Travel Advisory for Visa Applicants
Typical Documents for Visa Applications
The International Services Office of Fermilab is available to assist Fermilab employees and users with most U.S. immigration and visa issues. However, the responsibility to obtain, in a timely manner, the appropriate visa for visiting or working at Fermilab is, ultimately, the responsibility of the employee or user. This Advisory discusses possible issues that might arise during a U.S. visa application while abroad, or re-admission to the U.S.
Managers should ensure that they understand the timeframes involved in foreign travel and visa applications before authorizing business travel outside the U.S. Managers also should ensure that employees understand these timeframes when planning vacations abroad that involve visa applications. Employees and managers should be familiar with Fermilab’s Policy on Visa Applications During Travel which includes a discussion of foreign Assignments for individuals forced to remain abroad while waiting for visa issuance.
- Possible delay abroad: The time involved in having a visa application approved and the visa issued again is increasing; YOUR LAST EXPERIENCE IS UNLIKELY TO BE TYPICAL OF CURRENT CONDITIONS. Visa applications by individuals working within the field of High Energy Physics usually are identified by Consular officers as requiring additional security clearances before visa issuance. Such security clearances can take up to 30 days. This is the case regardless of whether the individual has been issued a visa before, and regardless of whether the last visa only took a couple of days. This means that the employee/user might need to remain outside the U.S., waiting for the visa issuance, for a months, or more.
- Do Your Research: Before booking any travel, go to http://www.usembassy.gov/, find the website of the Consulate where you will submit your visa application, and confirm (a) the Consulate’s procedures, and (b) the timelines expected for visa appointments, and visa issuance. Please note that the timeline for visa issuance will be an average based on “typical” visa applicants, and that applicants from the field of High Energy Physics have longer wait times.
- J-1 Status Holders: J-1 status holders must ensure that the original or Revalidation signature on their DS-2019s is less than 6 months old at the time they will re-enter the U.S.
- H-1B Status Holders: H-1B status holders must have their original I-797 approval notice with them during travel. We strongly recommend that they also have a full copy of their H-1B petition also.
- Accompanying Family: Dependents (H-4, J-2) travelling with primary status holders (H-1B, J-1) and planning to apply for visas while abroad should have marriage or birth certificates documenting the relationship.
- Fermilab employees also must:
- Contact the Visa Office at least 4 - 6 months prior to all planned travel, regardless of whether it is for business or personal. The Visa Office will be able to provide you with a summary of the paperwork and process required in your particular case.
- Have an Employment Confirmation letter issued by the Visa Office roughly 1 week before the planned travel. Please give the Visa Office no less than 1 week’s notice to produce this letter.
- Your visa must be valid at the time you seek admission to the U.S.
- Presenting a visa to an immigration officer at an airport or border-crossing constitutes an “application for admission.” The immigration officer must ask questions about the proposed activities for in the U.S., or about other circumstances (e.g. school or employment). Be concise and precise with all answers.
- Once satisfied, the immigration officer issues an I-94 Arrival Departure Card.
- Check the I-94 Card after the officer issues it to you to confirm that all the details are correct. If there appears to be an error, ask the officer to explain and/or correct the Card before leaving the officer’s desk!
- The end date on the I-94 Card is the last day you are permitted to remain in the U.S. On or before this date, you must either: (a) leave the U.S., or (b) have applied to change or extend your visa status. Serious consequences can arise if you remain in the U.S. past this date, even if it is as little as one day.
- The I-94 card is the only evidence of your authorized status in the United States, so ensure that it is safe. Employees, and J-1 status holders sponsored by either Fermi Research Alliance, LLC or Universities Research Association, Inc., must provide copies to the Visa Office of new I-94s, to assist us in tracking and monitoring your status.
Typical Documents for Visa Applications:
Below is a list of documents that Consulates often require for visa applications. This is an example only. Check the Consulate’s website for more specifics.
- Visa Application: For most Consulates, this is a signed print-out of the Form DS-156 Standard Visa Application, DS-157 Supplement, and/or DS-158 Work History. A few Consulates have moved to a new application – DS-160 – that is entirely electronic and replaces all three other application forms. See the Consulate’s website for more information.
- Visa Status Specific Documentation:
- F-1: SEVIS Fee Receipt, Form I-20 from your school.
- J-1s: SEVIS Fee Receipt, Signed DS-2019, and (for interns and trainees only), DS-7002 Training/Internship Plan.
- H-1B, O-1: Form I-797 Notice of Action approving the visa category. We strongly recommend that you also have with you a copy of the full petition filed on your behalf.
- H-1B, J-1, O-1: Copies of your degrees, diplomas, certificates or other proof or your credentials, such as a curriculum vitae.
- Fermilab Employees: New employees need a signed Offer Letter from the Employment Department of Fermilab (signed by Juanita Frazier) or, if a current employee, an employment verification letter from the Visa Office.
- Photo: A color photo with a white background that is less than six months old, 5cm x 5cm, showing you facing the camera directly. Go to http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1287.html to see the Department of States guidelines for photos for visa applications.
- Unexpired Passport: Your current passport, valid for at least six months longer than the anticipated stay in the U.S., and with at least three free/unmarked pages. If you have held previous passports, please also take them to the Consulate on the day of the interview. Please note that Department of Energy policy requires all non-U.S. citizens in non-immigrant status at Fermilab to have unexpired passports.
- Ties to your Home Country: J-1 and F-1 visa applicants should show strong ties to their home country or country of current residence (as long as this is not the U.S.), to show that when your activities in the U.S. end, you will leave the U.S. This can include documents showing:
- ongoing studies or employment at your home institution (such as a letter from the home institution confirming your employment, your attendance in a program of studies, or otherwise confirming that you are supposed to return).
- Income from a non-U.S. source, if any.
- Family (spouse, children or parents) or other dependents.
- Ownership of property outside the U.S., if any.