Can H-1B worker renew visa in Canada before short trip to India?

Issues with applying for an H-1B renewal as a third-country national.

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Question

I'm working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa and plan to travel home to India this summer. I don't want to spend a day or two renewing the visa there. Can I renew my visa at the U.S. Consulate in Canada? Is there anything in particular I need to know about renewing my visa in Canada?

Answer

Although it's always best to apply for your visa at the U.S. consulate in your home country, in some cases you may apply in another country, where you would be considered a third-country national. Third-country visa processing is not always allowed, however, so be sure to check the consulate's website to make sure it's permitted and to review any special requirements.

As to third-country visa processing in Canada, the U.S. consulates there do allow it. There are several things to consider, however, and you may want to think twice before heading to Canada to renew your H-1B visa. Initially, if you are a citizen of India, you likely will need a visitor visa to enter Canada. Check with the Canadian consulate in the United States to review visa requirements, if any, that may apply to you.

Another thing to consider is that if you earned your university degree in a country other than the United States or Canada, the U.S. Consulate in Canada may not be able to determine whether you have the proper qualifications for an H-1B visa. While this is technically a question for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the employer's H-1B petition process, consular officials often inquire into and examine academic credentials to make sure you have at least a bachelor's degree. The consular officers in Canada likely are familiar with only U.S. and Canadian education. Therefore, presenting a degree from an Indian university, for example, may be a problem.

Finally, be aware that you will not be able to return to the U.S. until you have your new visa. When you appear for the visa interview, the consular officer will put a stamp in your passport to note that you have applied for a visa while in Canada. If your visa application then is delayed or denied, you won't be able to return to the United States. This is true even if you're renewing a visa that has not expired.

Things that could cause a delay or denial are the educational credentials mentioned above, criminal charges or convictions, or security/background checks.

If your visa is delayed, you would need to wait in Canada until you get your new visa. If the consulate denies the visa, you may need to return to India to renew your visa at the U.S. consulate there. As you can see, there are several things to consider. It may be easier and better after all just to get your visa in India.

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