will also need to carry valid passports and visa stamps. (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement).

Generally, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the expiration of your approval notice (I-797). However, citizens from certain countries are exempt from the six-month rule and only need to have a passport valid for their intended period of stay. If your passport will expire before the end date on the approval notice (I-797), your I-94 may be cut short to match passport expiration.

Review I-94

Once you enter the U.S., you can view your I-94 online. Each person will have a separate I-94 record. The I-94 is the controlling document regarding your status. If there is an error on your I-94, you will need to promptly contact CBP to request a correction.

III. Post Arrival in U.S.

I-9

You will need to complete form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) on your first day of work. You will need to present your valid passport and I-94 showing valid status.

Social Security Number (SSN)

You will need to apply for a Social Security Number. To apply, you will need your valid passport and I-94 showing valid status. You can start working in the U.S. while your application for a SSN is pending. You do not need to wait until the SSN is issued to start your job.

Change of Home Address

If you change home address in the U.S., you must notify USCIS by completing Form AR-11 online within 10 days of the move.

F-1 and J-1 students: FICA taxes exemption

Generally, students in the U.S. in F-1 and J-1 status are exempt from FICA (Medicare and Social Security) taxes. However, if you later change status from F-1/J-1 to a different status such as O-1 or H-1B, you will then become subject to FICA taxes. Your U.S. employer must begin withholding FICA taxes from the “change of status” effective date.

For example, if your F-1 to O-1 change of status is approved, as of the validity date of the change of status, you will be subject to FICA taxes. Please visit the IRS website for more information.

F-1 students with STEM OPT: Complete Form I-983

If you change from F-1 STEM OPT to a different status, such as O-1, you must complete the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section of Form I-983 STEM Training Plan. This section must be signed by both you and your employer, and then submitted to your university.

Travel outside the U.S.

If you travel outside the U.S., you will need to have a valid passport, valid visa, approval notice (I-797), and 2-3 recent pay statements for re-entry. (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement). You will receive a new I-94 when you re-enter the U.S. You can review your I-94 online. If there is an error on your I-94, you will need to promptly contact CBP to request a correction.

Extension

The earliest your O-1 extension can be filed is 6 months before your status expiration. At that time, please reach out to us to start the extension process.

Amendment/Change of Employer

Please reach out to us before changing to your employer, job duties, or work location. An Amendment or Change of Employer filing may be required.

Spouse Work Authorization

Certain dependent statuses are eligible for work authorization once your spouse is in the U.S. For example, if you are in L-1 status, your L-2 spouse can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization once he/she enters the U.S. Your spouse will be able to work once the Employment Authorization is issued, which generally takes about 4-6 months. O-3 dependents are not eligible for work authorization in the U.S.

IV. Immigrant Petition and Green Card

Please reach out to us if you would like to discuss the green card process. We are available to help with the EB-1 or EB-2 National Interest Waiver immigrant petition, and the green card application!