After the excitement of actually getting a real job offer, I had to start collecting all my paperwork. Actually, before I had my interview I started this process because it is a somewhat long and tedious one. I just REALLY had to make it happen once I had signed a contract. My recruiter sent me a list of things to get done...
I suppose for those out there who don't have the benefit of a recruiter, I will go into some detail here.
First thing to request: Background check from the FBI. This takes the longest to complete, so request it straight away! I got my fingerprints done at the local police office (check with your station because they may do fingerprints only on certain days). They have official fingerprint cards there, but you do have to pay a fee to have them done. You will later need to get an apostille from DC of your completed background check, so be sure to request a "pre-authenticated" check. I typed out a short letter to "whom it may concern" requesting it, printed and signed. Include that letter, your background check request application (found here the FBI website), and your fingerprint card, and payment (no personal checks accepted, you can print a cc authorization form from their website which is probably easier than money order or cashiers check). Include all this and a completed FBI checklist in a priority mail envelope (I believe you need to include a prepaid for return envelope, but check on the FBI checklist!)
Second most time consuming process: requesting an apostile copy of your diploma from the Dept. of State. You must take a photocopy of your actual diploma to a notary, each of you sign and date, and send that off to your capitol, Austin in my case. Unfortunately, the first time I did this, I forgot to sign (actually, I didn't forget, i just didn't know!) This process should take a few weeks or less (mine was about 2 weeks).
Make sure you have 2-3 copies of your transcripts
You should definitely have ALREADY obtained your passport (you want to work OVERSEAS, right? hehe) You also need several copies of a passport photo; HOWEVER, most countries need it in their standard form. For this, rather than trying to get the Walgreens photo specialist to understand why I didn't want US-standard sizes, I went to the website here. You can select the photo size you want, upload your OWN photo (yay!) and choose how many. For the standard 2 photo sheet, the prices is about the same as Walgreens. But I needed 6 photos, so their "best value" of 6 photos was DEFINITELY cheaper! I was very happy with this service.
To be honest, this is a process I went thru about 2 months ago, and I am now staying in Miami (rather than Houston) so I don't have immediate access to all my paperwork to refer to. I will try to go back and edit this post when I get all my information back at hand.
Oh, don't forget - make photocopies of EVERYTHING! Make 2 copies just in case! You will need copies for the Visa office later down the road... ;)