Essential Documents

U.S. law requires foreign citizens living in the United States to register their presence upon entry to the United States (i.e. provide valid immigration documents at the U.S. border) and to retain these registration documents in their possession at all times. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not always strictly enforce the requirement to carry immigration documents at all times. In most cases, the ability to produce documents within a reasonable period of time (from your apartment, for example) has been enough to satisfy this requirement. ISSS has generally recommended that H-1B Employees bring the original documents (passport with valid I-94 card and Form I-797 Approval Notice) when traveling an hour or more away from campus so that they are easily accessible if a scholar is required to demonstrate his or her legal status.

Recent changes to Georgia law indicate that the requirement to consistently possess the immigration documents could be more strictly enforced in the future. Thus, ISSS now recommends that H-1B employees carry either the original documents OR certified (i.e. notarized) copies of the original documents – even while they are in the Atlanta area – in light of the potential for increased enforcement. If you choose to carry certified photocopies, please copy the following documents:

After you have made the photocopies, you should take your original documents and the photocopies to a notary public so that he or she may certify that your copies are true to the original document. Remember ISSS must retain the original top portion of your I-797 approval notice. As a courtesy, ISSS will give you the original top portion of the approval notice for notarization purposes. But the original top portion MUST be returned to the ISSS after you’re the photocopies of your documents have been notarized. During regular business hours, Emory's office of Student Financial Services provides notary services free of charge to actively enrolled students, faculty and employees of the University. Banks usually offer notary services for a fee. You may also search for notary services through The Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority website.

In order to ensure complete documentation in your file at ISSS, please also remember to bring your advisor copies of any new documents (Form I-94, copy of H-1B visa stamp in passport if you applied for a new visa before returning to the U.S.) received during travel outside the United States during your H-1B employment at Emory University.

The sections below describe your immigration documents in detail.

Passport

Your passport is your government's official travel document permitting you to leave and re-enter your home country. You are required to keep it valid at all times during the course of your H-1B status. Consult your home country’s consulate or embassy in the U.S. to renew your passport. They will instruct you on how to renew your passport. You may locate your country’s nearest consulate or embassy by clicking here

Visa

In most cases a valid H-1B visa stamp is required to enter the U.S. The validity period of the H-1B visa stamp has no bearing on how long you can remain in the U.S. in H-1B status. The I-94 Departure Record card received upon your last arrival to the U.S. in H-1B status will determine how long you may legally remain in the U.S. The visa stamp will indicate the status you are requesting to obtain upon entry to the U.S., whether it be H-1B temporary worker or H-4 dependent status for your dependents. If you plan to travel outside of the U.S. with an expired H-1B visa stamp, you may be required to renew your H-1B visa stamp before returning to the U.S. If you are traveling to a third country, contact the U.S. consulate in that country in advance of travel to ensure that you may renew your H-1B visa at that consulate. ALWAYS contact an ISSS scholar advisor at least two weeks before traveling outside the U.S. You will be advised as to what documents are required to return to the U.S., including any requirements to renew your H-1B visa stamp. Also take into consideration the amount of time it may take to renew your H-1B visa when making your travel plans. Sometimes visa issuance is severely delayed due to security checks and administrative processing.

Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record

The Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record which you receive in transit to the U.S. is an extremely important document indicating that you were legally admitted into the U.S. in H-1B status. You will surrender the I-94 Arrival portion at the port of entry upon admission to the U.S. The I-94 Departure record card will be given to you once admitted into the U.S. and it is usually stapled into your passport by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP official). It contains an eleven-digit identifying number (called your departure number) that the Department of Homeland Security uses to keep track of your arrival in and departure from the United States. The USCIS sometimes refers to the "departure" number as the "admission" number. The I-94 will have a date stamp indicating the date you were admitted into the U.S., hand written notation indicating you were admitted in H-1B status (or H-4 status if a dependent of an H-1B) below which a date is handwritten indicating the date in which you must voluntarily depart the U.S. In most cases the handwritten departure date is the same date as the end date on your I-797 approval notice, but in some cases the CBP official can issue a 10 day grace period which you may voluntarily depart upon conclusion of your employment. If granted the 10 day grace period, you are only allowed to be employed up through the end date on the I-797 approval notice. You are not permitted to work during the 10 day grace period unless a timely petition to extend your employment was filed prior to end date on your approval notice. If you received an I-94 with a date written on it that is earlier than the end date on your I-797 approval notice, you must report to an ISSS scholar advisor immediately upon admissions to the U.S. An ISSS scholar advisor will instruct you on what action must be taken to change your I-94 so that the date corresponds to the end date of your I-797 approval notice.

Form I-797 Notice of Action

For each I-129 petition filed to sponsor someone for H-1B temporary worker status, two I-797 Notice of Action forms are typically issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): 1) to notify the petitioner of USCIS’s receipt of a petition filed, and 2) to notify the petitioner of USCIS’s approval of the petition filed. Each petition is issued a distinctive receipt number and can assist the petitioner and beneficiary (H-1B temporary worker) in tracking the progress of the petition filed. When the petition is approved, USCIS will issue either an I-797A or an I-797B approval Notice of Action. The I-797A Approval Notice of Action is received when a petition is filed while the H-1B temporary worker is legally present inside the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status and therefore is requesting to change status to H-1B, or is presently inside the U.S. in H-1B status and either desires to extend their status with the present employer, move to a new employer, or amend their current employment. The bottom portion contains two separate parts: 1) the left portion is the H-1Bs personal record card to retain for his/her permanent records, and 2) the right portion is a generated I-94 Departure Record card that should be stapled onto any previously issued I-94 Departure Record cards and surrendered upon voluntarily departing the U.S. while employed or after ceasing employment. The I-797B Approval Notice of Action is received when a petition is filed for consulate/preflight inspection/Port of Entry notification. If a person is presently outside the U.S. or will be outside the U.S. prior to a petition’s approval, then USCIS will issue the approval notice for consulate notification for those who are required to apply for an H-1B visa stamp, or for Port of Entry or Preflight Inspection for those who are not required to apply for an H-1B visa stamp (Canadian Citizens). All H-1Bs are required to present the I-797 approval notice to verify eligibility for employment, apply for a Social Security Number, apply for a Georgia Driver’s License, and to certify one’s legal status inside the U.S.