Please make copies of your immigration documents and keep them in a safe place, separate from the originals. Photocopy the following documents:
Passport identification pages that have your picture and personal information, as well as official information (including its date of expiration). If you have subsequently renewed/extended your passport, make sure that you copy the page with the extension information.
Passport page with your visa stamp on it
Both sides of your Form I-94
Both sides of your I-797 approval notice
After you have made the copies, you should take your original documents and the copies 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 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.
Your passport is your own government's permit for you to leave and re-enter your own country. You should keep your passport valid at all times. Consult your own consulate or embassy in the U.S. to renew your passport at least six months before it expires. The consulate officials will tell you what forms and fees, if any, are required. You can link to Washington, D.C. embassies to obtain contact information for your country's nearest consulate. U.S. regulations require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond your anticipated stay in the U.S.
The visa stamp placed in your passport by the U.S. consulate is needed to enter the United States, but has no bearing on how long you can remain. It also indicates the immigration classification you will have when you are admitted to the United States (e.g., H-1B). You must renew your visa if it has expired and you are planning on traveling outside the U.S. You may renew your visa by visiting the U.S. Consulate in the country to which you are traveling.
If you are not going to your home country, be sure to consult with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you are visiting prior to leaving the U.S. to be sure you can obtain an appointment and renew your visa there. Visas cannot be renewed inside the U.S. For instructions on setting up an appointment and documentation requirements for applying for the H-1B visa stamp, visit the web site of the U.S. consulate you plan to visit when applying for the H-1B visa at List of U.S. Consular Offices worldwide.
The I-94 shows that you have been admitted to the U.S. The I-94 is usually stapled onto the U.S. visa page of your passport. It contains an eleven-digit identifying number (called your departure number) that the USCIS 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.
There will be a date written in the upper right corner of your I-94. You must either leave the U.S. by that date or apply to extend your stay at least six months in advance. If you have changed to H-1B status within the United States, you will have received a new I-94 card attached to the bottom of the Form I-797 approval notice. This supersedes the I-94 card you received when you entered in your previous status.
The Form I-797 approval notice indicates that USCIS has approved the H-1B petition that was filed on your behalf. If you applied to change status in the U.S., there will be a be a new I-94 card attached to the bottom of Form I-797A. Otherwise, the form will indicate the consulate which has been sent notice of the petition's approval (Form I-797B). The form will also show the dates that the H-1B petition is valid.
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.