H1-B visa can be renewed after the first three years of being issued. For certain renewal applicants, the passport can be stamped without having to attend an in-person visa interview. In most cases, applicants have to travel to their home country, get an appointment at the local US consulate and get their passport stamped if the Consular officer approves the H1-B extension. In situations when the passport is stamped without having to attend an in-person interview, is called Dropbox stamping.
Dropbox Eligibility: H1-B Visa Renewal
Dropbox or interview waiver is available only for H1-B visa renewals. You cannot use the dropbox for first time H1-B visa stamping.
To be eligible to waive the visa interview and apply for your H1-B visa renewal via Dropbox, you have to first meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Since the Dropbox facility is only accessible to renewals, the applicant should already have a previously stamped H1-B visa on their passports.
- Dropbox is an option only for H1-B visa holders who had it initially stamped after January 1, 2008
- The passport in which the original H1-B visa was stamped is currently available with the applicant. Dropbox is not available if the passport was lost, stolen or cancelled.
- The H1-B renewal applicant doesn't have any US visa refusals in any other visa class, since the H1-B visa issuance.
- Dropbox renewal is applicable only if the first H1-B visa is either currently valid or has expired within the last 12-48 months. Please check with your immigration lawyer of your expired H1-B visa is still eligible for Dropbox. Rules are expected to change after December 31, 2021.
- Dropbox location: Please check with your immigration lawyer where you can avail of the dropbox. Pre-pandemic, you could avail of the dropbox only from the country you got your initial H1-B visa stamp from. This has been relaxed since the pandemic.
- H1-B renewal after change of employer: As long as the above criteria are met, you are eligible for dropbox renewal/US visa interview waiver even if you change your employers.
Process To Apply For H1-B Visa Dropbox Appointment
Step 1: DS-160
The DS-160 is a non-immigrant US Visa Application available online. This form is an elaborate application outlining details about your current H1-B sponsor, previous employer, location for visa stamping, etc.
Once completed and submitted online, you will get a confirmation number. You will need this during your appointment booking for the dropbox.
Step 2: Create Online Profile
Next, create a user profile for yourself on the CGI Federal website. This will ask for basic information about you. At this point you will ear-mark which country you will get your visa stamping done. Remember, the country you ask for the renewal dropbox stamping need not be the country you got your original H1-B visa stamped.
When creating your account, you will have to –
- Identify yourself as a non-immigrant
- Pick the country of residence
- Opt for language, visa category and visa class – in this case, H-1B – Temporary worker in specialty occupation
- Add personal information including passport details, contact information, mailing address, and petitioner’s information
- Include details about dependents, if any including spouse and children
Step 3: Confirm all details
At this stage, you will have to confirm all details including eligibility to apply for Dropbox. You are asked a series of questions pertaining to your H1-B visa status. He questions will range from annotations, validity of visa, stolen passport, if applicable and expiration of your current visa. Your approval will depend upon these answers. You should get a confirmation saying you are eligible for Interview Wavier or Dropbox.
Step 4: Confirm Dropbox location
Once you qualify, you get to pick the country and city where you get to drop of your documents.
Step 5: Visa Fee
You have to pick your mode of payment. This depends upon the country you choose. In India for example, you can either use NEFT or IMPS options. If you pay fee at a bank over the counter at CitiBank, Axis Bank or DRUK PNB Bank, then you will enter the receipt number in the next step.
Step 6: Book Appointment
Pick and date and location for your Dropbox appointment. For your appointment, carry all the documents they request on the next screen.
Step 7: Dropbox
On the appointed date, submit all your documents, plus the confirmation letter at the chosen location. This can be done by anyone on your behalf.
Step 8: Check Case Status
You may check the status of your renewal application online. The Consular Electronic Application Center(CEAC) website allows you to monitor the status of your application.
You should see your case moving quite smoothly once the above steps are fulfilled. Your case status online will either say, Application Received, Refused, Administrative Processing or Issued. At times, even if you may be eligible for an interview waiver, you might be called for an interview. Take all your documents and report for the interview on the stipulated date and time.