Is it safe to go get my visa stamped at an overseas embassy? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
I was speaking with a client of ours who we helped get an H-1B transfer approved last year. She’s a very nice person. She’s from India. Unfortunately, her uncle died yesterday, and she was going to talk to me about wanting to travel back home to India to attend the funeral for her uncle.
Now, I’m shooting this video in the middle of September 2020, and we have a pandemic on our hand. It’s still going on, and many embassies are still closed or at limited capacity. Now, what happens if you’re in the United States and you have a non-immigrant visa and you change employers or extend your visa or change your non-immigrant visa type, you’re allowed to stay in the United States while that visa transfer has been approved. But if you leave the United States, then you have to go to the embassy to actually get a stamp in your passport.
So this young lady had an H-1B, but it was for her prior employer. Now she’s working for a new employer, and her prior H-1B stamp is expired. So she wanted to know, “Can I go back home to India and, while there, get a new stamp in my passport with the approved I-129 that the Hacking Law practice filed on my employer’s behalf and for which I now have an I-94 proof of status?”
Ordinarily, that would be a very quick trip. You just go home, you’d schedule an appointment at the embassy, and you’d drop off your paperwork. Usually, that just takes a week or two, even though it’s always stressful when a client leaves the United States to go get that done.
But now during the pandemic, we’re seeing situations left and right where the embassies are just refusing to issue the visa. I had to tell my client, “I’m very sorry about your uncle, but it’s not safe for you to travel right now. I could not guarantee that you’d be back in the United States anytime soon.”
In fact, in the last year we filed at least 12 lawsuits for people who went overseas to get a visa stamp, and the embassy just screwed around with them. These have been spouses of J-1 holders, F-1 visa holders, H-1Bs, H-4s. So, we’ve really been seeing more and more problems with the embassies in reissuing these non-immigrant visa. Something that should be very perfunctory, very easy, very quick, we’re just not seeing that with the embassies.
So my advice unfortunately for this client was, “Don’t travel overseas right now.” It’s one of those scenarios that we talk about from time to time on these videos, where the chance of a problem is small, but the consequences of a problem are severe. I honestly don’t think that if she left today, she’d be back within 90 days, just on a good outcome. But I think it’s much more likely that she could be stuck out for longer than three, maybe six to eight months. So it was my advice, which I think she’s going to take, to not leave the United States at this time.
If you have a visa that’s been approved, but you haven’t gone over to get the actual stamp in your passport, if you have a non-immigrant petition that’s been approved by USCIS, either for an extension or a change of status and you’re thinking about going overseas, you might want to give us a call first, (314) 961-8200. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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