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I'm a UK citizen, and am going through the process of obtaining an H1-B visa for the USA. There's a fair backlog at the moment so I have some free time on my hands and I'd like to visit the USA (to see friends and family, not to work).

If I have an H1-B application in progress, am I allowed to visit the USA on a visa waiver?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes, you can - the pending H1-B application does not impact your ability to use the VWP program at all. As with anyone using VWP you will need to obtain an ESTA in advance of your trip.

The only real complication is that you can not change from VWP to H1-B status whilst in the US. ie, if/when your H1-B is approved, you will need to leave the US to obtain your visa and then re-enter the US using that visa to get your H1-B status.

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Presumably that can be a border hop into Canada to achieve this? – Mark Mayo Nov 6 '12 at 5:20
For new H1-B's it's strongly recommended to do it in your home country. The Mexico US consulates actively refuse to do Visa stamping in situations like this, and Canada recommends that you do it in your home country, although there have been reports of them doing stampings for foreigners. Check the embassy/consulates websites for more information. – Doc Nov 6 '12 at 5:27
Thanks for the quick answer! I fully expected to have to return home for the status change, just wanted to make sure I could visit in the meantime! – Jon M Nov 6 '12 at 5:37
Heh, sounds like the wet dream of every bureaucrat. – ThiefMaster Nov 7 '12 at 22:14

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