H1B Visa Application Process – A Step-by-Step Guide

Commonly known as a US work visa, H1B is a nonimmigrant, employment based visa that is granted to an eligible temporary worker. H1B must-have a US based, specialty occupation at-hand and your employer must apply for your H1B visa petition with the US Immigration Department. Once approved, this petition is a work permit in the form of I-797 which allows you to obtain a visa stamp and begin work in the U.S. for that employer.
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H1B Eligibility

H1B visa is issued for a specialty occupation including but not limited to the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of such specialized knowledge and requires the visa holder to have a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent at a minimum. H-1B work-authorization is restricted to employment by the sponsoring employer. See H1B eligibility and H1 petition process for more information. H-1B work-authorization is restricted to employment by the sponsoring employer.

Once the H1B petition is approved and a consequent visa interview with an applicable US consulate or embassy is successful, you get the H1 visa stamp on your passport.

The following details outline the H1B visa stamping process if applying from India. This stamping process assumes that you already have a H1B petition approved and are ready for a visa interview and visa stamping. For general information on H1B visa or H1 visa petition, please see our H1B visa guide.


Get a Digital Photograph

Each individual H1B visa application requires a digital photograph. Digital images are required for some visa categories, while photos are required for other visa categories. The acceptance of your digital image or photo depends on the U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply.

The criteria for your photo are as follows:

  • In color with 24 pixels per bit and taken in the last 6 months
  • Dimensions must be in square format and range from a min of 600 pixels to a max of 1200 pixels
  • In JPEG format equal to or under 240 KBs
  • Should be taken with a plain white background, in full-face view
  • Maintain neutral expression and clothing
  • No head covering unless for religious purposes
  • Effective November 1, 2016, eyeglasses are no longer allowed in new visa photos
  • Always ensure the image is square and sized with head between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • If you decide to scan an existing photograph, in addition to the above requirements, it should also be:
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm)
  • Scanned at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (12 pixels per millimeter)
  • Carry 2 physical copies printed on quality paper for the interview

Some embassies or consulates no longer require you to upload a digital photograph while filling out the DS-160 form. In such cases, the photograph will be taken at the OFC (offsite facilitation center) or ASC (Application Service Center) along with the fingerprint at Visa Application Center.


Complete H1B Visa Application Form DS160

The H1B visa application (form DS160) must be completed online. You can complete the application on the Dept of State website here.

After successfully completing the application, you will receive a confirmation with a 10-digit barcode. Print out this confirmation page. This will be needed for setting up your visa interview appointment.


Pay the H1B Visa Application Fee

The fee can be paid either electronically as a bank transfer or in cash at designated CitiBank or Axis bank branches throughout the India. In order to ensure the proper amount is paid and activated in a timely manner, first create a profile at US visa Service website and choose the Schedule Appointment option. On the payment confirmation screen you will be presented with payment options and further details of how to initiate payment. The fee is good for a year from the date of payment. You must take an appointment within a year for your visa interview.

Learn about how to pay H1 visa fee.


Take Appointment for Visa Interview

After you pay the fees, you will have to schedule 2 appointments as part of the H1B visa process. The two-part appointment process consists of an appointment with one of the five Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to give Biometrics information that includes fingerprinting and photograph, and a second appointment with the Consulate or Embassy for a personal visa interview.

Schedule your online visa appointment on the official website for US Visa Scheduling.

See complete details of taking an appointment for H1B visa interview.


US Visa Fingerprinting at Visa Application Center (VAC)

After taking appointment with the consulate or embassy for personal interview, schedule the fingerprinting appointment at least a day or two before the interview at the consulate. Earlier, the fingerprints were taken during the personal interview. But under the new rules you are required to give the Biometrics information at the VAC appointment. This measure has been introduced to reduce congestion at the US consular facilities and to speed up the applicant processing. Schedule the visa interview appointment at the Consulate or Embassy prior to the VAC appointment.

See complete details for H1B Visa Fingerprinting Process.


Go for Visa Interview at Designated US Consulate

On the day and time of your appointment for interview, go to the consulate where your interview is scheduled. Carry all mandatory and supporting documents and originals.

Carry the following to your interview:

  • Your passport (and your old passports if any)
  • Your photograph
  • The DS-160 visa application confirmation page stamped at the VAC
  • The visa application fee receipts (applicable for application in US consulate in India)
  • Visa appointment letter.
  • Petition-based visa applicants (H, L, F, J, M, R visas) should also bring petition-related documents.
  • Supporting documents, based on what kind of visa you are applying for.

See complete details of the H1B visa interview process.



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