Neither you nor your spouse needs a valid visa stamp in your passport in order to be in the U.S. in lawful status. You are required to have a valid unexpired visa document (I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice), a valid I-94 and a passport that is valid for at least six (6) months past your intended length of stay in the U.S. (Please note you are responsible for any costs incurred to renew your passport).
If the INL requires that you take a trip outside the U.S. for work, you may need to revalidate your visa stamp (a U.S. visa is stamped in a passport to show that a person has been reviewed by a consular official and is eligible for entry to the U.S.). You may arrange through your management travel to your home country to obtain a valid visa stamp if you have not received your initial visa stamp from changing status (F-1 or J-1) to an H-1B visa. INL will pay reasonable travel costs to your country of origin, i.e., airfare plus lodging and perdiem for the number of days reasonably required to obtain your visa.
INL will not pay travel costs for your family to receive their initial visa stamp. Because they may remain in the U.S. without a valid visa stamp, any travel to your home country for your family will be at your expense. If your family travels to your home country without you (at your expense) and needs to renew their visa stamps in order to be eligible to reenter the U.S., please contact the HR&D Immigration Coordinator. The INL will provide your family with a copy of your H-1B petition and an employment verification letter. Your family will also need your original I-797 (Approval Notice) and a copy of your I-94 in order for the U.S. Consulate to provide the visa stamps for your family.
If you obtained your initial visa stamp after receiving your approved H-1B visa, your management can arrange to have your stamp renewed through Automatic Revalidation, with a validity of LESS than six (6) months remaining on your current visa, if you pursue the renewal in Canada. Automatic revalidation applies to expired nonimmigrant visa stamps of foreign nationals who have been out the U.S. for thirty days or less in contiguous territory (Canada). Travel to any other country outside Canada is not permitted when traveling to receive automatic revalidation to reenter the U.S. on an expired visa stamp. INL will not pay travel costs for foreign nationals who decide to return to their own country to renew their H-1B visa stamp, including the amount they would have been reimbursed by going to Canada to obtain the renewal. If you choose to return to your country of origin, you forfeit all INL support and are personally responsible for all travel costs associated with the trip.
Prior to leaving the U.S., always contact the HR&D Immigration Coordinator. You may need the INL’s assistance to prepare to leave the country. If traveling because you are obtaining your initial visa stamp, our immigration attorney will assist you with a checklist of what you will need when you make your appointment with the U.S. Consulate. This also applies to automatic revalidation in Canada. Remember to contact the HR&D Immigration Coordinator at least two (2) months prior to leaving the U.S. Some Consulates require specific forms, from their website, prepared and submitted in advance. Don’t leave things until the last minute.