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I need to renew my H1B visa, and while it is suggested I do this in the US consulate in the country where my passport was issued (New Zealand), I have heard of other types of visas (Eg E3) being renewed, without issue, in Caribbean countries that have US embassies/consulates.

I live in NY, so it would be difficult to get time off work and very expensive to go all the way back to New Zealand for the visa stamping. So, is it possible to renew my H1B in a Caribbean country that is not my home country and where I am not a resident?

Note: This question has been shifted from Travel.StackExchange as it was suggested it would be better suited here.

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    But why do you need to renew your visa? US visas are only for entering the US. If you are already in the US, why do you need to enter? Are you planning to take a trip to the Caribbean or something? Otherwise, why would you go to the Caribbean just to get a visa? If you plan to take a trip abroad somewhere else, it would make more sense to ask whether you can renew your visa there. – user102008 Feb 18 '16 at 22:50
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    Right, because a visa is only needed if you need to enter the US, which can only happen if you are outside the US. Hence my question of why you need a visa. You would only need a visa if you need to travel outside the US, and you do not mention in your question that you need to travel outside the US. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 0:17
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    You are mistaken. A US visa is solely for entering the US. That's it. A US visa has absolutely nothing to do with staying in the US. You don't need a US visa to stay in the US, and your visa could expire the day you enter for all you care, and it wouldn't matter for your ability to stay in the US afterwards. Your ability to stay in the US is determined by your status (granted by your I-94). Your status can be changed or extended in the US. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 1:22
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    "since the fact remains that a visa that is about to expire will need to be renewed in order for the holder to continue living and working in the US" Again, this is completely wrong. A US visa is completely irrelevant to being able to legally stay and work in the US. This is the most basic thing about US visas. If the whole premise of your needing to ask the question is wrong, then the whole question is meaningless. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 3:25
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    The reason why you need a visa is very relevant to the question, because the only people who need a US visa are those who need to travel outside the US, so if you ask this question, a natural follow-up question would be where do you need to travel to, and can you renew it there. You are saying you do not need to plan to travel to anywhere, and that contradicts the whole question of renewing a US visa. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 3:26
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Check the US consulate in the relevant Caribbean country. I know for a fact that non-residents can apply in US consulates in Mexico and Canada (maybe cheaper to go to Toronto from New York than Caribbean?).

  • Montreal is closer than Toronto to New York City. – phoog Feb 22 '16 at 22:45
  • @phoog is it cheaper to go to Montreal than Toronto? Don't know. In any case, the point stands. – littleadv Feb 23 '16 at 4:57
  • I suppose it depends on how one travels. Montreal appears to be slightly more by air and significantly less by train. Of course, we don't know that OP is in NYC; he could be in Buffalo (much closer to Toronot) or northeastern NY (much closer to Montreal). Personal preference could also play a role. In addition, anyone with better French than English might prefer Montreal, where the consular staff may be more accustomed to working in French. – phoog Feb 23 '16 at 18:57
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Based on comments on your question, it appears that you do not need to renew your US visa, and your question is based on your incorrect belief that a US visa is needed for you to stay in the US, which is completely false. A US visa is solely for entry to the US. That is the reason that a US visa can only be gotten outside the US (because if you are already in the US, you do not need to "enter"). You will only need to renew your US visa if you plan to travel outside the US and return to the US after your current visa expires.

Your ability to stay in the US is determined by your status (in your case, H-1b status), the duration of which is determined by your I-94. H-1b status usually extends to the end of validity of your H-1b petition. If the time given on your I-94 is expiring soon (which you have no indicated is the case), your company should apply to extend your H-1b petition and status. Once the application to extend your status is filed, you can continue to stay and work in the US while the application is being processed; and when it is approved, you will receive a new I-94 which determines the new extent of your status.

The next time you leave the US to go back to New Zealand or go to somewhere else (however long in the future that is), and need to come back to the US to continue to work, you will need to get an H-1b visa at a US consulate abroad, if they accept visa applications from non-residents. If you do not need to leave the US, you do not need to get a US visa, ever.

Even if you leave the US to try to get an H-1b visa abroad, you will need a valid H-1b petition to get an H-1b visa, and when you come back to the US, your I-94 will be limited to the validity of your H-1b petition, so if your petition is expiring, then you will need your company to apply to extend your H-1b petition anyway; otherwise, getting an H-1b visa and/or re-entering the US will be completely useless, as it will not extend the amount of time you can stay in the US beyond what you can currently. And if the petition is already expired or in the process of being extended, you will not be able to get an H-1b visa abroad until the new petition gets approved, which could take a long time.

The only cases in which one might want to get a US visa in a nearby country, is 1) if you have plans to travel abroad, but the time in that country is too brief to apply for a US visa at the US consulate there (e.g. an academic conference), or the consulate there does not accept visa applications from non-resident applicants; or 2) you need to apply for a visa to a third country, which requires you to have a valid US visa before they will issue you their visa (not many countries have such a requirement). In these cases, people commonly go to US consulates in Canada or Mexico, which are generally the most convenient to reach from the US. Caribbean countries might work similarly.

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    What makes you think that you can apply for visa in any country? Generally, you can only apply for visa in the country of residency, Canada and Mexico being exceptions specifically for the cases as of the OP. So a New Zealand citizen who is on H1b and wants to keep his travel options open would be wise to go to Canada and get an H1b sticker ahead of time. Don't see any reason to write such a long and discouraging response, it's a pretty common situation. – littleadv Feb 19 '16 at 10:06
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    @littleadv: It's true that US consulates have discretion to decide whether to accept or reject out of district applicants who are physically present, and a few do, but the department generally discourages such rejection. I have updated that part of the answer. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 10:22
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    @littleadv: I did not write a "long and discouraging response" -- I wrote the response that addressed the real issue the OP is having. It is not a "common situation" to get a US visa when they don't need to go to a third country. The question suffers from the XY problem -- he's asking how to do something that he thinks is, but actually isn't, the way to address his underlying problem (continue working in the US). If he gets a visa and comes back, it will not allow him to stay in the US any longer than he can now, so how is that helpful? – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 10:32
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    @littleadv: In fact, I feel it would be irresponsible to tell him how to get a visa and not warn him about the actual issues because 1) it makes him waste a whole lot of effort which will not accomplish what he wants, and 2) if his petition is really close to expiring or is pending extension, then leaving the US at this point may lead him to be stuck outside the US for a long time. – user102008 Feb 19 '16 at 10:48
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    @user102008 - Your list of the “only cases in which one might want to get a US visa in a nearby country” is terribly incomplete. (Why are you trying to guess why I have asked the question above??) My question is simple and specific: “is it possible to renew my H1B [visa] in a Caribbean country that is not my home country and where I am not a resident?” Only five of the many words you’ve written actually address that question (“Caribbean countries might work similarly.”) and even then, very vaguely. – Denimjean Feb 20 '16 at 15:45

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