H-1B status and the H-1B visa begin at the same place, which is the I-129 petition process with USCIS. If the petition is approved, then having H-1B status or an H-1B visa depends on the employee’s circumstances.
If the prospective H-1B employee was already in legal status in the United States, then USCIS has the authority to change the person’s status to H-1B. This means the person can legally work for the employer. However, the employee’s ability to travel outside of the United States and then return would be severely limited.
A visa is required to travel to or return to the United States. USCIS does not have the authority to issue visas. Only the US Department of State has the authority to issue visas to the United States. The H-1B petition process would still begin with USCIS, but after the petition’s approval the process would move to the US Department of State and the Embassy or Consulate responsible for the employee’s location abroad. More fees and applications would be involved for the visa.
Once the visa application is approved and the visa is issued, the employee may use the visa to enter the United States up to 10 days before the validity of the work period begins. If the US border officer that inspects the employee for admission to the United States grants the employee entry, the employee will receive a stamp in the passport which signifies the person has H-1B status.
If you have any questions regarding immigration, please feel free to call me, immigration attorney Shawn Mesa at (813) 679-5780.
Disclaimer: This information is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on this information is taken at your own risk.