Recently I went through H-1B visa renewal stamping process in Tijuana with family. Here is end to end experience details.
Please refer to recent experiences (May 2019) shared by one of the readers in comment section.
Step 1: DS 160 site
Supporting documents / information needed for reference while filling online DS-160 application:
- Online US travel history (you can download travel history from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/history-search
- Previous experience details with dates
- Education details with dates
- Parents’ birth-date details
- Contact person details in US
First fill your application. Verify, sign and submit. If you are travelling with family, click on “Create family application” after submitting your application.
- Save your application number in the first instance. The DS-160 site keeps refreshing. Every time you must authenticate with log in information. Sometimes it is irritating.
- Keep save and continue every 2-3 minutes to avoid loss of data in case of website refresh
Step 2: Visa appointment site–
- Create account
- Click on create new group
- Add all family members under one IVR
- When you hit payment option print instruction document shows up- save as pdf
Step 3: To pay visa fee:
Effective Aug 2017 US embassy Mexico stopped accepting credit card payments online. The payments must be made in Mexico at either Scotiabank or Banamex.
- Option 1: Cross border, pay yourself and come back same day. It takes max of 3 hours cycle time depending on the queue at border. (if your US visa is unexpired)
- Option 2: Online agents: You can use any agents. (Some companies reimburse visa and agent fees)
I used Mark @ 956-455-3628 (he works out of Texas). Charges $50 for first application and $10 for every additional applicant.
Note: you can use other services like http://www.svrtj.com
- Submit your online form here http://www.usvisamex.com/us_visa_application_fee/us_visa_application_fee_service_request_form
- Send your instructions pdf to firstname.lastname@example.org
- You will receive PayPal invoice.
- Transfer money using PayPal
- Mark travels to Mexico and pays for you in the bank and sends receipt.
- Typically, within 2 hours your payment shows up in https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-mx/niv/users/sign_in
(Note: Mark is very responsive. Responds quickly. Picks up the phone immediately.)
Step 4: Go back to visa appointment website
Once you book appointment it can only be rescheduled 2 times. So, choose your dates carefully
- Select appointment dates.
- The gap between ASC date and consular appointment dates should not be more than 7 days. Plan accordingly
- Take earliest appointment so that you get your passport on the same day. (I was successful in getting PP same day with 7:30 am appointment).
- If you have any questions call US Visa customer support: 703-249-4628- For general queries and visa appointments over the phone
- Select appointment in a such a way that you avoid coming back on Friday. (Fridays evenings are crazy at border crossing)
Step 5 : Get your Mexico visa
Applicable only if your US visa stamping is expired. No need if you have unexpired valid US visa. Mexico embassy confirmed that you cannot use i-797 on expired visa stamping.
For other locations search by “Mexico consulate…” followed by city name. If you can not get appointments nearby cities, try Las Vegas embassy. They have walk ins for visa stamping.
2. [OPTIONAL] Get your Mexican tourist card: (FMM)
This is free at border if you stay for 7 days or less. Don’t waste your money.
Apply for tourist card: https://www.ivisa.com/apply-online/mexico
(More information on tourist card: https://www.tripsavvy.com/what-is-a-mexican-tourist-card-1588733)
Note: As per website, all nationalities need to have this tourist card. You will also get the tourist card at border. To avoid delays it is recommended to get visa card online.
Step 6: Start gathering all supporting documentation
For ASC appointment (Extract from ASC appointment letter)
- Current Passport valid for travel to the United States. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the United States
- Passport containing the most recently issued U.S. Visa (if applicable).
- Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Confirmation and Instructions page printed from this website
- Accompanying family members, unless entering the United States for another purpose, should present a marriage certificate (spouse) and/or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable
- Receipt Number for your approved petition as it appears on your Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker Form I-129 or Notice of Action Form I-797 from USCIS
For Visa interview
- Original passports
- I-797 (keep copies of I-797 with you, just in case)
- Degree / Masters certificate
- Degree marks cards
- Employment letter – dated recently
- Latest resume (Ensure that your current job responsibilities match with petition)
- Any RFE supporting documents like education evaluation, birth certificate, roles and responsibilities evaluation for the job etc..
- Copy of I-140
- Petition – complete print out
- Marriage certificate (H4 spouse)
- Copy of primary applicant’s I-797 (For H4, if H1B applicant is not accompanying)
- Birth certificate (H4 child)
- EAD card (H4- if applicable)
- Bank statements – last 6 months
- W2s – last 3 years
- Tax filing records for last year (optional)
- Previous employment experience letters. (just in case)
Step 7: Crossing into Tijuana
You can use many transport services or cross on foot. Some Uber drivers cross border.
(I used this river – Marco – 619-601-3992). Early morning (7-10 am) vehicle crossings are easy and vehicles are randomly inspected. (My driver just drove through the border!)
You can use Pedwest crossing for ped-crossing or San Ysidro Trolley side.
At the Mexico border you need to fill tourist card information. (FMM). Immigration officer stamps it and give you back exit card. This card needs to be submitted while leaving Mexico.
Staying in Tijuana:
- Keep lots of $1 and $5 changes. Everyone accepts USD. ( $1~20 MXN peso)
- Always use white taxis or Uber
- We stayed at Hampton Inn by Hilton. It is 3 minutes’ drive from consulate and hotel has free shuttle service to consulate. All of morning and again at 3 PM to collect passports. But while returning you have to call Uber and catch taxis. Hotel prices are reasonable for the quality of services.
There are many small restaurants nearby (Walking distance) hotel.
Note for vegans: there is a great place to eat at food court called “Veggie smalls”. Most delicious vegan food ever! They make their own vegan burgers patties, hot dogs, chili sauce…
Step 8: ASC appointment
- Overall turnaround time 15-20 minutes
- Be there exactly 15 minutes before your appointment. Keep your DS-160 and passport ready. Rest of the documents in your folder. Do not take phones, smart watches, food, stroller and avoid bags.
- Outside in the queue, ASC personnel help you organize documents
- Go inside, security check
- Go to first desk
- Your name, nationality and date of birth are verified
- Stand in queue for fingerprints
- At finger prints window;
- Your name is verified
- Finger prints
- Pictures are taken
Caution: Do not wear necklace, earrings, nose rings. Any objects on face and ears should be removed
- Your appointment date and time is written on the DS-160 and all passports are clubbed together with one pin. Keep it that way.
Step 9: Interview day
Overall turnaround time 30 minutes
- Be there early. Sometimes if the crowd is small, they allow you in before your scheduled time. Do not take phones, smart watches, food, stroller and avoid bags
- Security check (feels like airport security check in, belts, shoes off)
- Walk into main building, go to first window to verify appointment time and a number is assigned
- Second window to verify I-797. It will be quick (3 minutes max.)
- Third window for finger print and photo. Usually slightly longer Queue as the process takes some time.
- Wait for your turn, keep looking at screens for your window number
- At actual interview window handover passport and I-797. Typical questions asked:
- Who is your employer?
- Any issues with your employer? Do they treat you with dignity?
- What is your salary?
- How long you have been on H-1B?
- Who were your previous employers?
- Do you have a degree? Can I see your degree certificate?
- What do you do in your company?
- Do you have EAD, can I see the EAD card? (For H4 EAD)?
- Do you work? (For H4 spouse)
- Can I see your I-140 and petition document? (If applicable)
- Where do you study? (H4 kids)
–If approved the officer at window indicates that your renewal is approved, asks you to come next day to collect passports. Give a slip of appointment to collect passports.
We requested to give passports on the same day, giving reasons like kids and pets. But the officer firmly said that earliest would be next day 3 pm. But we wanted to try our luck, as our appointment was at 7:30 am. We went to consulate at 3 pm same day and got our passports. So, don’t give up, try your luck.!
Step 10 – Crossing the border
Pedwest crossing is the best option as it is not very busy. We crossed straight through. But it is longer walk compared to San Ysidro trolley crossing.
At border the entry was smooth. Immigration officers ask declaration questions like the purpose of visit. They ensure you are not bringing in any fruits or vegetables or seeds.
Next step is I-94 permit. Keep $6 change per passport. The process is very quick. 3 minutes max.
Overall it was great experience. No hassles. ASC and consulate people were professional and friendly.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Note: Please leave your experience comments below, so that this will be useful for everyone.