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H-1B FAQs: Change of Status vs Consular Processing


H-1B FAQs: Change of Status vs Consular Processing

There are two ways to file an H-1B visa application: Change of Status and Consular. Although a Change of Status H-1B application and a Consular H-1B application are nearly identical, the process of beginning work on your H-1B is different. The best option for you will depend on your current location, immigration status (if you are in the U.S.), and your travel plans.

Background information on the H-1B visa

The H-1B is a U.S. work visa that enables foreign talent to work at U.S. companies. Candidates typically qualify for an H-1B with a Bachelor’s degree and a U.S. job offer in a field related to their degree.

Change of Status vs Consular—H-1B visa applicant guide

If you are currently located in your home country, or you’re traveling internationally outside the U.S., consular processing is your only option.

If you will be applying for your visa while already located in the U.S., you can choose between Change of Status and Consular processing.

Change of Status Processing

You can only file a Change of Status application when you (the beneficiary) are located inside the U.S. Also, if you want your petition to be adjudicated as a Change of Status, you will need to remain in the country until your case is approved and your H-1B start date has passed.

After approval of your Change of Status petition, your immigration status will automatically switch to H-1B (on your H-1B start date). After this happens, you can legally work in your new status without needing a physical visa stamp in your passport.

However, the next time you travel internationally, you will need to get a visa stamp before you re-enter the U.S.

Consular Processing

Unlike Change of Status, you can file an H-1B with Consular processing both inside and outside the U.S. 

Upon approval of a Consular H-1B petition, you will need a visa stamp in your passport to begin working on the new status. Regardless of whether you’re in the U.S. when your visa is approved, or traveling outside the country, you will need to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad for a visa stamping appointment (also known as a visa interview). 

Note: You can only book a visa stamping appointment after your visa petition has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A request for additional evidence (RFE) from USCIS could slow down the petition approval process. If you receive an RFE, you might be stuck outside the U.S. for longer than expected.

Other Frequently Asked Questions about H-1B Processing

  • Is Change of Status the same as Adjustment of Status?

No. Change of Status refers to nonimmigrant visa processing. Adjustment of Status refers to switching from a nonimmigrant visa to a green card (also called permanent resident card).

  • Can I stay in the U.S. after changing status to H-1B with an expired I-94?

Yes. You can continue to stay in the U.S. after the approval of your H-1B Change of Status even if your I-94 expires.

  • How can I check H-1B petition processing times?

You can check processing times for H-1Bs, other nonimmigrant visas, immigrant visas, and green cards on USICS’s website.


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About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.