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Visa Stamps:
Don't try to enter the U.S. without one!

Did you know that if you entered the U.S. on one type of visa and obtained permission from the INS to change to a different visa class, that you may need to go to a U.S. Consul to obtain a visa stamp before you can return to the U.S.?

Although the U.S. uses one system of visa laws, it has two different agencies that enforce and administer them: The Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS.)

The Department of State has a series of Consular offices located around the world, some are in Embassies, some are not. They are given the responsibility of interviewing people who wish to travel to the U.S. and placing visa stamps into their passports, if they find the applicant qualifies. The stamps may have a limitation on the number of entries/exits allowed, as well as the maximum period of time that it is valid. This stamp controls a person's ability to attempt an "entry" into the U.S. It must be valid every time you try to enter, and it must be for the same visa classification you wish to use while in the U.S. ( see also Consular Process )

The INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) is given the responsibility of "inspecting" people who wish to enter the U.S. and of controlling their visa classification while they are in the U.S. If a person is given permission to make an "entry" he/she is given an I-94 card, which is placed in his/her passport at the port of entry.

Many times a person may enter the U.S. in one visa classification, such as F-1 student, and wish to change the purpose of his/her stay. Quite often people, after finishing a university education in the U.S., find a temporary job and wish to stay for a few more years with an H-1B temporary worker visa.

If the law were harsh and unforgiving, this person would be required to leave the U.S. and apply at a Consular office for an H-1B visa stamp. But the U.S. government has established special rules which allow for a person to merely apply to the INS for a "change of non-immigrant status." In effect, the I-94 document is modified to show the new classification (although recently the INS has been issuing a form which is attached to the I-94). ( see also our I-94 page )

But it is only the INS which has given permission for you to be in the U.S. with an H-1B visa. If you wish to leave the U.S., you are required to apply at a U.S. Consular post for a new visa stamp.

You are also required to obtain a new stamp, if you travel, should the period of time on your visa stamp have expired. Even if the INS has given you an extension to stay longer in the same visa class you used to enter the U.S. The process normally requires that you file an application with the INS, requesting that they send a "cable" to the Consular post you will going to ( Normally this would be the Consulate in your home country. In certain circumstances you may be allowed to go to another one ).

If you have any questions about how to obtain a visa stamp in your passport, please contact Capriotti & Associates at-least 2 months before you plan to leave the U.S.

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CAPRIOTTI & Associates International Law
Immigration · Nationality · Consular Process
North America & Europe
P.O. Box 2792 · Portland, OR 97208-2792
Fax: 1-503-223-3886 · Voice: 1-503-221-1600

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The information given in this Web site is intended as general information only.
It does not substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in a specific case.

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