I would like to share my experience for H1-B stamping (extension) at the Nogales US Consulate in June, 2008. This and other forums helped me prepare and so I felt it as a duty to share my experience with our community as most of us are in the same boat.
I went with my wife (both work at same place) and our 3 yr old daughter for our H1-B stamping. I had scheduled 1 appointment where I was primary applicant and my wife was secondary applicant as a family member. THIS WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE. WE WERE STUCK IN NOGALES FOR 4 DAYS AS MY WIFES PETITION WAS NOT FOUND IN PIMS DATABASE.
IF YOU ARE GOING AS A COUPLE PLEASE SCHEDULE SEPARATE APPOINTMENTS FOR YOU AND YOUR WIFE. The reason being that as soon as I scheduled my appointment they automatically check for the primary applicants H1-B petition in the PIMS database and if not found will put in a request only for primary applicant. They will not check your spouses H1-B petition until you present at the time of your interview. They have also stopped checking your petitions if you email them before your interview a scanned copy of H1-bs since April 19, 2008.
Anyways I did the following for the whole process:
1. Scheduled interview date thru their web-site. Keep in mind to schedule a date with a gap of atleast 15 days so that by the time you go for your interview they would have sufficient time to check your H1-B petition in PIMS database and put in a request to add it if not found and this may take 7 business days.
2. Nowadays they give everyone appointments at 8am only on any day so dont worry u can reach there until 9 or 10am but the earlier the better are your canhces of getting visa stamped on the same day.
3. Called up Manu Naik (Desi) Cell: 520-223-0299, Hotel: 520-287-4671(manager of Best Western Siesta Motel in Nogales US side) to arrange for 2 BANAMEX drafts for the Visa Fees. He charges $40 - $50 extra per draft but it is totally worth it. Give him details like ur passport no. and names etc and he will take care of it. I stay in Phoenix so I drove early morning on the day of interview but if you wish to reach there a day prior to ur app., he gives you a good discount at his motel for the night stay and will make sure you get up at 5 am and are out between 6 7 am for your interview.
4. Prepared all the following docs:
a. Appointment letter
b. Employer letter stating you work there describing job skills and terms of employment as a specialty occupation worker.
c. If working for client, vendor etc get letters from everyone (all layers)
d. All DS-156 , 157 & 158 (male or female) filled out and signed original
e. BANAMEX Visa fees receipts (I got it from Manubhai)
f. 1 passport photograph for DS -156
g. All petitions I-797 original (H1-B approvals)
h. Took copies of all docs filed for H1-B (I-129s etc)
i. Copies of Degree certificates (bachelors & masters) & transcripts
j. 2-3 recent pay stubs
k. Past 3 yrs tax returns
l. Copy of drivers license, SSN card, OPT card
m. Past 6 months bank statements
n. Copies of previous I-120s if any
5. Drove on the day of interview and reached Manubhais Motel at 6:45am and collected the Banamex Visa Fees Receipt (Make sure you check your passport no. on the receipt). I parked my car at his place and he called a cab for the border. Its just a 4-5 mins drive and the cost is $6. He gave us a map and explained how we should proceed for the consulate.
6. Crossed into Mexico side thru 2 revolving gates. There is no one to check for anything. I did not buy a permit or take Mexican Visa as it is not required for 7 days I believe.
7. Anyways Taxi fellows are waiting so just pick one you like and tell them Consulado Americano (US Consulate) and ask them Cuantos Pesos or Dollars? They will tell you $7-$10 dollars. I paid $7 each time I went to the consulate the 4 days I was there. Dont worry they are nice people and will not try to cheat you. I gave my taxi driver $8 but he gave me one dollar back which was quite surprising but that shows their honesty. To be safe always fix the price before you sit in the taxi
8. After reaching the consulate around 7:35am and standing in the line just keep all relevant documents (carry them in plastic bag or some folder (harmonium or accordion folder works best) with you. Give all other things like bag if you are carrying, cell phones, keys etc to the Taco shop (Taqueria) on wheels. The lady is real nice and will keep your baggage etc for $1-2 and dont worry nobody will steal anything. I kept a big bag with clothes, watched, cell phones etc with her.
9. Once you are in thru security they will take your I-797 petiiton and all original forms with 1 photograph, banamex receipt and passport. They will attach everything together and give you a token no.
10. There is a big room (one half for Biometrics and other half for interview) and you will be seated there. First will be biometrics. After you finish that the same no. will be displayed for your interview on the other side.
11. My 3 yr old daughter (US Citizen) was also allowed inside the consulate and they have a small play area for kids too in that big room. Our interview process was very smooth and she did not ask us for any documents. She asked the following questions for me and my wife:
a. Where do you work?
b. Is this your H1-B extension?
c. When did you first come to US?
d. Which other countries have you visited in the past years?
e. What is your job title?
f. What kind of job you do? (Explain briefly and to the point)
g. Has anybody filed an immigration petition for you?
h. Since how long have you been in the US?
That was about it and our visa was approved. In the end she told us that she will check whether our H1-B petitions were available in the PIMS database. She came back and told us that my petition was available but my wifes isnt and that we might have to wait for a week in Nogales and she also said that she was sorry to let us know that. She told us that we can come and check everyday at 3pm or we could email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
. She took our cell phone numbers and asked us about the hotel we are staying and we gave her that info. She told us that they will give us a call as soon as my wifes petition is available in the PIMS.
12. After that we came out and passed time at the Nogales Mall just right behind the consulate until 3pm (good place to kill the time but expensive for buying). There is also a movie theatre Cinepolis and walmart just opposite the Mall.
13. Went back to consulate at 3pm. I collected my passport and went insearch for a hotel.
14. We stayed at Fray Marcos DeNiza Hotel near the Border as we knew that we get cell phone reception only near the border. I had T-mobile and Verizon and they worked fine in that hotel. Expect to pay $60 - $65/night. For one extra night we shifted to Hotel San Carlos also very near the border and paid only $45/night. If you are a single person they charge only $35/night. The restaurant in Fray Marcos was very good and most of the time we ate there.
15. For vegetarian people (as we were) we had some problems finding food free of meat and lard. We found out 1 small chinese place and 1 of our desi had explained that guy before how to make Chinese fried rice. We provided him corn oil and he would wash and clean his utensils before making the rice and do it in front of us which were so good and tasty with all veggies and rice. Also in Fray Marcos if you tell them Indian Rice they will make something like fried rice for you but please provide them your own oil.
16. Finally after staying there for 3 night four days my wife got her visa stamped and we moved to the border.
17. The process at the border was also very simple. It just took us 45 mins as there was not a whole lot of people in the line. The Immigration officer (IO) sent us on the 2nd floor where the counters are and the IO just asked us what work we do and if we have anything to prove that. We provided our letters for employment and he read everything and that was it. You have to pay $6 to get the new I-94 in the end and that was about it.
So goodluck to you all whoever is planning to go to Nogales. Play it safe. It is a safe town for staying but take some extra steps mentioned while you schedule your interview date and the caveat about couples scheduling interview and you might get your visa on the same day. For people working in SAP, software, hardware, MS in Physics, Chem, etc please answer specific about your job skills and the softwares you use as if the VO is not satisfied with your answer or doesnt understand you job duties he might hold you under TAL Security Clearance (Technology Alert List) and you will be stuck in Nogales for 4-8 weeks. So please explain in simple words without getting too technical about it.