How Companies Can Support Employees
Through the Passport and Visa Application Process

As companies look to broaden their international footprint, it’s becoming more common for businesses to send their workers overseas or hire from abroad. The complex terrain of passport and visa applications can be challenging, so understanding and assisting employees through the process has become an integral part of global business strategy.

One significant roadblock many businesses face following the pandemic is the renewal of expired passports—an area in which corporate travel managers and travel management companies (TMCs) can be essential in supporting both foreign employees heading to the US and US employees heading abroad as business travel resumes. 

Tips to help foreign employees joining US-based companies

International recruits joining US-based companies traverse a daunting landscape due to the unfamiliar procedures. Businesses, therefore, play a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth transition, and reducing potential stressors during the visa application process. 

Whether you’re a small business or a global corporation, the insights and tips presented here will help you better support your international employees, ensuring they feel valued and well-assisted, bolstering their confidence to join your US.-based team.

1. Make sure they complete the DS-160 form

The first step for foreign employees seeking to join US-based companies is to complete the DS-160 form. A crucial component of the non-immigrant visa application process, the DS-160 online form is the first document the consular officer will review, thus forming their initial impression. Providing all the core details of the employee’s case is essential, enabling swift and efficient documentation.

Companies can assist employees by providing clear instructions and support in filling out this form accurately, including details about their employment history and trip’s purpose.

2. Prepare them for the visa-interview process

Preparing for the visa-interview process can be intimidating for many. Companies can help by equipping their employees with what to expect during the interview, preparing all documents and practicing truthful responses to officers’ inquiries.

Employees will need to bring the following documents to the interview:

● Visa appointment and DS-160 confirmation pages: These documents, showing a barcode and the DS-160 confirmation number, will facilitate the consular team’s access to their case details.

● Passports: Both the current passport and any previous ones, if the employee has previously held a visa. The active passport should have a minimum of six months' remaining validity.

● Two current passport photos.

● Additional documents: Any other documentation expressly stipulated on the consulate’s website, such as birth or marriage certificates and professional licenses.

● Employment verification: Current employment letter or three most recent payslips. The letter should validate the employee’s role within your company, stating their job title and contact person.

● Current petition: Applicable to employees with a petition-based visa such as H-1B, individual L-1, O-1, or P visa. They should bring a copy of their current petition and ensure the details align with their role. 

Additional documents may also be required, like proof of the purpose of their trip, financial resources, and proof of residence outside the US. If the employee intends to bring dependents over as well, it’s advisable to carry original marriage and birth certificates. 

3. Help them practice for the officer interview 

Consular officers have only two minutes to interview each applicant and decide on the case, so the exchange may seem tense or rushed. It’s good practice to help the employee answer accurately, confidently, and succinctly. The officer will likely ask about the applicant’s role, how long they’ve been at the company, previous travel to the United States, and their financial or family circumstances. 

4. Brace for the response

If their application is approved, the employee’s passport will be immediately returned to them with a new visa stamp in a few business days. Officers can sometimes expedite the process if the employee has imminent travel plans and can provide proof of the flight purchase. 

If the officer denies the application, they will immediately return the passport to the employee with a reason for refusal. Prepare employees to reach out immediately should this occur. Contingency plans could involve seeking legal resources or considering remote work options.

Understanding INA Section 221(g) and “administrative processing”

If an employee’s case needs more scrutiny, the office will provide a letter stating the case has been refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) due to insufficient information. This type of refusal is temporary—the application can still be approved or denied based on the additional review. If the office needs more information, they’ll explicitly request it.

The “administrative processing” stage can involve:

● Additional background checks

● Further review of the application by the consular officer

● Requests for other supporting documents

Unfortunately, administrative processing timelines can range from a few days to up to a year based on the individual circumstances of each case. Companies can help their employees during this stage by offering legal advice and support, keeping communication open, and promptly providing additional documentation.

Tips for US companies sending employees overseas

US companies can and should proactively partner with employees preparing to move overseas, whether it’s a business leader moving from Palo Alto to Amsterdam to onboard a new sales team or from New York to Sydney to open a new office. 

Travel and global mobility managers who stand by their employees will not only contribute to a more positive experience but also make the process more efficient, preserving the company precious time and money.

1. Apply for the correct visa and duration of stay

Companies should ensure that employees apply for the correct type of visa and accurately represent their intended duration of stay. Misrepresentation can lead to visa denials and potential legal complications. 

It’s also a good idea to balance the length of the visa with its cost. While more extended visas may cost more upfront, they can save the company money in the long run if projects exceed their planned duration.

2. Consider multi-jurisdiction coordination

Companies sending employees to multiple countries may face added complexities—they’ll need to understand and coordinate with various immigration laws.  

Where permitted, employees could benefit from holding multiple copies of their passport to apply for visas for different countries simultaneously. Planning the order of submission can also help if certain countries do not recognize visas from others. A global mobility consultant or a specialized attorney can be useful in these circumstances.

3. Use an agent to file applications

An immigration advisor or agent can make the process easier and reduce employee burden. It’s also beneficial when consulates require in-person visits, as agents can file applications on behalf of employees.

4. Help employees keep most-used documents accessible

Encourage employees, especially those frequently traveling, to have physical and digital copies of important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, and passport photos, to reduce delays in the visa process. Also, keeping track of previously provided information can facilitate the reuse of this data in future applications.

5. Designate a point of contact for overseas employees

A designated point of contact in the company for immigration-related matters can help manage the communication process and ensure all critical correspondence from authorities or advisors is received. They can also provide overseas employees with much-needed support and guidance, making them feel valued and reassured.

Best practices to prepare employees for visa interviews

Consider conducting educational sessions for relevant stakeholders within the company, like sales and service managers, to set expectations about the visa process and their role in providing necessary documents. Keep them updated with changes in visa policies to ensure they’re well-informed and prepared.

Businesses should anticipate challenges, like cultural differences, communication barriers, and local laws. Providing employees with adequate training can help overcome these challenges.

Always travel well-informed with CIBTvisas

By taking these proactive steps, companies can effectively support their employees through the visa and passport application process, ensuring a seamless transition back to global business travel in the post-pandemic world. An experienced visa specialist can help you navigate the complexities of border-crossing requirements. Contact CIBTvisas for a quote today.  

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