My Profile :
June 2010 - First Entry to USA
Sep 2011 - Change of Employer and H1-B Transfer
Jan 2012 - H1B Transfer approved after converting it to Premium. Approval for 1 year only. No Client Letter.
Jun 2012 - Applied for H1B Extension with client letter ( Same client as in Sep 2011, Jan 2012). Premium processing. H1-B Extended for 3 years.
Jun 2015 - Applied for H1-B Extension with client letter. Premium processing. Approved for 3 years.
Feb 2014 - I-140 Approved.
I always applied for extensions 5 months ahead of date and in premium processing.
Decided to go for stamping for several reasons and primarily client insisted.
Taking Appointment : I tried to take appointment in Canada and Mexico. For some reason appointments at Mexico consulates were available easily. So opted to go to Tijuana MX.
Mexico visa : People said that I do not need Mexico visa to enter Mexico as I am maintaining legal status in USA. I still went ahead and applied for Mexico visa.
Searched for mexico consulates in USA. http://www.mexonline.com/consulate.htm
I live in suburbs of Philadelphia and there is Mexico Consulate 5 minutes away from my work.
If you go through the Consulate website you can get the list of required documents and fees particulars. What I did is, filled the application available here : http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/filadelfia/index.php/visas
1.Photographs - 2" x 2" - Check for the specifications.
3.Copy of passport.
8.US Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation letter.
10. Bank statements( 3 months).
you do not need an appointment for Mexico visa Interview. They are open for walkins after 3 except Friday. But you better call them and check for the timings.
When I went, a security personnel who can only speak Spanish helped me with signs and facial expressions. He understood that I came for visa application and directed me to a window.
Consulate officer reviewed my application and gave me another application ( a new format) and asked me to fill it again. After handing over the application, she informed me that I need to wait for email/phone call from her for another interview and mean while they would process the application.
I took 4 days to get a call from her. She asked me to get the passport and A credit card/Cash for $36 USD. They do not take Amex or Discover.
I went to the consulate again. She took my photograph again ( They did not use the ones I gave) and printed the Visa and pasted it on my passport. The whole process took 2 hours.
Please be advised that any consulate can reject your visa application with out giving you a reason. Do not underestimated Mexico Consulate. I saw some people yelling at the visa Officer. Be respectful and remember that you are seeking permission and not demanding. Reason why I am saying this is, environment at Mexico Consulate is very informal and less intimidating which may make you relaxed and forget the formalities.
Travel to Tijuana : I took a taxi from San Diego Airport to US-Mexico border. It is a 30 minute drive. I was dropped right at the entrance of the Mexico entry office ( I do not know what to call it).
Its a gate which revolves only one side. If you get into it , that's it. You would need a visa to come back. It was a surreal moment. Even though its few centimeters away, you can not enter USA with out a visa. Anyways, getting back to the topic, I entered the gate and walked to an officer and handed over my passport. She asked for my I-797. I said I have Mexico visa and would not require her to see my I-797. Seems like she did not expect me to have a visa. She checked the visa and pinned I-94 kind of document to the passport with expected exit date written on it.
Hotel : I booked a hotel online, so I took a yellow taxi (There are lot of posts explaining which taxi to hire. Just follow those instructions. Those are valid suggestions.) to the hotel. I picked Hotel Frontiere as it was between photo center and US consulate. That was my biggest mistake. I reached hotel around 12 Am and it was hot. A/C is not working and the bed sheets were stinking. I then asked taxi driver to find a better hotel. He suggested hotel Ticuan http://www.hotelticuan.mx/
. Hotel Ticuan is a great hotel and I loved it.
Next morning, I went to photo center. It took one hour from hotel to photo center to hotel. Was not in mood to explore the city so came back to the hotel.
Next day took taxi and went to Visa Interview. I saw many Indians in queue. Probably I am the only one with huge documentation. I took all pay-stubs, education certificates and what not. (Refer to other posts to get the list. Be sure you have Client letter.) . Consulate Officer took my old and new passports and cancelled my old expired visa even before talking to me. After that asked for I-797 and asked who was my employer. I mistakenly said my client name and later corrected the mistake. Asked about my duties and and explained what I do and what is my skill set. After that she said," Your visa is approved" and handed over a paper. Asked me to come back to same location to collect the passport.
This entire process took 1-2 hours. I asked my taxi driver to wait for me. By this time I am friends with him. Went back to hotel ( Yes I am happy. I called my wife. Hugely tipped my taxi driver. Was on cloud nine.)
After getting back to the hotel, I continued to work ( took permission to work remotely) at at evening checked my passport status. It was "ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSING". Panic creeped in and after going through some forums , learnt that this is common and need not worry. This status did not change even the next day. Went to US Consulate around 3:00 PM and I could see every from yesterday one in the queue. As I am the last guy, I took it easy and let every one go. Went to the Passport collection window and got my passport with USA Visa on it.
Got back to hotel and packed my luggage and got ready for next day. Next day I reached border around 10:00 AM and there is huge line. Some one posted that we should take sentry line but I am not really sure about it. Make suer that you have some USA currency ($20). You have to buy I-94 forms and fill it.
IMPORTANT : You would see a gate to enter USA. As you enter it, you can see a building to your right. That is where you need to go to get I-94. So please be attentive. I was not sure and wasted a lot of time there. A guard asked me to wait out side but never called me. So I walked in and stood in line. Officer asked passport, filled in I-94 ,I-797 and drivers licence. It took 30 minutes to get the I-94. He took my old I-94. I had it for 5 1/2 years. Touched it for one last time before giving it to him.
And after that you would enter another building. You may see huge crowds again. Be patient and stick to one line. Again do not stand in sentry or permit lines. Right most lines are not for us. Just remember that. They took my finger prints and check I-797, Pasport and Visa and I-94. After that I I went through the luggage screening.
After the luggage screening one is free to walk out to USA :)
I took train to get to Airport.
Overall, it was smooth experience.