I just got my newly-approved H1B visa stamped into my (UK) passport and am flying to America in a week. Besides my stamped passport, and my I-797B (Notice of Action) document, is there any other documentation I should bring, or questions I should be prepared for? Is it worth carrying a copy of my employment contract or any of the petition paperwork? I'm within the validity dates of the approval notice. I just don't know what to expect at the port of entry!
Your passport and visa (and I-94, see below) should, on theory, be sufficient. Also, you should know the address of the place you'll be staying when you arrive, and the name of your employer and what kind of work you'll be doing.
However, definitely bring all key paperwork with you in your carry-on luggage, for two reasons:
This is important stuff that you may need in the future - either because you have to produce it or because you want to be consistent in how you fill out forms. You do not want these documents to travel to Hawaii instead and stay there.
In case there's anything wrong with your documents (I had an official signature missing once, I've seen people mis-entered into the system), it's very important that you can demonstrate that you did everything right and that you are fully documented. In principle they can reject you regardless of whose fault it was that your paperwork got messed up, but the will be much more lenient if they realize that you're just some poor schmuck failed by the system.
Otherwise, just relax, smile, and go to the bathroom before standing in line. Be polite, accept that they're always right, and trust that you're one of the many, many people who enter the US without any problems.
EDIT Please note that even if you have signed up for ESTA (which means that you don't need to fill out the green I-94 form), you have to fill out the white I-94 for visa holders, since you're entering with a work visa, rather than under a tourist visa waiver program! The I-94 will be distributed during the flight. If it's the first time you fill out such a form, ask the Flight Attendant for two copies :)
Upon your arrival in the U.S. you will have to pass through this counter. The immigration/customs officer will ask you certain questions, stamp your passport, and give you the I-94 counter slip. You are legally allowed to stay in the U.S. till the date printed on your I-94 and the date printed on the visa.
All nonimmigrant visitors holding visas are required to participate in the US-VISIT program that tracks entries to and exits from the U.S. Under this system, the Immigration Officer will click your digital photo and take your digital finger print. You should expect questions related to your length of stay and your place of residence. You may be asked questions such as "Why you want to stay in U.S. for 3 months? Or why do you want to stay for 6 months?
To summarize, this is what happens at the port of entry:
- Immigration officer looks at your travel documents (passport, visa, and I-94 form).
- Immigration officer may ask questions about the purpose of your visit.
- Immigration officer will take digital picture and digital finger print. (known as us-visit program)
- Stamp your passport and provide a departure date on I-94.
So make sure you have your plan sorted (where you're staying to start with, where the name and address of where you're working), maybe proof of funds (other visas for the US sometimes require this, so you might just get that one officer who is asking for extraneous documents), and a smile :)
In the normal case you don't need anything except your passport and address where you're going. This address could be a hotel, rented apartment or company's office, but you do have to tell where you're going after the airport.
I would recommend to have other papers confirming your intentions with you.
They'll ask you a few questions about purpose of visit, etc. Nothing special.