Dear Mentor:

How long can I delay my H1B visa?

I want to know if there is any expiration limit to INS approval for the H1B visa. That is, is there any time limit by which the visa should get stamped after the INS approval of H1B? Also please let me know of any time limit by which we should fly after H1B visa is stamped. Waiting for your answer.

Later the Better, Location Unknown

Dear Later the Better:

We are intrigued by your inquiry. Most people get excited about the H1B visa approval and can not wait to get to the US, join a new position, begin a new career, and start getting better compensation. We have never heard from anyone, not yet anyway, asking about how late they can emigrate to the US. We hope your need to delay is not caused by a family emergency; if so, we hope things work out well for you.

There are no generally stated deadlines by the US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service). Deadlines for various stages of the H1B visa, if any, are specified for individual cases. Various stages in the H1B visa process are as follows, with allowance for variations on the theme. Your prospective employer submits a petition to the INS for the issuance of the H1B visa for you. Once the INS approves the H1B petition, the INS sends the approved petition to the employer. Upon receipt of the approved H1B visa petition, the employer instructs you to visit and collect the visa documents from the local US Embassy or appropriate consulate to which the INS has forwarded the approved petition. All the requirements, limitations, and constraints are noted on the approved petition. If there were a deadline for you to present yourself at the local embassy or consulate, it would be so stated on the approved petition. Although not necessary or required, the employer should send you a copy of the approved petition. Typically, the employer would want you to collect the H1B visa documentation for the US immigration authorities sooner than later. After all, the employer has a vacancy and a need for an employee to fill the vacancy, and you are the target employee. It is for this reason that we are puzzled by your inquiry.

The local embassy or consulate would, at the very least, interview you and would most likely require additional documentation such as the originals of your degree(s). The local embassy or consulate would issue the H1B documentation after they are satisfied with the proof of your education and skills, availability of the job for you, and your intention of returning to the your home country after completing your temporary employment in the US. The deadline for arriving in the US, if any, would be noted in this documentation. The final approval of the H1B visa is accomplished when the immigration officials stamp your passport at the port of entry in the US. Anything prior to this is merely approvals of various sorts, not the actual issuance of the H1B visa.

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